The Exigent by Only Echoes RemainRelease date: June 16, 2017
The Exigent is a long anticipated debut from Only Echoes Remain, a band on one hand side emerging and on the other already well submerged in the UK post rock scene thanks to the omni-presence of Arran Oakes (guitar), who most of us recognise as that top dude who runs the Yohkai stage at ArcTanGent (and even more of us from a similar role at 2000 Trees). The band he managed to put together has very solid roots. Craig McNaughton (drums) has been a post rock fan since way back when, before he even knew the genre was a thing. Simon Christie (guitar) has a versatile music education. Ali Dunlop (bass) is the newest addition and joined the band at the very last leg of the alum recording process.
Some say giving the band’s is not important in a review, but in this instance I’d argue otherwise. The band have stated themselves in interviews that the album spun from Arran’s ideas that have been brewing for a while and this will become of significance. The Exigent is a concept album – it’s a space odyssey, a melancholy ode to loneliness. The opening two tracks are the perfect introductory combination, they melt into one another seamlessly and set the tone with the space radio samples, reminding me of The Evpatoria Report’s ‘Cosmic Call’ or Mogwai’s ‘Tracy’ – my all time favourite Mogwai track. ‘Prelude (We Must Move Forwards)’ has got that beautiful feeling of suspense – opening piano notes signify danger and you’re immediately drawn in, ready to hitch a ride for the space journey. And ‘Dawn’ swiftly takes you there. It flows through smoothly, bringing Maybeshewill’s I Was Here For A Moment And Then I Was Gone vibe to mind.
‘Aurora’ as a standalone track is definitely impressive. It starts of nice and quiet and builds up with a math feel, exploding with some seriously heavy riffs and a very groovy bassline. The guitar solo brings in the much needed escalating melody before we return to the heavy machinery and the track gives way to ‘Reflections’, which take us back into space. I happen to know that the band consider Aurora to be their stand out, most accomplished track, but I find myself lost in those little gems like ‘Reflections’ – they have the cinematic power of transporting me into a landscape I’ve never seen. This is the moment when I’m Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’ and I’m alone in a space ship, with nothing but the never-ending universe before my eyes and I come to terms with my solitude.
‘Distant Echoes’ offer a glimmer of hope and build up to a classic, elating post rock crescendo, the one that tends to give you simultaneously goosebumps as well as wings. If I continued to be Sandra Bullock in this scenario, I’d be gliding through space with my arms outstretched, taking in the vastness of it all and fully embracing life and everything that comes with it. But again, I’m more drawn to the cinematic scope of ‘Interlude (No Turning Back)’, where I feel the impending sense of danger looming in. ‘Descent Impact’ gets my full marks for the best bassline of the whole album, the groove combined with the guitars creates a vision of uncertainly and puts me in a Quentin Tarantino movie for a moment. The track continues with a classic post rock build up, reminiscent of Flies Are Spies From Hell – it’s one of those build ups where you know that all hell will break loose at the end – and it really does. We get the full package of great bassline, ever-escalating high pitched tones in the guitar melody and tight riffs. To me this is the post rock classic in the making. I can even sense a bit of blues in there – this is the one is where the true musicianship comes out to play.
‘End Transmission’ immediately brings good old 65daysofstatic from the One Time For All Time era to mind. Again it has the breath and scope of a track capable of taking you on an arms-outstretched kind of a journey. My biggest complaint is that the track doesn’t really end. It fizzles out and I happen to have a pet peeve of fizzling out tracks. ‘Of Stone and Stars’ follows the lead started by ‘Descent Impact’ – it’s got the same groove and picks up similar melody motifs. It certainly finishes the album off with a proper post rock send off, complete with the mathy build up and the riff explosion.
The Exigent certainly shows a great deal of promise. It’s an album very rich in its heritage – to a point when you can pick out particular influences. But for a debut this is far from a criticism – it’s great to know and acknowledge where you came from. This is also the moment when the band’s history becomes instrumental. Knowing that the band has gone through a recent reshuffle and having seen them live at one of their first gigs and then having seen them again recently – the progress has been immense.
I have to point out that I personally wouldn’t call The Exigent a concept album – it’s a bit too fragmented for that. It’s got great potential, but I find the flow of the genuinely conceptual, space-themed cinematic odyssey interrupted by classic post rock. If I could have my way with it, I’d probably rearrange the track listing to really capture the cinematic scope of the album.
However having said all that, knowing that The Exigent has been a labour of love for Arran Oakes in particular makes it a deeply personal project. I know that the band see ‘Aurora’, which has been their most collaborative track, as their most accomplished, which gives the clear indication of their promising direction. For their debut, they dipped into the vast heritage of the genre and paid beautiful homage to the post rock classics. Hearing Hannah Morgan’s violin on ‘Distant Echoes’ gave a wonderful nod to Rumour Cubes. However as the band gels along, they will come up with their individual and – I’m more than certain – genuinely outstanding content given the tools they’re all equipped with.