I’ve been away for the last week, hence the lack of updates. Obviously my readership of one got a bit worried but fret not, here are some words I wrote for Die Shellsuit, Die! to keep you going until another proper update. Reviews after the jump.
In other news, I still need a job. If there’s anyone on the blogosphere that can help me, please hook a brother up. I am currently listening to Mohinder, downloaded from the excellent Hardcore For Nerds. San Diego spazzy hardcore at its finest.
The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha
Whilst previous albums have seen The Appleseed Cast dip their toes into the post-rock pool, Sagarmatha, their tenth album, sees them dive head first into the murky waters of post-rock. Having completely removed themselves from their emo origins, The Appleseed Cast are now free to join the ranks of delay pedal bothering, quasi-instrumental bands.
The biggest surprise of this record is that singer Christopher Crisci’s vocals have taken a back seat to the rest of the band. When they are present, they’re usually soaked in reverb and delay, being employed as an extra instrument or an additional texture rather than a focal point for the song. It’s a standard post-rock trick, one that can be used to great effect but more often than not gets wheeled out when a band is lacking inspiration. Sagarmatha gives the impression that The Appleseed Cast aren’t completely confident in their abilities as a full on post-rock band and more often than not they seem to fall back on the standard tricks of the trade. It’s as if they’ve read the guidelines of how to do post-rock but are afraid to deviate too far for fear of failing. The whole record comes across as a little restrained, which is a shame as there are moments that stand out. ‘So The Little Things Go’ features guitar work that recalls The Appleseed Cast at their finest and a crescendo that any guitar band would be proud of; ‘An Army Of Fireflies’ is as driving and as urgent as Explosions In The Sky at their finest, benefiting from its brevity rather than out staying its welcome, as parts of Sagarmatha do.
Not unlike most post-rock, Sagarmatha plods along at a steady pace, never veering too much form the trodden path. Whilst this record has some good moments, it also has far too many dull parts, parts that just fade into the background, that merge into one another, that lack any real focus or intent. That’s not to say that Sagarmatha is a bad album, because it’s not, as The Appleseed Cast touch upon some moments that shine, it’s just that too often do they seem content to play it safe, and stick to their self imposed straightjacket of post-rock.
Vialka – Succès Planétaire International
I’ve been avoiding starting this review for a couple of days now. Not because this is a bad record, because it’s not, but more that I’m not sure how to approach reviewing it. Vialka have got me stumped. My frame of reference for this style of music is pretty limited and I hate to fall back on lazy journalism techniques, but the best way I can describe Vialka is like Gogol Bordello meets Battles. There’s a hint of Fugazi in there as well. Let me try again. Vialka are a two piece gypsy folk punk band from France. Succès Planétaire International is their sixth album. Their motto for this record was “more rock, less talk.” Most bands could do with taking their advice.
The first thing that you hear on Succès Planétaire International is what can only be described as a folk waltz riff being played by a tuba. This is the first thing that confused me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tuba being used on record. I guess there’s a first time for everything. The next thing that threw me was the drums and guitar. This is where the motto of “more rock, less talk’ comes into play. The drummer scatters around her snare drum and hi hat recalling the precise, syncopated style of Battles’ John Stainer, whilst the guitar plays a descending riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fugazi record. Over the course of six minutes, Vialka twist and turn their way through four different time signatures, numerous stops and starts and at least three different musical styles. As odd as it is to compare a folk band to Battles, it’s not that far off the mark. ‘Good Riddance’ again showcases Vialka’s tendency towards intricate rhythms, with both guitar and drums showcasing restrained yet complex riffs, fusing both folk music and math rock seamlessly. Like a cross between Battles and Gogol Bordello.
World music is often seen as a dirty word, a genre with slight returns at best. On Succès Planétaire International, Vialka have proven not only that world music shouldn’t always be disregarded, but that you can produce interesting and thought provoking records under its umbrella, without sounding like one of those terrible bands that always get booked for Later With Jools Holland. Just remember: “more rock, less talk.”