rasKatarsis - rasKatarsis
Simon Jay Catling 16/07/2008
Nice as it would be to believe that the current swell of post-rock/instrumental/minimal acts has brought with it an increase in the quality of the stuff that's out there; sadly, as many musical movements past have taught us, this isn't always the case. Post-rock (I'm going to run with this name despite the kicking it receives) does not feel the burden of such a saturated market, for in this writer's opinion it is one of those genres that has its opening height way and above other contemporary music of the moment. Yet on the other hand it is of course a lot easier to make poignant and passionate opuses when you've seen dozens of bands do the same before you.
And so Estonian group RasKatarsis find themselves in the unenviable position of dipping their toes into the wider world at just the time everyone's beginning to tire of endless long haired guitarists staring at the stage and aiming to reach for the emotional stars with the aid of their instruments alone. This doesn't make the Baltic's choice of style a foolish one but it does set them at a slight disadvantage; thankfully for RasKatarsis, they come from a country which has thrived on being the underdog since it gained independence at the beginning of the 90s, and this band are no different. Their self titled LP manages to understatedly meander and climb its way into a niche that manages to sit comfortably amongst its constricted peers. Yes, the Explosions In The Sky comparisons can be fairly levelled at the four piece as can the Mogwai, Bark Psychosis likenesses et cetera. It would however be a shocking disservice to this LP to dismiss it as another jump on the bandwagon; why? Simply because unlike a lot of the groups shuffling about at the moment, RasKatarsis have stamped their identity all over these thirteen tracks. It's the subtle things that make the difference, the jumps in key signature during fourth track 'Lapsepolve Ja Tagasi', the slight but affecting use of saxophone throughout that recalls the spaced out ambient jazz music of the likes of Jan Garbarek more than it does any post-rock band. Maybe, like with Sigur Ros, we as Brits could read too much into the titles of their songs; yet the spaghetti alphabet of the Estonian language portrays the music marvellously here: distant and otherworldly. The sparse 'Ex Kaskaad' fits this idea perfectly, two guitars striding simultaneously together through an otherwise bleak, vast expanse of space. Percussion on this album is almost an afterthought; brooding noises and rumbles push the music along far more effectively than the drum section here, which admittedly gives the some of the tracks a lack of focus and direction as you sit and wait for something to happen. For the most however the sheer thought evident in most of RasKatarsis sees the band shining through with poise and composure, never allowing themselves to fully put the throttle down and risk losing track of where they started from. Not even in the swirling, epic thirteen minute 'Nomadia' do they fully relinquish control; holding each intertwining melody on a leash as they threaten to break free without ever quite doing so; it's also notable for one of the few times that the percussion does come into its own, putting the groundwork in steadily so as to gradually raise the pulse of the soundscape breathing above it and giving the track much needed depth.
The blissed out tempo of the album as a whole does mean that tracks can bleed seamlessly into each other almost without you realising, the similar themes too can at times show this to be an LP that retreads ground a touch too often and in a contemporary landscape where jumping out and arresting attention is becoming key it's perhaps something that this slow burner of an album struggles with. Yet, because a slow burner is exactly what it is, RasKatarsis is a collection of music that ultimately does deserve your attention because with a bit of your time and focus the Estonians have provided a debut worthy of addition to any instrumental music fan's collection.