Review Summary: Worriedaboutsatan's debut full-length doesn't take the breath away, but it does strengthen their position as one of electronica's most promising acts.
It’s a frustrating thing to hear a band stray away from the direction you wanted them to go in. They build up your hopes with a refreshingly unique but tantalizing short EP, force you to wait patiently for their next move, then bam! The curveball of disappointment. This was my first impression upon hearing worriedaboutsatan’s debut full-length Arrivals
. The balance and fusion of post rock and electronica on their second EP, EP02
, was not only brilliant, it was different, something I couldn’t quite compare to anything else. They were really onto something. The ground-shaking bass propelled the knife-edge ambience, the knife edge-ambience complemented the measured IDM, the measured IDM enflamed the insurgent guitars, and back. It was intense yet serene, consuming yet calming. Reverb for the rebellious. I couldn’t wait for more. So, of course, the almost total eradication of uproarious guitar and thrilling crescendo prompted me to dismiss the record and cast their new found sense of minimalism into digital wilderness.
But there’s a reason why they’re called first impressions. I now know I entered the album in completely the wrong mindset. I was expecting a fire but was treated to the ocean. After I realized this, it became clear that my original opinion of worriedaboutsatan, that they are one of the most promising electronica acts around today, still had grounds. To say that Arrivals
takes the minimal techno ball and flies to the moon and back with it wouldn’t be a gross overstatement. They completely drop the post-rock shtick in favour of the tranquil world of electro-ambience. But, abandoning all sense of what I
think they should be doing, it really does rock. Just without the rock. The sirens and echoes of opener ‘one down’ set the tone with eerily neutered electronica, before giving way to the first of four eight minute tracks – ‘evil dogs’. The track lengths here are intimidating, and if you let your impatience get the better of you it is likely you’ll end up irritated. But if you’re one for night walks or naps, this will wash over you easier than an Evangeline Lily sponge bath (and without the mess). Firm but gentle beats, ethereal vocals, and swirling glitch spits come together to create a gloomy, cinematic, captivating fog. Plus, if you’re attentive, you’ll realize there are guitars being used here – just subtly and soothingly.
The Leeds-based duo really do like their echoed whispers – making use of them in most of their songs. They take up the majority of the interludes (the ‘.’s) in a rather similar way to the interludes on …Endtroducing
, if DJ Shadow decided to turn techno. Unfortunately, while they don’t so much disturb the record’s flow, they do slow it down somewhat, and when it’s travelling at just above a snail’s pace already, it’s hard to enjoy. ‘you’re in my thoughts’ is the first track which really makes prominent use of its guitars. It’s introduction sounds like the beginning of an Explosions in the Sky song before the bare-bones clickity-clicks of the IDM, static-esque percussion and droning, robotic vocals move it into more restful territory. The album’s ten minute epic - ‘i am a crooked man’ – sees the duo really stretching their electrocoustic muscles. Scattered glitches and wavering ambience begin the track at a barely moving pace, but it would stumble and fall if it were any faster. Gradually, the introduction of other electronic ambience enters the foray, always picking up and dropping off, and while it never sees any form of crescendo, it doesn’t need it. It’s the perfect antidote for a hard day at the office, a rough night with the in-laws, yet still maintaining that mysterious, unsettling blur, and allows worriedaboutsatan to close in on perfecting the increasingly sharp ambient corner of their sound. On the ambient side of things, it’s easily better than their past work.
But that’s what’s worrying. As much as I try to repress it, I can’t hold back the feeling that they should still be pursuing the rockier edge to their music. At fifty minutes long, and without a single climax, Arrivals
becomes exhausting in its maturity, composure and homogeneity. And while it is a great album to chill, think and lose yourself in, it doesn’t seem to shed much warmth, much emotion. It feels slightly cold next to other records in the same vein, something their previous EPs avoided. I’m glad they’ve created Arrivals
because it’s seen them strengthen their grip on the minimal techno they’ve been reaching for. But I truly do believe that with a little more of the energy, emotion, and inspiring insurgence of the post rock-hued guitars it could have been something special. Hopefully they’ll work on that next time around. As is, regardless of discography, Arrivals
is both an electro-ambient kiss on the forehead and a shot to the veins of haunting minimal techno. It has the ability to calm and to stimulate, to take you away and bring you back within a single moment of sublime deft. Ultimately, though, it strengthens Worriedaboutsatan’s position as one of electronica’s most promising acts.