Review Summary: A siren call to attention, this is what it's like wandering delicately though a hurricane.
Australia, the great Down Under, always been a country on the edge of culture, sitting somewhere in between the Orient and the West, perhaps with a rather confused pedigree and like the little brother that no one really pays attention to. The same of course, can be said of its music. While some of it’s more pop orientated indie and rock have reached beyond it’s shores, unnoticed go the gems of Australia’s underground, whose talents span vast stretches of genres from post-rock, to electronic and other cutting edge experimentalism. (For those interested, take a look at Karoshi, Bury The Sound or Seekae). So when it was announced that two of the countries most exciting bands would pull together to release a split album, I was, to put it mildly, frikkin' stoked. If the Sleepmakeswaves/Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving split doesn’t yet put the music scene here on the map, its a sign that things are brighter than ever before, and at the very least, we’ll be sitting here sitting here enjoying it like a fine glass of wine, alone but oh so content.
As a post-rock outfit, Sleep haven’t so much expanded their sound here as altered the mood ever so slightly, tweaking and fine tuning an already chillingly good formula. Those looking for more than what was offered on ‘In Today Walks Tomorrow’ won’t find it here in droves, but for those with a craving for post-rock baked to golden brown yumminess, Sleep’s effort here is not one to go awry. And so what of that mood? Well, at the very least, the band seem to have embraced a theme of tangled hope, with openers “Keep Your Splendid Sun” and “We Sing The Body Electric” aggressively embracing a heart warming blend of vibrant cinematic climaxes and defiant subtlety, creating within it a sound as bright as it is heavy. For a band so unassuming, it’s a powerful siren call whose lure lies in deep within their chilling musical gifts.
Once again, Sleep let their rhythm do most of the talking, with tearing bass distinctively grumbling it’s way through Sleep’s side of the split, while Smith’s drumming has without a doubt upped the ante with his intricate and creative flair shining through in a way it was never allowed to before, most noticeably on his brilliant tribal effort at the tail end of “We Sing The Body Electric”. Much of this is also thanks to an improved production which has brought the talent to the forefront where it should be. At the same time, the band have expanded on their crunch factor, rocking out harder than they ever have, with heavy passages taking their cue from post-metal bands like Pelican and Isis, but still delicately balanced by twinkling ambience and subtle electronic wrangling. “This Is How We Remember” also explores the band’s more melancholic side, putting on the brakes with a warmly invigorating grace not unlike some of Mono’s more elegant moments.
Yet, if in the space of three songs, smw have established themselves as a band playing post-rock at it’s most engaging, what about Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving, whose Tiny Fragments EP put them on the map as perhaps the most exciting progressive sound in Australia (Alongside with the magnificent Bury The Sound)? While perhaps not as wild as their earlier material, Tangled’s latest shows off a band who’ve streamlined and claimed a sound entirely for themselves, one filled with spiraling piano arpeggios and jazz warped percussives, all thrown in into a mixing pot of dynamic song structures and a whole slew of intriguing instrumentation. If “A Vexing Predicament” puts on show band who can push the boundaries of mathy, piano orientated songwriting (similar perhaps, to Caverns without the metal influences), its the fifteen minute epic of “The World Is A Deaf Machine” that establishes Tangled Thoughts as without a doubt one of the most original and forward thinking bands around today. Building throughout its length with delicate touches of ivory and angular cymbal wrangling, it’s a lush, weaving composition that’ll sweep an unsuspecting listener right into the eye of a hurricane of harsh riffing and brazen complexity unlike any other. It’s an aural experience to behold, and up there with one of ‘09s most intriguing musical moments.
At just five songs long, the Smw/Tangled Split was never meant to blow minds, but rather offer a teasing taste of what each band could offer. If anything, it’s come off as a vivid marker of the brilliant underground of the Australian music scene, and if more like this is on its way, it’ll be for the world to lap up with glee.