S/T by Beneath a Steel SkyRelease date: September 4, 2020
To paraphrase someone ‘we’re all in the same storm, just in different boats’ which perfectly sums up the situation we all found ourselves in during the COVID epidemic lockdown. As some people retreated to their country pads many others had their lives collapse around them. The entertainment industry, sadly, was one of the latter. For many people in the creative field this is not just a 9 to 5 job it’s a way of life and gives many people a purpose. So, suddenly many people, bored and frustrated of an unsettling and uncertain time needed to find a creative outlet.
The one saving grace for the whole thing is that we live in an age of technology and that means that we can communicate, and collaborate musically that 10 years ago would have been impossible. Beneath a Steel Sky is a project born out of this situation. An atmospheric, instrumental post-rock outfit. Made up of 6 people based in and around Glasgow, four of the members who had never met. It’s remarkable that the project even got off the ground let alone make a full length record. But under the old adage of adapt and survive they did just that.
The album opens with ‘I AM A FREE MAN I AM NOT A NUMBER’, a short introduction with swirling synths adding an ethereal depth to the track with some soft bass and a simple guitar motif. It has a lonely, desolate feel to it. It has a feeling that it could suddenly bloom into something but instead patiently keeps its pace and acts as an appetiser for the rest of the album. Next up is ‘The Audient Void’, picking up where the previous track left off it starts with an ambient synth that is soon joined by quiet guitars and a snippet of spoken word. The guitars soon kick in adding a far more positive feel to the track. With three guitarists there is plenty of layering but they are all given plenty of space to breathe. A Russian Circles-esque guitar sits perfectly with the bass and drums to add some heft to the track. The tracks build to a crescendo several times before dying away and ending with a rather triumphant sounding ending.
‘Everyone You’ve Ever Known’ opens again with a melodic, atmospheric feel. It builds patiently. One of the guitars picking out the melody. The drums are sometimes distant and it would be nice to hear them brought to the forefront a bit more. The tracks build with a nice chunky guitar riff and some meaty drums before ending in a rather abrupt way.
It’s impressive that considering the way it was made and a testament to the talent of the musicians and producer that they’ve made this album of this quality. It is an unforgiving genre at the best of times and without the ability to bounce ideas off other musicians face to face must have made things more difficult. The band do however convey emotions well and whether it’s the strong feelings that enforced isolation has on people or the lack of other distractions the end results is an interesting album.
‘The Sparrow and the Saint’ in contrast to the other tracks is slower and has much more of a melancholy feel to it without being sparse. It’s again complex and layered and takes few listens to pick out all the various layers. ‘Redshift’ is different again, with a pretty basic instrumental with guitar and synth with some spoken word over the top. It would be interesting to know where this spoken word is from as it sounds like an interesting old man who by the sound of it has a whole long list of interesting stories to tell. To end the short album ‘Alternative Endings (Nae Bother Edgelord)’ has a slightly more cheerful feel to it, around mid-way through the tracks falls away to some guitar harmonics and some distant slightly discordant guitar before building back up with some heavy riffs and some fuzzy bass. I really like this aspect of the band. It’s patient and restrained but they have the ability to switch from very spare and minimalist to quite heavy.
Beneath a Steel Sky is an interesting album and they touch on a variety of different styles and emotions in a short album. I hope the band can build on the work they have done here and really explore and build on the roots of what they have created. There is depth to their music and despite the isolation some mutual understanding of each other. It would certainly be interesting to hear what they can create when (and if) we return back to normal.