Stray Borders - Lost In Your Map, You Left Us Signs in Broken Lines and Waves of Ink EP

Edmund Townend 04/09/2008

Rating: 4/5

Rumblings in the UK post-rock world are reaching their peak this year with the release of some fantastic music from old and new groundbreakers producing orchestral guitar and drums to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Sigur Rós released their fifth release included more guitars to delve back into the post-rock category, Mogwai are soon to release their sixth studio album 'The Hawk is Howling' on September 22nd and Explosions in the Sky were curators this years 'ATP vs.' festival. Newer bands like Leeds' Vessels have released their much-awaited debut 'White Fields and Open Devices', overseen by famed 'wall of sound' producer John Congleton. And so, with these new stirrings so comes another, the sophomore release from Stray Borders, Cardiff's post-rock pioneers.

The four-track EP begins with simplistic tones of guitar and then drops full force into a continuing pattern of smooth gliding sounds. 'I Sat To Watch The Snow Fall' conjures up images not created by previous song titles to create a setting for the instrumental-only release and a blanket of snow seems appropriate to the constant rhythmic pulse and fall of the song. With added degrees of musical maturity, a cello demonstrates the orchestral movements found within post-rock music whilst the drumbeat punctures the sound of the crisp guitar. Although the cello is a flattering addition to the distinct post-rock sound, its prominence in the songs is overused. After a dip back into the introduction's quiet accompanied by straining, wavering cello the band explode into a string shattering finale commonly found within post-rock songs. With a great, practised momentum, it becomes staggering and sustained and ends with a final grunge-filled note.

'Stalker Music' starts serenely and sound like a string quartet of two guitars, bass and a cello. It soon transforms into a throbbing, distorted mutant of the opening riff accompanied by deafening drums to slide back into a new riff - clean and quiet. The transitions through rhythm and noise continue throughout the track and the inclusion of cello again adds a new dimension to the already smooth sound of clean, refined guitars. Halfway through the stalker of the title slips in with muted and quiet warped guitar exploding into refrains before becoming quiet again. Then as with the first track, the song descends into a frenzied attack on high notes before passing back into serene comfort once more. Each track from Stray Borders never remains the same throughout, always changing in dynamics and sound.

The simulated drum taps of a clock are the introduction to 'This Time Telling Device Perplexes Me' a definite inclination of the titles relating to the music's sound. Showing a reserved and quiet sound rather than fast-paced, the band use delay and echo effectively over the cello present once again. With post-rock music being criticised for its repetitiveness, Stray Borders are mindful of diversity with each track. The repeated notes caused by effect pedals feel like spacecraft blips and again may allude to time. The elongation of a single note is a theme central to the post-rock sound, with either effects or continual playing - the wall of sound effect is generated by a cacophony of held notes playing as one chord. The song dips into silence before building up into an angry, dark, grunge onslaught. The contrast is severe between the calm of the beginning and the unforgiving end, switching between malicious chords and high-paced notes before breaking into silence.

'And Now I Know Why I Was Afraid' opens with a distinctly familiar guitar sounds from more mainstream rock, to be joined by the experimental sounds of effected guitar chords and clear, cut-glass piano from local Cardiff musician Lily Green. The two distinct sounds harmonise and sonically twist around each other in separate melodies. The beautifully creative bass provides a platform for this experimental combination before the guitar takes over to re-introduce the trademark sound of Stray Borders. A gentle four-chord pattern feels incredibly relaxing in comparison to the harsh sounds from elsewhere on the EP. Even the distorted reprise is enchanting in its calming qualities. Although a respite from the harsh sounds of crashing drums and pounding guitar, the track lacks the power of its predecessors, despite an incredible arrangement. A purely soothing track to marvel at, but not to be blown away by.

There is a large distinction between the live and recorded sound of Stray Borders. Where other bands attempt staggering feats of equipment changing and effects altering to completely replicate the sound of the original, this band know the difference between live sound and recorded sound. You cannot capture the physical feeling of noise against the body and mind through a mixing desk, so why leave it as it is - flat and boring in a padded room? Stray Borders change their sound by adding an extra depth of instruments to distinguish their prowess as musicians where you cannot experience the power of their noise in person.

Lost in Your Map, You Left Us Signs in Broken Lines and Waves of Ink is available now via iTunes and other online stores and will be available as a physical release in the near future. Stray Borders play at 10 Feet Tall, Cardiff on the 18th of September.