Fourth by LentoRelease date: October 6, 2017
Label: Consouling Sounds
There seems to be a small tradition at the moment of naming fourth albums, umm, Fourth, and Lento continue this droll stylistic choice with their latest effort. That is, however, about the last time absolutely anyone could level the world ‘traditional’ at this band. Those familiar with the Roman instrumental venture may not be so surprised by Fourth, as it feels like such a direct descendent of Anxiety Despair Languish. A composition split into ten movements or compositions, the album expands upon the sonic depth and intricacies of its’ forebear. Moody, dark and sorrowful have become cornerstones of Lento’s sound, but they inject a new groove and a sense of urgency into the mix on their new opus.
As well as the elements of doom, stoner, math rock and dense ambient passages, one of the main ingredients of Lento’s sound is time. Formed in 2004, Lento have released an LP roughly every three years or more (discounting collaborations and splits), and one can feel it infused into their music. There’s a weight to it. This album beautifully unfolds like a flower unveiling its delicate petals at just the right moment. Every sound is evocative and infused with meaning. Instrumental music is, of course, a vast phenomenon crossing numerous genres, but perhaps its universal truth (for many, at least) is that it often has to work that little bit harder in order to capture and retain an audience’s rapt attention. Lento do not need to be concerned about this, however. With soaring music this majestic and crossing the genres it does, Lento need not worry about keeping the audience attentive, although perhaps the stupor they put me in with Fourth the first time I listened to it, might be some kind of issue!
The first two tracks roar out of the gates, and your head immediately starts to nod. Despite the complexity and the aforementioned weight and emotion, is the magic of a band able to rattle forward with skill and precision that makes most fans fall in love with music, and certainly heavy music, for the first time. Fourth feels like a rebirth, much as all their subsequent albums have since their debut Earthen appeared in 2007. Lento have a knack for not totally reinventing the wheel, but providing enough of a sea-change to feel utterly fresh. Third track ‘Undisplaceable, or a Hostile Levity’ is the first ambient, dark, unsettling piece of the album and it bites with menace. It also signals a change of pace and structure, as the following two tracks slow down proceedings, relying on their doom sensibilities. Cleverly using space and moments of drone, the album settles in here, and easily cements the band as a unique, disquieting prospect. Short cut ‘Cowardly Compromise’ bubbles with fury again, but in a restrained way that lets the members of Lento really revel in a chug, chug, chug moment that is a really fun twist to what has gone before.
‘In Itself’ is another (mostly) ambient piece that brings the tempo right back down again, before, inevitably, Lento switch gears once more. The entire album is a shifting beast of dynamics. A lot of bands could learn a thing or two from Lento. Yes, many employ slight changes in tempo and also volume, but the changes are so stark – yet so naturally and effortlessly made – that Fourth really does sound extremely fresh. It is a virtuoso performance from the group; both in the writing and the album’s execution in studio. Finishing with the long-player ‘A Matter of Urgency’ the band grind out their burgeoning sound once again, with this track being the only one that enmeshes their penchant for drive, riffs and rumbling rhythm section with their ambient, droning, hushed sensibilities. Other tracks as canvas certainly have flourishes from each side of Lento’s personality on, but Fourth‘s closer is when the two great rivers collide and makes for a heady finishing eight minutes.
Lento have created something here that at once sounds very familiar and also startlingly new. It is most certainly their most accomplished album to date, and features a slew of tracks that are up there with their best, and will surely become instant fan favourites. Although known well in some circles, it feels that Fourth may very well be the album that sets Lento apart from the pack, and maybe – just maybe – it will become a sort of ‘breakthrough’ moment for the Italian three-piece. I do hope so. Instrumental albums of this titanic quality are rare, and should be treasured by all.