Review Summary: 1099 is an enthralling post-rock album that doesn't conform to genre stereotypes.
Post-rock has always been a genre that I've been scared to write about. I was afraid that I wouldn't have much to say about whatever album I happened to be reviewing. I mean, the majority of recent post-rock is just down to a formula. A song starts out quiet and slowly builds up to a climax over the course of seven to ten minutes and then the song ends. Every once in a while a band comes along that perfects that formula, for example bands like Explosions In The Sky or God Is An Astronaut.
While those bands may create fantastic post-rock, if you look back at the roots of the genre you will find bands that did things a bit differently, and they are praised for how interesting and textured their music is. Two prime examples of bands like this would be Slint and late Talk Talk, two of the earliest and most praised post-rock bands. While I may not exactly be an expert on the genre, I thought post-rock bands like that all died out.
Then I heard 1099.
1099 is a band that plays post-rock music (if you hadn't guessed) and are from Trondheim, Norway. They consist of 4 members: Anders (guitar), Kristian (guitar), Lars-Erik (bass) and Pål (drums). They released their debut self-titled album on February 22, 2013, and me, being lucky enough to be a sputnik user, saw this album on a list of post-rock recommendations made by our very own witty sixdegrees. Needless to say, as soon as I gave this album a listen I recognized that it needed a review. So, I thought I'd give it a go, and try to do a fantastic album justice with my mediocre writing.
This album here has seven tracks, ranging from around five minutes to a twenty minute behemoth, and most songs coming out to around ten minutes in length. As far as I can tell there is no clear concept on this album. The band name, album art, and song names seem to reference a Roman theme. I did a bit of research on the year 1099 A.D., and found nothing particularly significant that happened that year, aside from the death of Pope Urban II, so as curious as I am, I was not able to figure out a definite story that this album is telling. The reason this disappointed me was because the entire album has an epic feel to it, like the majority of post-rock bands. The songs feel alive, and sound as if they driving towards a purpose. That is one thing that 1099 does perfectly in their music, while avoiding genre cliches they still maintain that huge sound that is so important to post-rock music, and the enjoyment of it.
This album consists of the average post rock-instruments: guitars and drums, but also has a few instruments thrown into a few songs to add a new layer of cinematics and drama into the music. The album features strings, horns, piano, and even vocals. When I say vocals, I don't mean the beautiful Hopelandic falsetto you'd hear on a Sigur Ros record, and no, I don't mean the warm and emotive singing you'd hear on a Slint record. I mean harsh, wretched screaming that you'd hear on a Pg. 99 record. The vocals on Machine Fire Ghost and Iron Fist are mixed in such a way that they almost overpower the instruments. It adds a layer of excitement to the already exciting music being played with the vocals, and creates simply epic climaxes that will leave you dazed and stunned. What 1099 brings to the table is similar to the cathartic feeling that you get from listening to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, and I mean that in a very good way.
While this album does feature harsh vocals, there is also some very pretty singing thrown in here too on the twenty minute monster of a song Wake, and a female singing on the final track When The City Sleeps. This song features a very slow build up that, like the rest of the album, is engaging and keeps you interested. This album is anything but boring, with the tear jerking lows and dramatic highs that are necessary to a post-rock album, executed in such a way that keeps you attentive from start to finish. 1099 simply understand how to keep post-rock captivating. The most impressive thing about this album may be that it was created by only 5 people. While Godspeed created their signature epic sound with 9 members, there are only 5 members listed as peoplethat contributed to the recording of this album, the previously listed 4 members and Bernt Isak Wærstad, who presumably played the excess instruments.
As far as a flaw in this album, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what 1099 does wrong, or convey it. Sometimes they can drag on for just a bit too long; see the song Wake for example, or sometimes it just feels like they had an idea that they never fully fleshed out, never fully expirimented with. Overall though, this album is certainly an impressive piece of music, that is sure to keep you listening and wanting more.