Review Summary: this is the moment.
Though not as well-known or revered as some of their contemporaries, Indian Summer were arguably one of the most important emo bands of the ‘90’s. Despite the brevity of their existence, and the consequential scarcity of material they released, their near-perfect marriage between post-rock and emo helped shape a formula which would be imitated by a vast multitude of bands. Their overtly dynamic take on the genre paved the way for bands such as City of Caterpillar and Circle Takes the Square, and to a lesser extent, Envy, amongst others. Over the course of their nine track discography (released in 2002; also known as ‘Science 1994’) it is not hard to see how and why Indian Summer had such an effect – their discography is 35 minutes of flawlessly executed post-hardcore/emo characterised by dramatic dynamic shifts and thoughtful instrumentation.
Inevitably, the band’s extremely dynamic nature lends itself to cathartic moments which are littered throughout the collection – the wilfully spastic, frequent dynamic shifts in ‘Millimeter’
, or the delayed climax of ‘Reflections on Milkweed’
, for example. Ultimately, this is what Indian Summer were all about
: the build-up of tension followed by a cathartic release. However, to assume they relied on predictable, clichéd crescendos would be wrong. Rather, Indian Summer tend to employ more expansive song structures, using a series of faux
-crescendos, generating continual anxiety before delivering overwhelming sections of crashing drums and flooring guitar riffs. This initial sense of unease is often expertly heightened by several methods: the repetition of a dissonant guitar riff in ‘Orchard’
, or pinch harmonics fracturing the melodies in ‘Sugar Pill’
. While the coarse teasing of most tracks is captivating and genuinely exciting, it is ultimately exceeded by the more simple structuring of a track like ‘Angry Son’
as it releases its warm waves of guitars following a build-up of soft hammer-ons and faint drumming.
Despite the abrupt nature of the individual tracks the collection itself has a rather fluid nature as common motifs unite the nine tracks: the fragility of the quiet sections; the glimpses of release followed by catharsis; and oddly, the use of jazz samples. The use of jazz samples is intriguing, and occasionally their impact seeps into the tracks themselves - ‘Touch the Wings of an Angel’
in particular shows a veiled, carefree jazz tone at times which intrigues and impresses in equal measure. Mostly however, Indian Summer stick to a formula of meticulously constructed build-ups centring on delicate guitars, brooding bass lines and feather-light drumming. Their flawless execution as instrumentalists is slightly stunted by comparatively poor lyricism however. Crudely formed sentences and a far too simplistic vocabulary mean lyrics are perhaps Indian Summer’s only major weakness. However, the passion with which they are delivered – whether it be an achingly fragile whisper or impassioned howl – more than makes up for this. Furthermore, that the band can negate the lyrics’ detrimental qualities with exquisite instrumentation is testament to the bands’ ability as musicians.
With the obvious weakness of the lyrics, Indian Summer’s musicianship is ultimately where they excel. No individual is noticeably more talented than another, though the emphasis lies understandably with the guitars, rather they form a solid, cohesive unit, stunningly adept at producing emotive passages of music. Commendably, Indian Summer avoid predictable song structures and consistently create a palpable sense of tension throughout their discography. Furthermore, the means by which they avoid this potential pitfall is praiseworthy in its own right – simple, yet captivating motifs continually blossoming whilst teasing the listener with false build-ups. By the end of the collection it becomes apparent Indian Summer were something special and could have had an even more indelible impact on the emo genre had they only lasted more than a year!