And So I Watch You From Afar
Gangs


3.0
good

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
May 29th, 2011 | 29 replies | 20,458 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A record that is as exhausting as it is exhilarating.

Reviewing Belfast four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar’s self-titled debut upon its release two years ago, I made a self-indulgent and frankly unnecessary attack on post-rock, a genre I enjoy far more than I let on. My intention wasn’t so much to denigrate the post-crescendo genre as it was to insulate the Belfast quartet from its most galling excesses: rigid structure, tedious, meandering build-ups and all-too-predictable finales. For me, And So I Watch You From Afar were infinitely more exciting and dynamic than counterparts like Explosions in the Sky and God is an Astronaut – acts too set in their ways to truly be called experimental.

What I didn’t quite understand was that, for all their unique and endearing qualities, what I loved the most about And So I Watch You From Afar was their appreciation of space and volume: the juxtaposition of soft, luscious melodies with loud, vigorous riffing; the contrast between soaring, anthemic guitar lines and crushing, dissonant heavy rock. In other words, what I loved most about them were their post-rock sensibilities; their more distinctive qualities were mere window-dressing. With Gangs, however, the Ulster group have dispensed with those extreme dynamic shifts in favour of a near-relentless assault of aggressive noise and energy, and the result is a slightly jarring experience.

I managed to see And So I Watch You From Afar perform live three times in the first 10 weeks of this year, and was in the fortunate position of witnessing the evolution of their show from almost exclusively old material to a near-entire set of cuts from the new album. By the third show, it was clear that the new tracks had cannibalized the old, eclipsing even marquee track ‘Set Guitars to Kill’ in terms of intensity and cathartic energy. Unfortunately, the relentless intensity that characterizes their stage show doesn’t quite translate to record.

It’s selfish to expect a band’s every move to conform to my own expectations – and, likewise, it’s unfair to measure their second album against a debut as brilliant as And So I Watch You From Afar – but I do feel that Gangs lacks the dynamism and variety to match the emotional ride was their first record. There are new and welcome influences, from the stoner rock riffage of opener ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’ to the frenetic ‘80s metal guitar heroics of ‘Gang (Starting Never Stopping)’ and standout single ‘Search:Party:Animal,’ but there’s little respite and ear fatigue sets in very quickly.

There are some very welcome Irish rock additions to the mix. ‘7 Billion People All at Once’ (there aren’t quite that many people on the planet yet, so this can be considered an aspirational title) offers the first real relaxed moment of the record before breaking into something resembling an Irish jig on electric guitars, while ‘Gang’ offers up some Thin Lizzy-style wailing dual-guitars. The ‘Homes’ suite, ‘Ghost Parlors KA-6 to… Samara to Belfast,’ is another particular highlight, building from rigid foundations to a more odious and sinister conclusion.

All in all, Gangs is an accomplished record that confirms the potent energy And So I Watch You From Afar displayed on their first album and EPs and vindicates their vocal-less approach. On the other hand, it sounds like an album that was written and tested on the road with less regard for how it would sound at home, out walking or on the bus via headphones. It’s a difficult album to listen to – not in the sense that it’s challenging, but in the sense that there’s little respite from start to finish. The end result is a record that is as exhausting as it is exhilarating.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
MunsuLight
May 29th 2011



558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review but I have to wholeheartedly disagrees. I'm just not too sure about why you dislike it so much besides from the "change in sound". Perhaps , you could expand on that?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2011



31094 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Agree with this. It almost seems that someone at the production end just decided to turn everything down a few notches. The intensity and the obvious "we're having so much fun playing these tracks" vibe is still there, but just

Digging: Banks - Goddess

bloc
May 29th 2011



34774 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"De Sylvia" was a lie the whole time

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 29th 2011



31094 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Standard Irish name

MunsuLight
May 29th 2011



558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think it's all a matter of taste but I hate stream in general for being too loud.

Your point is good but for someone who listen generally to a lot of metal, I don't find the relentless assault so hard to take. It's maybe why I like both albums even if the dynamics aren't comparable.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
May 29th 2011



10593 Comments


Really cool to read a differing opinion, especially one so well formed : )

However, I have trouble calling EITS and God is an Astronaut ASIWYFA's "contemporaries." That's sort of implying that they share a certain sound, Honestly, this really isn't even post-rock actually, many people, I myself included, group them their because of the lack of vocals, etc. Really though, their more of an instrumental rock/experimental rock group, whose contemporaries don't really lie in the post rock genre.....

Buuuuuuuuuut this rant doesn't really have much to do with anything

ohfoxxxycole
May 30th 2011



4353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

review reads more positive than a 3

RagingStorm
May 30th 2011



509 Comments


this is a great review

RangerTaffles
May 30th 2011



256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Strong review. I still love the "noisy" dynamics. But nice judgement.

G3N3R1C
May 30th 2011



1945 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This blew me away on the first listen. Just hasn't held up well over repeated listens. Might bump it down to 3.5 soon...

Good review.

FelixCulpa
May 30th 2011



1239 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Get you point of view but I don't mind the shift in "noisiness" as much as you seem to. However I can relate to missing some of the more silent longer parts with the wonderful echoing guitars, such found on "Eat the city, eat it whole" from the S/T. I also miss the build ups, they are so awesome on say the "The Voiceless".

solidness
May 30th 2011



113 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I really like this

MaskAtTheMasquerade
May 30th 2011



2887 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

a little redundant but nevertheless a sick album

Swayzetrain33
May 30th 2011



16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album. Lifeproof and BeautifulUniverse... are my favorites. They are changing things up a bit. Check out a band called Pan and their ep Post Rock is Not Dead

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
June 1st 2011



23806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Who the fuck is Dave Donnelly?

serious time now, I liked this album quite a bit. Not sure about if I like it more or less than their one, but it feels like a 4 at least. I know they're kind of a one-trick-pony but I really really really fucking like that trick.

CrazyFool84
June 2nd 2011



1080 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm both entertained and slightly disappointed in this album, though I'm not really sure what I was expecting. Still really digging this band, though I don't feel the same sonic punch to the gut that their debut gave me. Might be a grower though, have to give this one its fair share of time, nice review I agree with the majority

Staker
June 3rd 2011



32 Comments


Yeah the mix felt a bit... lacking somehow. It's got dynamics but nothing like the first album. That whole thing had a fantastic mix that was perfect.

The actual songs are no worse though. Only Gang feels a bit like it's just riff after riff after riff, all the rest are great.

Comatorium.
June 5th 2011



4106 Comments


"Juxtaposition"


THAT fucking word. This albums rules. (I'm about 4 minutes into the first track so im hoping that opinion holds.)

Blackbelt54
March 19th 2012



4269 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just saw these guys live and they blew my mind, one of the best sets I've ever seen. Bought this CD, can't wait to listen

ControlDarts
March 19th 2012



290 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fuckin slays ballicks



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