Review Summary: having your cake and eating it too; in space.
Of all the bands that get accused of re-creating the same album over and over again, I will never understand why God is an Astronaut are lumped into this category. It's fairly difficult to shake the feeling that this album is a direct response to this, the majority of the album almost being like the band wanted to keep all of the aspects of their old sound but play them in a way that sounds almost like their previous records, totally switching around the aesthetic.
is a rather strange album title for such an album - on the one hand, the inclusion of the more prominent electronics arguably harkens back to their very first recordings from the modest The End of the Beginning
, but everything else feels so new and dare I say, fresh. Origins
is a very atmospheric electronic rock album with much higher emphasis on layers than in predictable song structure, a pitfall several of their old albums fell so easily into. These tracks weave together some quite diverse electronics, energetic drum beats, memorable clean guitar leads and forward basslines into a sound that sounds far more intricate; much would be missed if you were to not focus.
It's pretty invigorating to see a band that many know to 'play to their strengths' to totally change the focus to something more experimental and layered than the simplistic compositions on their previous albums. The emphasis on simplistic crescendo-core post-rock climaxes, where utilized in this album, has shifted to more intelligent pieces that ebb and flow in a much more natural and less predictable way. It's true that a lot of the tracks do tend to end on a predictably louder note but this just adds to the memorability of the tracks and certainly doesn't get tiring before the album is over. The way they've changed focus while keeping everything the same almost feels like having your cake and eating it too, and most of the time it works really well.
Individually many of these tracks impress right from the beginning - the great riff that guides 'The Last March', the wonderful climax with vocoded vocals in 'Reverse World', the beautiful atmospherics in 'Autumn Song' and the piano work towards the end of 'Spiral Code'. Almost all of these tracks have very strong instrumentation to boot; the great clean guitar work, intricate and melodic, the electronica-tinged drumbeats and the very prominent basslines give these tracks a great sense of character. The electronics don't always work but they work more often than they fall flat. In fact it's fairly safe to say that most of the tracks here has one of these moments that will keep you coming back to it, even if individually these tracks aren't quite as memorable as many of their past compositions. Even that might simply come down to uncovering the true nature of these tracks, and considering how densely these tracks are layered, it wouldn't be too surprising if many of these tracks came back to you later with a completely different character.
One of the only real issues here is that Origins
feels like a collection of experiments and tracks as opposed to a structured album. Perhaps this is an unfair observation that is solely a response to their last album being so well paced and structured in such an elaborate way, Origins
being rather different in that respect. Sometimes a more atmospheric track will throw you right into a more energetic one and the flow will just seem off, such as the transition from Autumn Song to Spiral Code. It also has to be said that some of these tracks simply aren't as strong, 'Transmissions' going too far in the direction of electronica and sounding rather haphazard.
Though not every track here is a home-run, plenty of them have a lot of staying power; even without the energy and bombast of their previous works. The inclusion of the heavily vocoded vocals and the way they much more prominently guide many of these tracks add a much needed personal touch to what might have been a rather sterile offering. The variation between tracks makes Origins
not only an interesting listen but one that will occasionally strike quite the emotional chord. The loud parts aren't as loud and the ambient parts aren't as subdued, but it's still a varied and enjoyable album. Where not profound or game-changing, Origins
is an intriguing electronic rock record that has a lot to offer if one stops searching for the follow-up to All is Violent, All is Bright