Review Summary: They clearly know their effing post-rock.
I reserved this particular review for the wee hours of the morning – a time when all of my family have long-past turned in for the night: the house is hushed, the pets are outside, and a peculiar chill fills the late-March morning air. Normally, I might rise from short fits of sleep to pop in Kid A
to suit the eerie mood, or, depending on how much I wanted and/or needed rest, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
or The Blue Notebooks
to woo me back to bed. But, no, I don’t think I will on this particular morning - I feel like writing, and what better time and atmosphere than to tackle a post-rock review. I rise, prepare three cups of coffee, and sit down with Ef’s latest Mourning Golden Mourning
, an album that recites to me all the reasons why I love post-rock, and, in addition, all the reasons why I feel that the genre has already reached its pinnacle moment in the beginning of the last decade.
Many cite Ef’s Give Me Beauty...Or Give Me Death!
as an underground post-rock highlight, as it collectively brought past influences Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky together in a way that made the well-played deviation sound striking original – though, honestly, very few were fooled, but that was to be expected: the point is that they almost
were. In very much the same way, Mourning Golden Morning
proposes to make new the feel of treaded and retreaded territory, bringing together builds, climaxes, soothing, albeit sparse vocal integration, and just the right amount of vindicated atmosphere to warrant its inclusion into the more successful collection of post-rock albums. It’s the kind of album that makes you proud to be a fan of this particular type of music, even though it might encourage you to forgo it for the more memorable genre staples.
But even the fact that it successfully recites to you the familiar elements of the frontier gods makes it stand out from those that have failed in the past: Mourning Golden Morning
is not sloppy work. The album brings an at time subtle, at times blatant affiliation with those that came before it, yes, but it contains spots of brilliance here and there. The vocal interplay between Daniel Ohman and Tomas Torsson on first track “Son of Ghosts” is such a moment: a steady drum beat and relentless chime work simple miracles, permeating an atmosphere that thrives and solicits pondering; ‘All those fading lights
’ breathes in the background and a release of distorted guitar pounding and horns ensue. The moments where this album shines are those that have you forgetting the stereotypes and genuinely "wow" you by what’s presented, though you might recall such moments later and wonder at why it surprised you in the first place. It’s just how the atmosphere swallows you, man: in the moment, in the place, and just at the right time.
I’m not one to rock and nod my head while sipping a cup of coffee, but that’s what “Living With Colors” has me doing – in effect, also getting the liquid all over me. The guitar tones that Tomas and Daniel offer are not nearly as piercing as those painted by Explosions In The Sky; but, however, they do set up the perfect instances for Ef to pull on a heavy layer of distortion for some first-rate, head-bangin’, post-rockin’ action – though, I’m not quite sure they were going for that effect. The aforementioned is riddled and concocted in such a way; but in all honesty, closer “Alps Lugens and Beyond” is where Ef truly ef it up – and I mean that in a good way. Beginning solemn and remorseful, the song then transitions to chimes, slows to subtle invitation, and then makes for the best “Moya” impression this side of Godspeed. As the song seems
to float off, I realize it’s well past time for me to turn in to sleep - but no, it’s not over: Ef return for one last triumphant build and release, and, in turn, cause me to lose the rest of my coffee all over my sweat pants.
It’s certainly pleasing to find an album like Mourning Golden Morning
that rewrites an often-used formula well enough to feel at times refreshing. And though I may never return to its attention, if only because there are better albums to lose mind and consciousness to, I can group it with the more successful and competent works in the particular category of music. It’s a revisit to the strengths of Mogwai, the tones and soundscapes of Explosions In The Sky, and the more successful vocal inclusions in the genre – a distant Sigur Ros comparison is fair, though more in line with The Album Leaf and recent Eluvium - never drawing attention to the singers individually, while making better the whole of the atmosphere of the music at hand. Ef does all of these things while negating innovation, true, but highlighting many of the strengths of the genre. They clearly know their f'ing post-rock.