There are rare moments in life when you receive an assignment that turns out to be as good as a Christmas present – that was precisely my case with the new Upcdownc album. My story with them is typical and proves that ‘last.fm’ as my religion choice on facebook is not an exaggeration. Every now and again I take whatever my last.fm homepage tells me to listen to for gospel and simply do it. That’s how I got addicted to Maybeshewill and that’s how I came across a new band with long and weird name with no spaces in it. I launched the artist’s radio every time I got stuck with no new sounds to nurture my ears and every single time when one of their songs came on I’d be thrilled. I remained an ignorant when it comes to their discography, probably due to the fact that last.fm scrobbles them as Upcdowncleftcrightcabc+start and this did not come up in any search engine I’ve tried. So when I saw ‘Calaveras’ in my Dropbox I got ridiculously overexcited. When I played the first track I got excited even more. And after a good few listens (last.fm will tell you exactly how many) I got stuck with what to *really* say about it – and then I discovered I’ve been listening to it in alphabetical song order and that answered the question of why it didn’t make too much sense!
There is a lot of sense behind it in fact. The clue comes from the title itself – Calaveras are associated with the Mexican Day Of The Dead, they are both the skulls and the poems about skeletons from Death’s Dance. The poems seem to be more crucial here as they mock the dead and tell funny stories about them as in Mexico the holiday is not sad at all, on the contrary – it celebrates life and the opportunity to get in touch with the lost ones. A typical meeting of life and death, joy and sadness, celebration and mourning. And that’s exactly how Upcdownc’s album seems to flow – opening ‘Sky Net’ brings uplifting electronic sounds but it soon merges into heavy riffs of ‘Sons of the Desert’ (wonder if was that inspired by the cult 1933 Laurel and Hardy movie?) bringing sounds rather dark and gloomy and showing off band’s grunge and classic hard rock inspirations.
It doesn’t get any less scary as ‘Wolves in the Walls’, an obvious tribute to Neil Gaiman and and Dave McKean’s book about little girl’s nightmares, brings some truly frightening growling to the repertoire. The nightmare gets soothed by the sounds of a Spanish guitar and soon ‘Roman Horses’ will take you to the place where you belong.
After that my favourite song from the album (even if just for the title) ‘Monumental Mood Shift’, introduces… well, a monumental mood shift. The mood in question becomes more post-rocky, with ascending riffs, Explosions In The Sky-esque crescendos and this feeling that I love when I listen to a good post rock track that lifts you right up in the air and makes you feel like you’re flying (please don’t judge me). It just doesn’t get any better.
The brief ‘Spectral Fires’ is this tiny little gem with soft cymbals clashed with a dirty electronic beat and sparks up the atmosphere. And so it continues, with long intros, built up guitar sections, mood swings, everything that I love in good album. Listening to the part after the monumental mood shift makes me forget about looking for reasons to like it and browsing Google like crazy to find legitimate clues. They just sound great and create this post rock ambiance that simply makes me lose myself and forget about the world outside – highly recommended with headphones, preferably not in the middle of a busy road!
The Day Of The Dead theme comes back before the end, just to remind that ‘Calaveras’ as an album title didn’t appear out of the blue, however the sounds make the theme of Death’s Dance self explanatory – there’s a noticeable nostalgia and gloom hidden behind the notes of ‘(The Plains) Skeletal’ and the track brings back the grunge influences with some indecipherable singing, but it reminds one of the circle of life.
‘Sky Net (Reprise)’ finishes the album on the same note it began with, completing the cycle and bringing happy electro beats to override the sadness and look forward to the future with a smily face. After all calaveras laugh at Death in her face.
To cut the long story short – ‘Calaveras’, even though it took me a while to figure out why, is a very accomplished album, showing off not only the spectrum of Upcdownc’s possibilities and influences, but also their dry sense of humour and simply – balls. Last.fm as my chosen religion did a good job yet again sending me those guys.
Released November 07 on Field Records
Echo Rating (((????)))
Posted by Magda