Review Summary: Blackened post-rockers struggling to move from their comfort zone.
Instrumental music is a tricky business. Practised well, it isn’t digestible music that undemandingly follows a simple pattern: it challenges an audience to listen attentively to the song’s shifting patterns. Unless the audience engages with the music quickly, the repetitious and often directionless movement of the instrumentalism yields only drowsiness and boredom as opposed to elation and catharsis. As soon as an instrumental band truly hits the nail on the head and creates an emotive and engaging album, each subsequent release feels like a plastic, machine-made replica of a handmade work of art; pleasant enough to look at and hold but everybody is quietly aware that it’s just ‘not the same’.
On the heavy side of the spectrum, Mono’s “Hymn to the Immortal Wind”
, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven”
and Explosions in the Sky’s “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place”
, to name a few, are arguably the band’s greatest triumphs. They are albums that are namedropped in other band’s album’s reviews (yes, I see the irony here) because they are such coherent and masterfully designed pieces of work intricately constructed to project a certain feeling or vision for all but a fleeting moment. Simply put, they are prime examples of how instrumental music ‘should’ be done. The problem here is that the majority of fresh instrumental bands use these bands and albums as a foundation to their own music, thus creating a product bereft of innovation.
Herein lies the problem that Talons’ latest album faces: it’s nothing unheard of. The sextet sways around a variety of soundscapes, moving from shivering coldness to nestling warmth and from bleak callousness to welcoming embraces with ease while each of the nine songs weaves into one another without interrupting the pacing of the album as a whole. Furthermore, their layered dynamics exhibit a certain je ne sais quoi, however, that very sensation is exactly what makes “We All Know”
sound like something crucial is missing. Some songs sound like constant meandering chord progressions where you are left confused as to when the introduction ends and the verse melodies begin. Despite the different feelings Talons illustrate, the overruling feeling is that the band sounds safe.
Talons separate themselves from the pack with a strong reliance on a duo of violins which boosts each individual song’s character further. Near the end of “On Levels”, the quivering reeds are anxiety-inducing and twist the tense song into a strong state of discomfort whilst the violins shrink back into the shadows at calculated moments to allow the Pelican-esque grooves on “Over and Again” to take the lead. Meanwhile, “Movements on Seven” has a distinct Eastern touch to it with colourful, dancing ambience and frantic twirls of strings, similarly, the gentle pattering and plucking during “Southern Shade” gives the song an optimistic and positive touch.
Overall, Talons hit all the right spots but not with enough force to make an impact. “We All Know”
owes much of its successes to the stand-out performances of the band’s violinists and Talons are at their best during the alienating and harsh soundscapes they create. If Talons are brave enough to incorporate more melody into their music to fill the space reserved for vocals and to separate and liven up the searching extended atmospheres, then they’d be well on their way to creating a compelling instrumental album that is not merely bowing under the influence of the genre’s masters.