Review Summary: Dialling it back.
I’m sure everyone’s been there at some point, listening to a band that initially connected with you but went on to make records that didn’t quite click or show the same seductive promise as when you first discovered them. As a result of stringed disappointment, you switch off to their future activities in a parting-ways that has you accepting they don’t do a lot for you anymore. And I’m sure you’ve guessed by now And So I Watch You From Afar are one such case for me; a band that blew my mind during the sonic invasion of Gangs
but slowly lost their appeal with every attempt thereafter. All Hail Bright Futures
aren’t bad records by any stretch of the imagination, but their need to evolve with ambition led to the loss of a fundamental ingredient that made them so appealing in the first place. The biggest problem that never quite gelled with me was the addition of vocal work; All Hail Bright Futures
’s dabbling in distracting gang chants did minute damage to that record, but Heirs
’s all-in use of vocals and chants completely stripped the album of its signature enigmatic qualities. So, I’ll admit, with the overwhelming influx of albums per year, and the fact ASIWYFA haven’t delivered an album of the same stature as Gangs
since 2011, I let the band fall to the wayside so I could listen to other things. But just recently, a friend sent over an album titled: The Endless Shimmering
, telling me to check it out as the playing style of said album reminded him a lot of the way me and my band plays and sounds. To my complete surprise it turned out to be a ASIWYFA album – and a follow-up to 2015’s Heirs
It seems I wasn’t alone in being a little disappointed by the Irish quartet’s recent endeavours, and more to the point, I think the band have been listening to the criticism. Not only is The Endless Shimmering
a return to form, it almost surpasses the genius of Gangs
in a way that’s progressive and mature. Chants and vocal work aren’t even a fleeting thought here, laid to waste in favour of beautiful soundscapes and crunchy riffs that’re being drowned in a really oppressive and despondent atmosphere; a droning and moody air that is set by its fuzzy bass and effects-laden guitar tones. A song like “Three Triangles” shows a multi-facet of emotions, build-ups and slow-downs that had the hardcore fan in me rejoicing at their return to what they’ve always been best at. And that is exactly what this record is: it’s self-aware about the band’s core strengths and takes things back to basics. Elaborate and colourful passages are still present here, but they sit next to the classic grit associated with their first two LPs, and there’s nothing more titillating than hearing this band strip “Dying Giants” down to a couple of guitar notes and symbol taps then letting you buckle up for the exploding nuclear warhead finisher that throws all manner of guitar effects, tremolo picking, chunky chords and that
writhing low-end before simmering back down from the boil again. It’s cathartic writing that highlights their abilities as musicians and songwriters and makes me wonder why they ever gave this sh*t up in the first place.
Look, ASIWYFA have never made anything seminal, but there was a time when they used to take the classic post-rock, progressive-rock formulas and make really, really bloody good instrumental records out of them. Recent years saw a dip in that quality, and even though I’m really late to the party, The Endless Shimmering
manages to bring it all back again. The bottom line being if you prefer the classic ASIWYFA sound, that’s exactly what you’ll be getting here: grooves aplenty, interesting guitar playing, and a spaghetti junction of twists and turns that’ll bring the hairs on the back of your neck on end, and quite honestly that’s all I’ve ever asked from the band. I may have lost my way with the band recently, but I can assure you I’ll have an ear out for new projects if this is the route they’re taking in the future.
PACKAGING: Two panel digipak
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://asiwyfa.com/