Review Summary: Levitation is a focused, varied and masterfully executed post-rock EP that manages to catch and reward the listener's attention without meandering overlong; a definite recommendation to genre enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
Flares are a relatively unknown, self-described "instrumental rock band" hailing from Saarbrücken, Germany. In 2008 they made their debut with Levitation, a cohesive, mesmerizing and well-crafted post-rock release that rivals many of the genre's greatest. Though the band was a mere year old at the time of its release and remains fairly obscure to this day, this EP showcases some very mature songwriting as well as a strong musical vision.
Levitation's four tracks mostly adhere to the tried and true post-rock formula of starting slow and soft, gradually adding layer upon layer of sound building up to a grandiose climax. With that said, however, the band do sprinkle some interesting and perhaps unexpected changes of pace to the old formula, most notably perhaps the drum section halfway through the first track, 299 792 458 m/s. It is these subtle additions, combined with the fact that no song overstays its welcome, that keep the music fresh and captivating throughout its 26 minute length.
The band's varied ideas and charming compositions are brought to life and realize their full potential as a result of the excellent musicianship. During the soft sections and build-ups, the guitars create dreamy, ethereal soundscapes through excellent use of delay and reverb and intricate layering. But there is also a good amount of heavier riffs on display here, as well and thunderous walls of sound a la Isis or Rosetta and even some more direct lead melodies occasionally added on top.
As for the rhythm, the bass has a strong presence in the mix and while the basslines are rather simple from a technical standpoint, they complement the softer passages very well and add a lot of weight to the climaxes. The drums are far more of a standout, in that the beats are surprisingly complex and energetic for the genre and their contrast with the more mellow guitars and bass ends up working very nicely. A good example of the drums' playfulness, apart from the aforementioned, would be the entirety of the second track, Rope Dance, from its catchy intro to the more vigorous beats later on, but really none of the songs is short of excellent drum fills.
But Levitation is by no means a slow burner. The band wastes no time in entrancing you with their spacey atmosphere, subtle melodies and infectious rhythms, suspending you in their tranquil dreamscape. And once you’re fully immersed, they take you by the hand and lead you through the land and have you experience even grander things. Their musical ideas develop and intensify at a very natural pace, and when the tension is finally released those moments feel breathtaking and cathartic.
All in all, the band succeeds at creating some truly memorable moments as well as a very alluring atmosphere. Levitation is a focused, varied and masterfully executed post-rock EP with some progressive elements that manages to catch and reward the listener's attention, while also resisting the temptation of droning on or meandering overlong; a definite recommendation to genre enthusiasts and newcomers alike.