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And So I Watch You From Afar

 

Summary: The Belfast-based band’s mix the ferocity of DC hardcore with the carefree abandon of arena rock.

That Derry’s finest instrumental rock troupe And So I Watch You From Afarare oh-so-frequently lumped in with the post-rock brigade is not somuch unfortunate as it is downright wrong, but it does say somethingabout the genre. In the eyes of all but the seasoned observer, a banddoesn’t have to do anything, or sound a particularly way, to belabelled “post-rock”: just not having a vocalist is enough. Now,nothing irks a band more than being pigeon-holed, but it must hurtdoubly to be holed in the wrong coop entirely. And with all due respectto post-rock, And So I Watch You From Afar’s music is so far removedfrom the post-crescendo genre that it warrants screaming from theroof-tops- in fact, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The Belfast-basedband’s raucous sound is a pithy amalgamation of the ferocity andintensity of DC hardcore and the carefree abandon of arena rock. Topoint out the obvious contradiction would be to miss the point entirely.

Given the obvious lack of lyrics (apart from an “oi!” here and they odd“hey!” there), the song titles have to be a little more descriptivethan they typically are. Opener ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ is a perfectexample, kicking the album off with a crunching power chord riff andpulsating reverb-soaked drums that give way to increasingly morechaotic and dissonant exchanges. Likewise, the impeccably-titled‘TheseRIOTSareJUSTtheBEGINNING’ is frenetically-paced and relentlesslyaggressive, while ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’ sees theband indulge their zanier pleasures: from signature shred-guitar movesrarely heard outside a guitarist’s bedroom to sexy Meters-like funkrhythms and a beer-soaked ‘Hey Jude’-style gang sing-a-long for thelast couple of minutes. In truth, there is the odd moment within a songof overt post-rockishness: single ‘A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes ALong Way’ works the silence-crescendo model to a T. But the overalleffect is more comparable to compatriots and frequent touring partnersAdebisi Shank, as they’re more likely to lock into a dynamic groove andplay off that energy than to tease listeners with the quiet-loudformula.

Not only is And So I Watch You From Afar well-balancedbetween the band members, it’s also a quality effort from start tofinish. It’s always tempting to load the best tracks to the front- and,to be fair, the opening three songs are the most immediate on thealbum- but the album ends just as strongly as it starts. ‘TheVoiceless,’ one of two tracks to re-appear from the group’s debut EP,another track that hints at erupting into an Explosions In The Sky-likecacophonous crescendo, but instead holds off without really sacrificinganything in the way of grandeur. Following that, and finishing thealbum on a high, is ‘Eat The City, Eat It Whole’ (Pedants’ Corner: thatshould be a semi-colon). It’s stylistically different from anythingelse on the album, beginning with some country and blues-tinged motifsbefore patiently easing into a familiar mathy groove, the type thatlitters the album and makes it such a wonderful, coherent listen fromstart to finish.

- Dave de Sylvia, Sputnik Music