And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures

from afarBelfast’s And So I Watch You From Afar tend to deal in extremes. Since 2005 the post-rock quartet have revelled in the glorious, whether it be during their near-legendary ‘A Little Solidarity’ gig; joining forces with the countries’ other rising stars of the time to show off local music, or at either of their frenzied album launches down the years – this is one post-rock band who don’t do things by halves, and are comfortable with the grandeur that the genre usually suggests. But whilst the raw emotion of their 2009 self-titled debut and 2011’s slightly proggier Gangs tended to hint at darker, more complex themes, All Hail Bright Futures swings to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum; from the title, artwork and 43 minutes that follow, it’s clear that thematically Bright Futures is somewhat of a u-turn. Such a radical jerk in movement would be impressive from any well-established band, let alone one that has lost a talismanic band member in Tony Wright and seen their former label Richter Collective bite the dust. But emerge from the chaos they have, and in Bright Futures the quartet have crafted a thoroughly worthwhile addition to the ASIWYFA canon.

The change is apparent from the outset: ‘Eunoia”s infectious loop which builds to a fever pitch, ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable”s hyperactive drum breaks and bold declaration that “The sun, the sun, the sun….is in our eyes!” – it’s hard to believe that this is the same outfit that gave us the likes of ‘The Voiceless’ or ‘These Riots Are Just The Beginning.’ The tone throughout is as the title suggests – brighter – but that’s not to say that the band have simply added a few electronic bleeps and rousing chants and stuck to the same old formula. Song structures appear much more complex and, indeed, upon first listen, Bright Futures can seem like a lot to take in. The ironically titled ‘Like A Mouse’ appears to hold a blatant disregard for time signatures, for example, whilst the Caribbean-influenced ‘Ka Ba Ta Bo Da ka’ veers from Vampire Weekend territory into a scathing post-rock riff. Oh, and that’s before the 90’s slowcore guitars kick in.

Persist though, and there’s several true gems to be found. ‘AMBULANCE’ seems to link so seamlessly with the band’s established sound that you’ll swear you’ve heard it before, and it’s another example of ASIWYFA’s crucial understanding that a great riff and a catchy hook are vital to keep music like this exciting. It’s fitting then that what follows is ‘The Stay Golden,’ an electronic cowbell blowout that one could argue has as much in common with an LCD Soundsystem track as an ASIWYFA one. The melody is simple and the message is clear, “We know, we know, that that’s not the way no”.

Such a dramatic evolution was never likely to be seamless, though. ‘Mend And Make Safe’ comes across as neither here nor there with regards to the band’s new sound, and it makes you wish they’d gone a bit further than the generous helping of flute suggests. The band’s reworked approach to song structures also means that as a result, a few ideas could have been fleshed out a bit more, with several moments on Bright Futures not quite hitting as hard as we know this band can. Whether or not ASIWYFA’s future is as bright as the stunning vista of the album artwork suggests remains to be seen, but on the basis of Bright Futures, they’re on a more than solid footing.

All Hail Bright Futures Tracklist:

01 – Eunoia
02 – Big Thinks Do Remarkable
03 – Like a Mouse
05 – The Stay Golden
06 – Rats on Rock
07 – Trails
08 – Mend and Make Safe
09 – Ka Ba Ta Bo Da Ka
10 – Things Amazing
11 – All Hail Bright Futures
12 – Young Brave Minds

And So I Watch You From Afar - All Hail Bright Futures, reviewed by Lemon on 2013-03-29T09:16:25-07:00 rating 3.5 out of 5

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