Posts Tagged ‘Crescendos’

This is It Forever – 9th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The years between 2004 and 2008 are something of a musical blur now, a period – well over a decade past – spent at the Brudenell and various other venues – immersed in endless post-rock sets. The similarness of so many bands wasn’t a problem: if any one band could be considered immersive, then the scene as a whole melted into one protracted wash of chiming guitars and a succession of crescendos that became almost an integral aspect of life itself as everything drifted into a mist that was pure escapism from the drudgery of work.

I didn’t actually manage to catch Bradford’s Falconetti, and instead came to them by way of a mate who picked up an EP – the self-released debut Oceanography – at Jumbo Records in Leeds on the basis of the staff write-up (Jumbo’s attention to detail with the inclusion of a blurb for everything they stock, coupled their support for local and regional acts really is special)

Falconetti were active between 2003 and 2008, and the fact A History of Skyscrapers contains just eight tracks while representing (almost) the entirety of their output (barring ‘Solid State’ from their last EP, given away at their final show in 2008, and the outlying hip-hop crossover collaboration ‘Falconetti vs The Enemy’), which emerged slowly along the way is evidence of just how they didn’t rush their work. It may or may not have hampered their short-lived career, but listening back now with fresh ears, it’s clear that the small legacy they have left is practically faultless.

If the title, and the connotations of ‘a history’ suggest chronology, then A History of Skyscrapers brings a certain disappointment, in that the tracks aren’t arranged in order of release, and do don’t provide a sense of the band’s evolution over time: the idea here is that A History of Skyscrapers approximates the debut album that never was.

‘Finisterre’ stays with the nautical themes that dominate their work, but breaks from the instrumental form to incorporate soaring, semi-operative female vocal curtesy of guest singer Emma Adams, against a shimmering, lustre-filled guitar.

‘Body of Water’, from the 2003 Oceanography is outstanding, building as it does from a delicate meandering into a full-on heavy riff noise that betrays their appreciation of Jesu and takes it further into lunging God/Godflesh territory with grinding guitars, lumbering bass, and some wild free jazz horns.

Lifted from that final EP, ‘Sonatine’ is lugubrious, spacious and the sound of a band expanding and experimenting, while the twelve-minute ‘Straits of Messina’, from 2007’s Finesterre is a slow-simmering exercise in subtlety and texture that’s minimal and mournful and moving, as is fitting for a composition about the site of a major earthquake in 1908, which had a magnitude of 7.1, almost completely destroying the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria, with the loss of between 75,000 and 82,000 lives.

For all of the bleak history, there is a grace and elegance about Falconetti’s work, and while much of the sound of very much rooted in the time, not least of all the mournful brass and rolling guitar lines, softly picked and reverb-heavy, over a decade on, their brooding atmospherics and range, which incorporates elements of shoegaze and dream pop and ambient and even post-punk mean that Falconetti sound as fresh and exciting as ever.

There’s a strong temptation to reflect on what could have been, but knowing how fickle and chance-based the music industry is, it’s as likely they’d have stalled and faded around regional small-venue gigs as it is they’d have progressed to headlining 200+ capacity venues nationally and acquired the kind of cult following in mainland Europe that would have kept them going nicely. So instead, it’s better that A History of Skyscrapers is viewed with the appreciation for the music as it is: as ‘Magna Via’ builds to a cathedral of a crescendo, we’re reminded of just how cathartic and invigorating the best of post-rock was, and still is. And while Falconetti may be no more the music still remains – and is now considerably easier to access, thanks to This Is It Forever and this compilation.

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Pelagic Records – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m something of a latecomer to the Mono party, although given their credentials, I can’t fathom for the life of me why I haven’t explored a single one of the nine albums they’ve released over the last twenty years. Too much music, too little time, is probably the only real reason. And, witnessing them live by way of an introduction, my initial impression was only middling: on the night, I found more in Jo Quail’s surging waves of cello and the gritty abrasion of A Storm of Light. But context matters, and I had gone for the other two acts, and so now, with a large gin and a candle for light, I’m ready to approach their latest, the Steve Albini-recorded Nowhere Now Here with fresh ears.

‘After You Comes the Flood’ lifts the curtain on a proggy post-rock crescendo that offers up every shade of grand. It’s a crescendo that doesn’t only sustain, but swell to even more monumental proportions, with layer upon layer of sound and richer, dirtier distortion filling the background.

Quite a deal was made when Mono featured vocals for the first time not so long ago, and the performance of songs with singing seemed to be a major topic of conversation when I caught them in Leeds last year. They’re used sparingly here, and on the vaporous, shoegaze drift of ‘Breathe’, they serve more as another instrument than a focal point.

The string-soaked epic that is the title track again follows what is by now a well-established post-rock formula of long, gradual builds and rapid drops that pull back from the precipice, but it’s so magnificently executed that it would be churlish to criticise. And herein lies the album’s success: much of the material does fall under the broad umbrella of ‘standard’ instrumental post-rock (although acknowledging that Mono were one of the bands who contributed to the creation of a genre whose tag they reject is important), the compositions and their performance are masterclasses in shifting dynamics and delayed gratification. As they lead the listener through ponderous passages of awe-inspiring grace only to reveal towering cathedrals of sound just around the corner, even the predictable forms hold unexpected twists, like the sonic supernova that explodes at 5’39” on ‘Sorrow’.

Steve Albini is perhaps more commonly associated with ‘noisy’ music, but his reluctance to be credited as a producer is a reflection of his abilities as a technician, and the fact he strives to capture the essence of any given band’s sound rather than impose his own vision on their work. With Mono’s method involving playing live in the studio, the pairing makes complete sense, and it’s fair to say that Nowhere Now Here very much captures not only the sound, but the feel of a live show, with the shifting tension, emotional resonance of chiming guitars brooding in the dark, and the exhilarating rush of catharsis that effuses through a truly blistering crescendo. It’s those indefinable, unmanipulable details which make Nowhere Now Here.

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Mono - Nowhere