65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway
James Dippie 26/04/2010
From the heavy thud of the first bass drum of album opener Mountainhead; alone, purposeful, assertive, you know that 65daysofstatic have morphed again. That this is the beginning of the album is no mistake - 65 want you to know. They want you to understand. They want you to feel it through your speakers. This is a band that changes because it is too creative not to. Many bands who release a near perfect debut album die a quick death once it becomes clear that they cannot outgrow the sound they perfected, or when their attempt to make something totally opposed to it falls flat on its ALT COUNTRY FACE.
65daysofstatic have never fallen into either camp. Whilst some would argue they have never captured the consistency and impact of their first album, they have progressively developed the sound of The Fall of Math organically, and not without taking risks. Third album The Destruction of Small Ideas exemplified the ambition of this process as the band abandoned the bombastic production of previous albums and tried to recreate the sonic ebb and flow of a piece of work like Neil Young's Harvest. The shiny machine which had until then sounded like the robotic progeny of Mogwai and Aphex Twin was stripped to its wooden core, each cog whirring away as the band pushed the limits of their song structures as far out as possible.
Intricate, beguiling, and still savage at many points, the record felt like an extreme of the 65daysofstatic sound had been reached - the added breadth, further complexity and large change in tone of the recording all emphasising the pacing and tonality at the core of what 65 do. But there were more than hints of other ideas emerging too, especially in the pumping synths and stripped down bass and snare drums of The Distant and Mechanised Glow of Eastern European Dance Parties. This was a stand out track, but still strangely unsatisfying due to the production. Whilst the softer moments of the album glowed in this sound, my brain wanted more punch, more aggression in the moments of beat heavy madness when they arrived.
I can't have been alone in thinking this. From out of nowhere, the band released an EP of the same track which flipped their production attitude on its head - the two versions were the shiniest, most outrageously maximised pieces of work they had ever created. The final half of the EP, nominally two tracks but feeling like one continuous flow of ideas, spoke of even greater changes afoot with the only guitar present looped and reversed, inset in a wall of sound which shifted and morphed against a background of crackling, fizzing synths and clinical breakbeats.
We Were Exploding Anyway is as much a fulfilment of the promise of these EP tracks as their fusion with what went before. The Distant and Mechanised EP wasn't a reaction to what the third album could have been, it was a vision of an alternative 65. This new album pulls that way hard, with tracks like Piano Fights retaining some of the extended melodies and structures which made The Destruction of Small Ideas so fascinating, but tracks like Weak4 and Go Complex marking strongly the switch in balance from post-rock to dance fucking central. This is a refinement not an abandonment of what went before - the band haven't started aping Boys Noize or Justice - the distortion, aggression and sheer pace of most of the tracks across the album are made of more tribal, industrial beats than Parisian electro or Berlin techno - 65 are still the children of rave and Aphex Twin. They're more comparable with breaks / DnB legends Noisia, or dare I say it…Pendulum. Pendulum with the self control to not have squiffy jazz keyboard solos (1st album!), or the self awareness to not try and be a nu-metal band (2nd album!). Oh no. As ever, 65 are doing their own thing, and pulling so many styles over the album it is hard to pin down the best way to describe them….
Texturally and instrumentally, this is the biggest shift the band has made, with styles washing over one another even more than usual. What were once ideas that opened and closed songs - processed beats, awesome synth soundscapes - and were always some of my favourite (if fleeting) parts, are now centre stage in the new material. Electronic drum rolls merge into organic drum rolls, synth basses hold centre stage until their electric strung variety forces its way back into focus. The band have widened their creative range - from tapped guitar lines to (I think!) their first ever arpeggiator in Dance Dance Dance, to an almost Crystal Castlesesque synth fluttering around in Tiger Girl. All of this demonstrates how much the dance element is emphasised in this album, with the piano that was once so key to their sound a genuine surprise when you hear it. Different instruments do fill the role vacated, and rhythmically there is still a great deal shared with previous albums - don't worry, this is still 65daysofstatic - but this does not represent the repetition of these ideas, but their evolution.
In Crash Tactics you have the perfect single to sum this up. It is taught, focused, and builds, drops and builds again to a climax only 65daysofstatic can produce. As with the best dance music, the song is a series of instructions, a succession of peaks and troughs that in a live situation pull the crowd where the band wants them to go, and in a listening situation puts you at the risk of high fiving people on the tube. It's electrifying. The album version equivalent is to be found in closer Tiger Girl, starting with a pulsating techno rhythm and building and building and BUILDING for the next ten minutes as layer upon layer of tone and detail are added before a guitar rips through the whole wonderful construction and pulls you up even higher. Funnily enough this made me think of the Jurassico remix by Prins Thomas, no bad thing.
Now, there is more breadth and detail in their sound, more complex beats in one song than some bands have in whole albums, but also more space. The second half of the album shows this side the most, and encapsulates the promise of Distant and Mechanised EP the closest. Both Come To Me and Debutante start with a throb, an intimation, a promise, a warning, and swell over time into epic finales - in yet another switch Come To Me has The Cure's Robert Smith on vocals; glitched, vocoded and resampled throughout the most of the track, late on he suddenly breaks out clear above the rest of the music, providing what is the closest 65 have ever come to a rock chorus. And why the fuck not?
We Were Exploding Anyway contains more good ideas than many bands fit into a whole career. At once recognisable but different, they have taken the lessons from other albums in terms of riffs, smash and structure and created a phenomenally exciting piece of work. If I had one criticism, it would be that in a way the album is perhaps too diverse (and hence why I felt it needed this many words to describe it…!). It's unusual to hear huge distorted tribal beats on track 3 and a smooth, crackling techno beat by track 9, let alone everything else. But I would always prefer a band this creative to go too far than to cage themselves in a sound they thought people were expecting. 65daysofstatic have never done that, and just like before I cannot wait to see where they go next.