The progress of And So I Watch You From Afar over the last few years has been remarkable. After an initial offering of a couple of EPs worth of pleasant but relatively standard post-rock they pulled 2009s incredible eponymous debut album of wonderfully aggressive math rock virtually out of nowhere and created an instant classic along the way.
Thus expectation for the follow up, ‘Gangs’, was high, certainly here at in the Echoes And Dust office.
The first thing that is obvious on hearing the record is that ‘Gangs’ doesn’t disappoint. It takes the template set down on the first record and turbo charges it. With ‘Gangs’ ASIWYFA have done something that I would previously thought impossible; they have created heavy-as-fuck, anthemic math rock, and I do mean that in the wave-your-arms-in-the-air anthemic sense because while this music is aggressive and heavy it is also utterly uplifting and joyous. If this album doesn’t make ASIWYFA as famous and successful as math-lite bands like Foals then there really is no justice. It is simply magnificent.
What captivates me about math rock is that with most other forms of music I can approximate, if not replicate, how it is made but I just cannot fathom how you go about making music like this and thus I find it endlessly fascinating.
From the moment the album kicks off with the thunderous intro to ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION‘ which progresses in to a wonderfully playful stomping beat and insistent guitar hook and then just builds and builds and builds to the most incredible crescendo, the pattern is set for the next forty minutes or so, frankly ‘Gangs’ is the aural equivalent of lighting a cigarette in a fireworks factory. Monstrous, utterly monstrous.
This sucker punch of an intro is quickly followed up by a sharp uppercut in the form of ‘Gang (Starting Never Stopping)’ and the enormous kick in the swingers that is ‘Search:Party:Animal’. There is no way to describe this tune in words that in any way do it justice other than to say it is an utterly insane adrenaline shot direct to the motor cortex, if this doesn’t make you want to dance then you seek help from a doctor immediately because you are probably dead.
A brief moment of relief from the tempest comes in the form of the opening moments of ‘7 Billion People all Alive at Once’ as it gently eases its way in to your consciousness but even here these boys’ natural exuberance gets the better of them and before you know it it has transmuted in to a rousing, wordless sing-a-long anthem.
If the album ended here it would already be a contender of album of the year, but staggeringly we haven’t even got to the good bit yet! ‘Think:Breathe:Destroy’ is a perfect example of what this album is about; it is massive and uplifting but also stupendously complex and it’s easy to lose sight of the sheer technical virtuosity on display here in the intense rush of the music but it is worth taking a step back to appreciate because these boys are tighter than a gnats chuff and man can they play.
And still there is more….
The closing salvo of the two part ‘Homes…’ and then ‘Lifeproof’ are borderline epiphanal. The first part of ‘Homes’ comes on like Ozric Tentacles on PCP before gradually ebbing in the part two which lights the afterburners and heads for the stars, ripping the roof off in the process. THIS TUNE IS UNBELIEVEABLE.
Even after all of that, even now, there is more. ‘Lifeproof’ is the final, killer blow. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any more insane, any better, any crazier, it does. Opening with one last adrenal charge of a guitar riff it blossoms out in to the sort of ecstatic plateau that is normally only associated with the very finest techno and stomps its way to a rabble-rousing climax.
These words here can only brush against the surface of describing this utterly extraordinary record. To really get any appreciation of it is has to be heard, in its entirety, very, very loud. Better yet, go and see these guys live get the full effect of this insanely brilliant music and their insanely magnificent playing.
If ‘Gangs’ does not end this year as our record of 2011 then we are living in truly golden times.
Released May 02 2011 on Republic Of Music
Echo Rating (((?????)))
Posted by Dan