I, Awake by UpcdowncRelease date: September 22, 2017
Upcdownc are an instrumental band out of the UK. They have been around since 2000, in various incarnations and I, Awake is their first album as a 3-piece. On September 22, 2017, they released a horror themed study, if you will, on the transition between sleep and waking life. This album is an odyssey organized in 6 sections: ‘Am I Awake? Part 1 to 4’, ‘Awake Part 1 to 4’, ’Adrift Part 1 to 4’, ‘Looming Part 1 and 2’, ‘Foreboding Part 1 and 2’ and ‘Black Dracula’ (which comes in at 15:01). The band thoughtfully mapped out the listener’s trip with these track titles, reflecting that not so clear line between being awake but still asleep or asleep but still awake.
The transitions between tracks are superb and really kept that story feel to the album going. Having listened to parts of John Carpenter’s recent release, Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998, I could hear his influence on the band on this album. The band’s use of synthesizer and multitude of layers gives each track ominous depth and contrast.
‘Am I Awake: Part 1 to 4’ weaves the listener in and out of consciousness using slow fast slow fast pattern. A foreboding drone/breathing effect and snore starts the album off. The synth soon starts and gives us a taste of what is to come. The track ends and quickly morphs into a heavy drum and bass and effect driven guitar track. ‘Am I Awake: Part 3’ is my favorite from this section, with it’s melodic guitar and synth layers. ‘Am I Awake? Part 4’ ends the section on a heavy note; with distorted guitars and heavy hitting drums which definitely responds to the question with, “Yes! I’m definitely awake now!”.
‘Awake Part 1 to 4’ starts off with more effects. This time using a sawing and hammering effect. The drone in behind the effects amplifies the foreboding intent. ‘Awake Part 2’ is a thoughtful shimmering track made so by the delay effected guitar, synth drone and bar chimes. It was a calm before the storm though. ‘Awake Part 4’ is fast and heavy (coming in at just over the one-minute mark), mimicking how most of my mornings go after I awake!
The transition effect between the sections ‘Awake’ and ‘Adrift’ felt like I was teleported to another dimension. ‘Awake Part 4’ ended abruptly, like a puff of smoke coming out of no where. Then ‘Adrift Part 1’ began with confusion and the feeling of a bright sun blinding my eyes. That feeling did not last long since I was quickly thrown adrift into the abyss in ‘Adrift Part 2’ that quickly led into ‘Adrift Part 3’. Here I was able to rest and assess where I was. The synth on this track is so great. The track is full of contrasting layers and changes. It’s also the second longest track on the album, coming in just over 6 minutes.
The flat line effect in ‘Adrift Part 4’ leads into ‘Looming Part 1’. This track seems the least foreboding of them all with birds chirping and wonderful Wurlitzer sounding keys melody. The delay affected and tremolo picking guitar was dreamy. It quickly ended and transitioned beautifully into ‘Looming Part 2’. This is an epic track, with all the highs and lows of any classic post-rock track. The bass line was stellar as well.
‘Foreboding Part 1 and 2’ end any illusion of niceties. ‘Foreboding Part 1’ speaks of doom and subterranean noise. The ringing alarm effect in ‘Foreboding Part 2’ is a perfect segue into ‘Black Dracula’.
‘Black Dracula’ is the conclusion to the odyssey or maybe even an odyssey within an odyssey. It’s an entity onto its own but still encompassing the feel and technical nuances from the tracks before it. Gloriously heavy in parts and beautifully melodic in others. There are a few great effects and recordings in the track. I was able to find out that the recording used at the end of the track was taken from an exorcism done by Bob Larson. Creepy as hell.
I find this band witty and imaginative in their execution of this album. I look forward to hearing what they have in store for us with their next album. May it be “faster than evil”, mwa·ha·ha·ha.