Belfast-based band And So I Watch You From Afar have unfalteringly released a new album every two years since their debut, And So I Watch You From Afar, in 2009. During this time, their innovative instrumental blend of more intense, sweeping, post-rock and melodic, yet technically complex math-rock has granted them a sizeable cult following.
Distinctly lacking from this album are any vocals at all — while the band are primarily instrumental in nature, tracks such as ‘Redesigned a Million Times’ from 2015’s Heirs featured muffled, distorted vocals, using them as yet another layer to add to their incredibly complex, yet expertly crafted sound. This sound, however, is not gone. Replaced by their earlier style of complex guitar melodies interspersed with crunchy, powerful riffs, I don’t think anything is lost.
The band do a great job of building up tension on tracks like ‘Dying Giants’, the song slowly building up with increasing intensity until brilliantly timed breakdowns – almost like a cliff-hanger in a book or film, one has to keep on listening to see how it ends. They don’t drag on for too long, however, so it’s never quite stressful to listen.
The third track, ‘Terrors of Pleasure’, reminds me very much of a Battles piece, the rapid muted guitar riffs, drum sections you can’t help but tap your feet to, and an altogether upbeat feel that communicates certain feelings completely without the need for any words. Similarly, on tracks like ‘Mullally’, it feels like the guitars are doing the talking, and voices would just muddy and hide some of the great guitar interplay between guitarists Rory Friers and Tony Wright.
A wholly enjoyable listening experience from start to finish, this album would serve as a great introduction to post-rock; though that is not to say it is simple. The varied feel of the tracks, ranging from the lighter, more upbeat opening track ‘Three Triangles’, to the darker, cinematic stylings on closing track ‘Chrysalism’, provide a brilliant show of what the band is capable of, without ever overwhelming the listener. This album has a huge amount of replay value; the complexity of the album means one can listen to this album several times, without feeling like one has.
All in all, And So I Watch You From Afar have once again do what they do best – catchy, upbeat, post-rock, and I would absolutely recommend this album to absolutely anyone.