Review Summary: An Emotionally ambitious and beautifully explosive masterpiece.
If their previous work, “Sing the Word Hope in Four Part Harmony”, was an aggressive showcase of the social issues facing our reality, then its’ successor, “I was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone”, is Maybeshewill letting go of that anger and embracing a more personal and intimate display of the joys and sorrows that embody the human experience. What was previously a rage fueled whirlwind of riffs and politically charged samples, has blossomed into a layered and nuanced embodiment of humanity’s purest emotions. “I was Here For a Moment…” is a beautiful exploration of the themes of love, loss, joy, and longing, examined through the lens of colorful and explosive post rock instrumentation.
The constraints of a genre often spell disaster for bands trying to find their unique style, but Maybeshewill does a fantastic job of subverting the post-rock umbrella they are generally cast into. One of their most simple but effective methods is their refusal to adhere to a cliched style of slowly building for minutes just to get to a more interesting finale sequence. While many of the songs on the album do build into dynamic and awe-inspiring climaxes, they are reached without wasting any time. By cutting the fat Maybeshewill is able to get to the core of what each song hopes to convey without muddling their message with gratuitous meandering. For example one of the shortest, and most emotionally effective, songs is, “Red Paper Lanterns”, which clocks in at about 4 minutes. The song begins with an upbeat and cheerful motif that is continually expanded upon and shaped into varying derivative patterns. The song rises and falls multiple times in this way before reaching its climax. That initial motif is then transformed into a flurry of joy and celebration, the triumphant guitar spilling out in carefree waves until it breaks off into a calming electronic current. This is the album’s greatest strength; taking a few simple ideas and iterating on them in order to attain the perfect tone and emotional delivery without wasting any time getting to that point.
Other songs on the album break away from this formula of evolving motifs, but none lose their ability to succinctly convey a wide array of emotions. The driving riffs and electronics in the intro to “Accolades” give way into an introspective tinkling of the piano and a mysterious trill of notes that communicate a very delicate feeling of longing, and a desire for something that is seemingly very distant. While the song does eventually give way into its’ hard hitting guitar driven climax, it’s the return to the intimately somber piano at the end that really drives the themes home.
Musically, while “I Was Here For a Moment…” may have the skeleton of standard post-rock, at its’ heart it’s the fusion of those genre staple techniques along with creative splashes of electronics and classical instruments that create something so refreshing. The opening song on the album, appropriately titled “Opening”, is focused entirely on a blisteringly fast piano riff, undercut with the swelling of strings and a wordless angelic chorus. This sets the tone for what the entire album sets out to do musically. Maybeshewill are less interested in spending their time repetitively building to over the top elegant climaxes, and instead use their unique fusion of instrumentation to create vidid emotions and atmospheres. When the final notes of the piano in “Opening” finally give way to the towering electronic riffs of “Take This to Heart”, the bands’ goals become all too clear, as an assault of vivid imagery is painted in layers of hope and despair. The melancholic horns of “Words for Arabella” will imprint such frighteningly real feelings of nostalgia and loneliness it hurts. Each musical line serves a thematic purpose. Either simple or complex, everything in the music is done in the name of the album’s tonal delivery.
Earlier, “Red Paper Lanterns” was praised for delivering a powerful emotional pay off in such a short amount of time. However, the most emotionally resonating and impactful moment of the album comes from the two songs that close it out. And the two songs that happen to last the longest. The one-two punch masterpiece of “Relative Minors” and “To The Skies From a Hillside” clock in for a combined total of around 11 and a half minutes. Yet despite this longer run time, Maybeshewill never fall into a rhythm of monotony. These two songs, while brilliant on their own, flow into each other so flawlessly and combine to deliver the most poignant and creative moments on the record. “Relative Minors” builds on the aforementioned motif formula and demonstrates how that formula would work within a longer song structure. The song is entirely based upon gorgeous piano motifs, that expand in intensity and passion until bursting into a moment that is as beautiful as it is destructive. A storm of guitar and piano is layered to create a climax that builds within itself until the final notes peacefully phase out.
In the wake of this deluge, a seamless transition occurs, delivering us right into “To The Skies From a Hillside”, which serves as a part two to what preceded it. The drums instantly kick into a fusion of tightly picked guitar and piano notes that almost play like a reimagining of the motif that began “Relative Minors”, but will soon erupt into something completely new and unexpected. For the most part “I Was Here For a Moment…” is an album defined by its unrelenting beauty and its unwavering portrayal of pure human emotions. However this final song takes the precedent of what has come before it and morphs and mutilates it into a section dominated by discord and chaos. The guitars take on a metallic tone and apocalyptic strings hover in the background. A moment of pure fear and destruction is born that breaks up the previous cacophony of melody and peaceful moments. What finally arises from the chaos is a messy and confusing torrent of emotions, ending the album on one of its’ most important themes. Despite the bands best effort at capturing simple and pure emotions, the essence of humanity is never so black and white. The album culminates with a sequence that encapsulates the messy, confusing, and often abstract aspects of human nature.
“I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone” is a fervently ambitious record that delivers an experience that is intimate and personal, yet unafraid to let its’ beauty break down. It’s an album that is extraordinarily happy and sad and lonely and confusing, but it never loses that intimate and personal touch that makes it special.