And So I Watch You From Afar - This Is Our Machine And Nothing Can Stop It
Angus Reid 05/01/2008
Post-rock is a term that's changed a lot in meaning since it was first used to describe Slint's epic masterpiece Spiderland. Back then, it felt necessary to have a new term for something that used rock instruments to create something that didn't conform to the usual structures of the music that was around at the time. Admittedly, there may have been a healthy dose of prog influence within that, but hey, everyone likes a new term to play with, right? Well, fast forward to the present day and what you're left with is a movement that never really happened to the vast majority of people, and the term post-rock itself is little more than a way of pigeon holing instrumental guitar music, of varying degrees of originality.
At this point, we reach And So I Watch You From Afar, a quartet of angry young men from Belfast with epic ambitions and no fear of loud crunchy guitars. “this is our machine…” is a re-release, now featuring a bonus track, “Mount Kalish,” just in case you missed it first time around amid the sea of soundalike post-rock guitar hitters. Trouble is, even if you'd found it, you'd be hard pressed to identify it from the rest.
Every single track except “The Machine (Part 1)” starts off with chiming delayed guitars before slowly working up to a frenzy of riffing, heavy hitting drums and boundless energy. The aforementioned exception to this rule starts of with a mass of swirling effects before resorting to the chiming guitars that lead on to “…Part 2”. It's a good trick, and when things take off, it's convincingly loud and angsty, even without the power of whining vocals, but I can't quite escape the feeling that someone's invited Yes to have a jam session with Pelican and put the results onto a CD. Original closing track “WPB, 6am” even has the trademark of post-rock cliché - military style drums. I hope with all my heart that this is done with a sense of knowing irony, but given the seriousness of the rest of this offering I somehow doubt it.
Now, I know this doesn't come across as the most enthusiastic of reviews, and believe me, enthusiasm is far from what I'm feeling having had the life drained out of me by what feels like several hours of po-faced riffology, but there are good points to this EP as well. When the bass kicks of a couple of the riff sessions, it's pleasingly fat and crunchy, almost like Kyuss in the way it dominates the whole mix and makes that a good thing. There are even moments, nee whole tracks where it manages to sustain interest without a vocal (always a tricky point for a lot of instrumental bands) and genuinely step up a gear into soaring territory (“The Machine (Part 2)”). Overall however, it could quite easily sail by at full volume, and after a while you'd forget it was on, and go about your day, completely forgetting that it was thrashing away in the background.
Oh, one more thing, the artwork is brilliant. It's one of those unintentionally hilarious “this is supposed to be a really threatening, bastard scary machine!” things that looks like they went to the local Games Workshop and put the album title on the first poster they found. To be fair, with an EP title like “This Is Our Machine And Nothing Can Stop It”, you've got to have a picture of some kind of machine on the front, but in all honesty, I've seen more threatening looking things on Robot Wars.