czwartek, 13 maja 2010


Props to God Is An Astronaut for having had a steady, noticeable progression throughout their career in post-rock since beginning in 2002. As I would imagine, that’s quite a feat: they’ve successfully been turning mildly bumpy 90-degree angles to vary and evolve their electro-ambient-guitar-jam exploits from release to release. You see, the three-piece have always had it in their mind to never subscribe to any of the genre’s more well-known, though restrictive, characteristics that many of their build-to-boom, echo, and reverb distant neighbors often seem to try to revitalize and make relevant in recent years. In an interview leading up to Age of the Fifth Sun's release, Torsten Kinsella (vocals, guitars, and piano) even went as far as to say that “we don’t play post-rock; we [may] have elements of [it], but I’m not going to follow the rules.”

And follow the rules Torsten, his brother Niels (bass and guitar), and Lloyd Hanney (drums and synths) have not, at least as Wikipedia might define the barriers, that is. Their first album, The End of the Beginning, was as naked and bare as debuts can get, crafted merely on a sole sampler and keyboard station. But despite such meager beginnings, therein laid the inception of the core dance-synth groove nature of God Is An Astronaut’s sound, already showing possible signs of hope that the band might be of future interest to those more disillusioned and tired with the now-generic genre stereotypes. From their second, and often most praised release, All Is Violent, All Is Bright, which expanded the framework of their debut with the inclusion of real drumming and a more present guitar element, to the more guitar-driven, distortion-fest of 2008’s self-titled release, God Is An Astronaut have yet to settle in a niche for themselves, always delivering with at least some degree of surprise.

Until now, that is. It’s said that “if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it”, and in God Is An Astronaut’s case, that means taking everything from their past albums and combining it into one compact and somewhat disproportionate Age of the Fifth Sun, all without adding anything new or interesting into the mix. This may not sound like such a bad thing, especially for the Irish band’s fans, but it still hints that the band are running low on innovation, having to recall past efforts in order to bridge the gap to their possible future. It may be a little too early to place judgment, but it must be asked: really, do we need another stagnating post-rock band?

When Torsten stated that Age of the Fifth Sun would be a change and that “every song is different,” he apparently wasn’t exactly telling the truth, though taken in a direct literal sense. Indeed, opener “Worlds In Collision” plays like a remix to what I’ve interpreted to be God Is An Astronaut’s remix CD: distant reverb sets the stage before Hanney takes control behind the kit, leading the Kinsella brothers with their intensely melodic flirtation of swirling synths and pounding guitar distortion along for the ride, picking up speed and then slowing down. Many of Age of the Fifth Sun’s cut’s play out in such a way, varying ever so slightly – “In The Distance Fading”, “Parallel Highway”, and “Shinning Through” – and even the cuts that don’t – “Lost Kingdom,” with its hollow-like intrigue, and “Dark Rift,” playing to its name with its solemn, brooding channel of ambiance and keys – feel strangely unmotivated and uncomfortable in the track list. Repeats and awkward junctions like these cause the album to have a very bumpy and undecided path for what it wants to do. Call me pessimistic, but when a post-rock release - or any instrumental album, for that matter - fails to contain some kind of purposeful flow, be it chaotic or smooth, I begin to reach for the off button. Frankly, it’s just not worth it.

That’s the very problem that God Is An Astronaut have seemed to have stumbled onto here on Age of the Fifth Sun. In mixing the electronic-led beginnings of their debut, the more post-rock leaning of their All Is Violent, All Is Bright, and the harder-hitting moments of their self-titled release together, the band have made an album that suffers from disproportionate flow, unmotivated songwriting, and, yes, though concentrated solely on the band’s past work, recycled material. It’s really upsetting, too, as once a band removes that almost expected flair - in this case, that surprise element - that really made them stand out from the crowd initially, they then take a backseat and begin to fit in with the masses. It's not so much a relation of sounds to their sonic neighbors; it's more of a copying of tactics, and Age of the Fifth Son, I'm afraid, is where God Is An Astronaut begin to fit in with the others. This is one of the few instances in dealing with post-rock where I would say that it's best to go against the flow; too bad that God Is An Astronaut have seemly dove in head-first.

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