The Night Watch
An Embarrassment of Riches


4.8
classic

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
May 4th, 2024 | 22 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A masterclass in instrumental album making.

An Embarrassment of Riches is, in the truest sense, a peregrination you won’t forget. Five years removed from its release and I still find myself utterly transfixed by its unwavering desire to push progressive music beyond its boundaries. The complex, labyrinthian structures, the eclectic arsenal of styles, and the blatant virtuosity on display here is first rate, but then, in 2024, there are hundreds of progressive instrumental albums out there that meet the same criteria – so what gives An Embarrassment of Riches a distinction over its peers? Well, considering The Night Watch is comprised of Musk Ox’s founding member Nathanael Larochette, and ex-Musk Ox violinist Evan Runge, it’s not hard to grasp why An Embarrassment of Riches has an advantage over the competition. Nathanael has cut out a reputation for crafting dense, lavish and detailed soundscapes that create an impressively lucid picture, and his track record has proven he can do this with even the most rudimentary tools. Couple that with a full band of skilful players and the results are explosive.

As an instrumental concept album, the band have pragmatically laid the groundwork by adorning the record with one of my favourite album covers of the last decade, made by Alice Duke. This gorgeous artwork sets the scene for the music and displays a juxtaposition that will represent the emotional hues pertaining to the record: the serene beauty of this sunny, desolate island in the midst of an exhausted calm after a ferocious storm appears welcoming; but the forlorn aftermath of said storm, depicting a wrecked ship washed ashore and the vestiges of the storm looming over the island’s towering mountain, lay warning to the listener that it’s not all lush easy listening. The picture immediately captures your attention with its soft art style and vibrant colours, but the more you stare at it, the more you unearth its poignant and menacing undertones. With such a stunning visual indicator to work from, and Nathanel’s proven talents, you can only imagine the grand scope of this album’s sounds.

From a musical standpoint, what’s most refreshing about An Embarrassment of Riches is it breaks away from the traditional band formula we’re accustomed to hearing from this kind of music – which normally has the guitar laying down all of the lead parts. Don’t get me wrong, as a guitar player this is inarguably Nathanael’s crowning achievement thus far in his career, but he also knows exactly when to pull it back and allow others the time to express themselves. As such, this mindset allows Evan the freedom to be the melody man throughout the majority of the record, laying down a deluge of expressive, engaging and challenging leads to solidify the tone of this idiosyncratic voyage. As a concept, the backstory tells of an out-of-luck explorer (you) who is marooned on an island after the ship is destroyed and washed ashore. This forms the catalyst for An Embarrassment of Riches’ rich, narrative-driven songwriting, which feels immensely theatrical and bombastic in execution – but more than that, it staggers me how perfectly the band, and particularly Evan, emits the feeling you are marooned on this tropical island and exploring its vast mysteries and dangers.

The one-two set up of opening track “Land Ho!” and “Mendoza” is masterful. “Land Ho!” is a grand epic that mixes harmonics, ferocious tremolo guitar work and gorgeous melodic passages from the violin, with the rhythm section being exceptionally tight and accommodative of the guitar and violin’s capricious dispositions. It’s a banquet of emotions that weaves in and out of so many genres of music, it’ll make your head spin. Overall, the track stays relatively light-hearted in tone, but it mixes the sinister side of the record, which will be tapped into at length later on. Once “Land Ho!” affirms its mission to the listener, we get “Mendoza” to unleash its doom/black metal influences, which build up to a hair-raisingly epic post-metal crescendo. These two tracks basically tell you everything you need to know about An Embarrassment of Riches and where it’s going to go. “Dance of the Mountain People” lets down its hair and experiments with jazz and avant-garde, showing off some cool guitar and violin solos, while “Shamaniac” goes to town on the progressive metal aspect of their sound.

Honestly, there’s not enough time in the day to detail all An Embarrassment of Riches has to offer, because there’s just too much going on in every track, but suffice to say, there isn’t a single dull moment on here. An Embarrassment of Riches is aching to be a cult classic. Its omnipotent nous and daring vision make it a bloody powerful album. At 70-minutes, it takes some skill making that feel natural when you’re going through it – but this is such a well-thought-out album and feels almost pedantically combed through to achieve the end results. The production is nigh perfect and captures the essence and intricacies in all the right ways, and as I touched on earlier, the instrumental proficiency feels impressive, yet completely effortless, to put it lightly. The complexity of the songwriting and the skill involved is astounding, and more impressively still, it doesn’t feel forced or pretentious. If you’re genuinely looking for a rich, epic experimental adventure with a treasure trove of genres all inhabiting one island, An Embarrassment of Riches is the record for you. Don’t deprive yourself of this scintillating gem.




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user ratings (11)
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2024


18340 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

can't believe this didn't have a review, and only 4 ratings.





Elynna
May 4th 2024


1444 Comments


Never heard of this project, but seeing who's involved I should probably give this a listen

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2024


18340 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

You won’t regret it. I’ve been jamming all week and it’s held up so well since it’s release.

artificialbox
May 4th 2024


1868 Comments


Wow, this sounds really cool based on your review. Great job! I’m gonna add this to my list and hopefully listen to it today.

Zac124
May 4th 2024


2804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The album cover intrigued me and the review then sold me on it. Gonna have to check it now.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2024


18340 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

Think you will all dig it.

Zac124
May 4th 2024


2804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This has indeed been digged.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 5th 2024


18340 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

Welcome aboard, zac, glad to have you.

Beardog
May 5th 2024


5265 Comments


Guess I'll have to check

Orb
May 5th 2024


9415 Comments


You had me at Musk Ox. I didn't know about this project. Definitely, definitely checking this out!

Zac124
May 5th 2024


2804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loving the jazziness of Dance of the Mountain People. Wished there was tad more of that on the album tbh.

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
May 6th 2024


1820 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love that album art and this review is fire. Gonna have to check this out now!

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2024


27975 Comments


oh boy, I'm excited for this one. great review!

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2024


18340 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

I’m amazed you’ve not checked this already Atari.

Calc
May 6th 2024


17366 Comments


you fooled me. thought a new album came out.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2024


27975 Comments


@Gonzo, I've heard their self-titled debut and remember loving it but I believe that's it. but I'm surprised too considering who's involved ;)

Hawks
May 6th 2024


89540 Comments


Gotta hear this ASAP.

TheTripP
May 6th 2024


4546 Comments


oooh this sounds lovely

SuzyC
May 8th 2024


208 Comments


Sounds like it'll be right up my musical alley.

wildinferno2010
May 8th 2024


1909 Comments


Listening now, this rules. Great review, got me super interested in checking out the album



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