Heights - From Sea To Sky
Owain Paciuszko 22/09/2010
With its twinkly guitar intro on Of Wind and Air you know full well you're in the kind of post-prog-rock territory of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, and Heights manage to wear the badge of comparison well, the lead track all flurrying guitar lines like trickles of rain water on a window pane.
This is the second album from Reading-based Heights who formed in 2006, spear-headed by producer and guitarist Al Heslop's desire to fulfil his own creative ambitions musically. He's accompanied by bassist John Hopkin and drummer Jay Postones, of prog-metal act TesseracT, and whilst this is probably a milder affair than their other outfit it flows from its lows to highs with cinematic skill.
The title track switches back and forth delightfully from euphoric, dreamy moments into blustering alt-rock asides like a dance off between math-rockers such as Safetyword and epic-angst-indie group The Twilight Sad.
The record then shifts into a five track piece called Symphony for the Sky, on the one hand it's a daunting prospect for the ears, taking up the final 28 minutes of the record's running time, and starts with the uninspiring Movement i, which bares resemblance to perhaps an instrumental anthemic Biffy Clyro track at times. Movement ii starts with a heavy-rock swagger, schizophrenically hopping back and forth between these up-tempo moments into lamenting guitar parts. Movement iii meanwhile gets dangerously close to a jam between U2 and Dire Straits, it's not as awful as that Chimera sounds in my head, but it fumbles around in a theatrical Classic Rock guise, including a few wry drum rolls around the four minute mark.
Those prog-metal influences rear their head with a bit of slap-bass on the start of Movement iv, and it bodes well for a nice gear shift, but somewhat disappointingly this flicker of imagination is side-tracked for more of the same. We do return on occasion to the slap bass, and each time it's a breath of fresh air, shifting the dynamics of the tune superbly and it injects energy into both the performance and the listener. The record closes on a languid note with Movement v, Postone's drums aptly crash and break like waves on rocks, whilst Hopkin's bass provides the thumping heartbeat to Heslop's wandering guitar. They build towards a crescendo, but it lacks the grand impact of a piece coming to its conclusion, the five movements feeling a tad disjointed and without a unifying identity to make the endeavour seem entirely purposeful.
Heights don't really do anything particularly new and revolutionary on this record, but what they do fits snugly into a genre of atmospheric-instrumental-post-rock and is a worthwhile listen for fans of that genre. Perhaps the one thing really holding this record back is the lack of distinct variety between the tracks, meaning one song sometimes blurs into another in the recollection.