Review Summary: One of the greatest mixtures of ambient, shoegaze and post-rock. Well worth a listen.
I feel almost obligated to rate this album (well, EP) a perfect 5. It feels like a concept album, but not in any conventional sense of the word. Conventionally you'll find lyrical themes to tie together a story. Instead, Flaxen uses the beautiful ambient and textured music to bring out soundscapes of almost unparalleled proportion. The greatest part being, that it is all achieved by nothing more than conventional rock instruments (no keyboards or synths here) and a fleet of effects pedals.
Sleep, for me, is the epitome of this album. After two songs that bring about the mood of the album, a droney but dark, ambient-filled progression. We fall into the abyssal trap of Omaha beach. It gives visions of a stormy night, being stuck in a storm of sorts. As it progresses the distress sneaks up and surrounds you, entraps you. Then you feel a calming, everything will be all right now, the calm comes and you are pushed into Sleep.
With a drone to begin, we're suddenly bombarded by the bass and guitar line along the E minor. With screaming shimmerings in the background, reminding us of where we just were. A loud tremolo comes in, almost as if an alarm. It is alarming at first, but begins to soothe you. As it ceases, the tension begins to build. As if something momentous has happened. Then we reach the drop, with silent tremolos appearing in and out of the wavy dream-like guitar line. Then comes the droning end, three chords that shimmer and sustain. As if created by a synthesiser, it entraps you and tells you to relax, the ordeal is over.
Not many EPs have ensnared by interest on such a musical level. At times I don't even care that lyrics are there. The singer feels more like an additional instrument, than a story-teller. I feel as if this is one of the only true mixtures of post-rock and shoegaze. Much like Sigur Ros, but not. It's not drawn out like many post-rock songs, but maintains many sonic qualities. It has this conventional feel stemming from the use of conventional instrumentation. Almost as if getting the indie rock and alternative rock bands of the 1990s to make a shoegaze/post-rock crossover. It also has this darker, more ambient quality, that reminds me weirdly of Aphex Twin's SAW2.
It is certainly in my list of personal favourites of all time, and I recommend this album to any person interested in ambient, drone, post-rock or shoegaze.