By: Dylan Schink
He Was Eaten By Owls | facebook | bandcamp |
It took me a long time to understand the relationship between math-rock and post-rock. Musically they’re almost polar opposites, with post-rock focusing on expansive textures and slow builds, while math-rock focuses on rhythmically complex staccato composition, but I’ve come to see them as foils, contrasting against each other and highlighting different aspects of each. If Godspeed You! Black Emperor are the political beasts of post-rock, He Was Eaten By Owls are their math-rock equivalent. Chorus 30 From Blues For The Hitchiking Dead draws obvious comparisons to Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s oeuvre. While Godspeed are very much a post-rock band and He Was Eaten By Owls a math-rock band, their use of string, horns, samples and drones are strikingly similar; more than that, it’s the wordless ethos that I feel makes comparisons between these bands so apt. Delivering their meditations on inequalities, love, capitalism, injustice, solidarity and exploitation through a series of well selected spoken word samples, He Was Eaten By Owls’ frustrations focus on society and its expectations, prejudices and power structures that divide and further inequality.
Much like a Godspeed composition, Chorus 30 From Blues For The Hitchiking Dead is mastered as a single, continuous piece, divided into 9 movements of string and horn ladened highly dynamic math rock through which the band deftly weave samples and lyrics to deliver their powerful messages. These are complemented in the liner notes by an essay by Georgia Lassoff, opposite a selection of nine movements, including Black Lives Matter and Class War, with which He Was Eaten By Owls have chosen to express solidarity. Chorus 30 From Blues For The Hitchiking Dead is first and foremost a political statement, but that never detracts from its quality as an album. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of music. The composition’s blend of complex syncopation, jazz flourishes and revolutionary-punk orchestration turns what could have easily been an album with too many fingers in too many social-justice pies into a seamless and emotionally cohesive whole.
My only criticism of this album and its presentation is that it could have benefited from a lyric sheet. While I wouldn’t want them changed, as they sound absolutely superb against the music, making the lyrics more accessible in text form would seem a natural step for an album so focused on its message.
As a political statement, Chorus 30 From Blues For The Hitchiking Dead delivers its message clearly without ever feeling blunt, tortured or trivially obvious. As a rock album, it’s a brilliantly assembled blend of math-rock, jazz and chamber orchestration that sounds utterly unlike anything I’ve heard before.