Review Summary: In which And So I Watch You From Afar nonchalantly give the
middle finger to the phrase "sophomore slump."
For the past few years, Irish post-rock group And So I Watch You From Afar have been doing things, well, a bit differently. So much in fact, that it’s really become a stretch to even tag them with the genre name, and really, any genre name at all. While their instrumental rock brethren oft take the road filled with sweeping movements, chaotic climaxes, and pretty chords, And So I Watch You From Afar are keen on firing on all cylinders, and stepping on the gas, and blazing their own trail. Mixing a more math-y style of rock and instrumental rock, the band exploded onto the scene with their eponymous debut, and since then have slowly been gaining a large and devoted following. And it’s difficult not to see why, as And So I Watch You From Afar
was a breath of fresh air, an injection of creativity and boundless energy into a stagnant scene. Thankfully, the boys haven’t lost a thing over the last two years.
Their sophomore effort, Gangs
, effortlessly picks up where their debut left off, offering the maniacal and frenzied instrumentation and thoughtful songwriting that the band has since become known for. And really, that’s what is so damn great about Gangs
, as ASIWYFA know how to keep their technicality in check. The frenetic math rock tendancies never seem like too much, and the odd time signatures and constant tempo and dynamic shifts always seem tasteful. This is all thanks in part to the band’s ability to mix what is fun and interesting with what actually works, making a wankery free, fully thought out record.
really does feature some of the band’s best material to date. It’s much akin to their self-titled, keeping the same aesthetic of instrumental-rock with light hardcore influences. There’s a feeling of refinement that dominates the record as well, as ASIWYFA have squared off the edges and trimmed the fat, making Gangs
a fantastically polished effort. They’ve stripped away just about everything that’s tied them to the post-rock scene, opting for slightly shorter, more streamlined tracks. It was an iffy choice, really, but it honestly sounds more natural this way, as ASIWYFA have always had a penchant for “rocking,” which is precisely the feeling Gangs
With eight moderate length tracks, Gangs
in no way wears itself out. It’s relatively short, which only makes the listen even more sweet. There’s more going on than your standard rock, however, as the band really loves to throw curve balls. It’s full of different influences, and each track feels wholly different from the last. One minute chaotic, the next, nearly beautiful, Gangs
is as unpredictable as it is meticulously plotted out. Tracks like the opener, “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION” reek of a palpable energy, and set an overall jovial tone, whereas “7 Billion People All Alive At Once” sees the band craft a more melodious song, full of vocals and harmonic layering. It’s the mixture of sounds and styles that really sets the album apart from its peers. Although their label mates Enemies and Adebisi Shank tend to explore a stranger, more math-rock oriented realm, it tends to become tired, and slightly gimmicky. Yet ASIWYFA never fall into such a trap, as their off the cuff style ensures an intriguing listen.
And So I Watch You From Afar have proven that they’re truly worth the mounds of praise they’ve received over the past couple of years. Gangs
is a fun and thoughtful instrumental rock marvel, full of unpredictable sights and sounds that make for an overall excellent listen. In polishing an already excellent sound, the band has ensured their place in the hearts of music lovers the world over.