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And So I Watch You From Afar - The Endless Shimmering (Album Review)

Tuesday, 24 October 2017 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

It’s difficult to overstate how refreshing And So I Watch You From Afar (or ASIWYFA) were when they arrived on the scene nearly a decade ago. Looking back now, guitar-led instrumentalists took up scant space in a busy alt-rock market, but reading indie blogs at the time led you to believe every other band was peddling the same drawn out, dynamics-based sound. Then, out of nowhere, this noisy wee quartet from Northern Ireland came along to blow the bloody doors off.

But it wasn’t just the band’s punk ethos that endeared them to people outside the dependable clan of post-rock fans. At the time, the dominant mode of this genre was filmic, minimalist and reflective, with an emphasis on building atmosphere through dynamics. ASIWYFA, by contrast, felt active and adventurous from the get go. By their second album ‘Gangs’, their sound was more light than shade – melodic motifs would appear, disintegrate and then return for dramatic, euphoric climaxes.

The band’s two more recent records retained that sense of optimism but lacked the intensity needed to hook listeners for a full 45-minute stretch. As impressive as their never ending live schedule might be, burning out is always something of a risk.

So, having locked themselves in a Rhode Island studio – or rather been forcibly locked in by a snow storm – to record ‘The Endless Shimmering’ earlier this year, it feels as if the four-piece have effectively reset their dials.

At nine tracks, it’s exactly what fans have been crying out for: a focused and cohesive album that takes the listener on a journey. Although they tone the Celtic influences down this time around, they also recall the sense of identity that made their earlier records so special. The growling bass and rapid-fire guitar attack that opens the record on Three Triangles certainly harks back to their first singles.

The band also dispose of the vocal experiments that filled their recent projects, which is a welcome change. They’re better when relying on lead guitarist Rory Friers, who has a knack for writing hummable melodies that morph and transform. Centrepiece Dying Giants is a case in point and highlight, kicking off with a slow-burning syncopated riff before developing into a typically powerful breakdown.

Like all ASIWYFA records, the rewards are revealed by repeat listens. Songs are complex and disorienting, but they’re always impeccably structured. Only penultimate track I’ll Share a Life sees the band committing the sin of reverting to melodic ideas explored on previous work, and even then, they do so with their trademark flair.

For the most part, ASIWYFA refuse to let themselves get stuck in a rut, making for a colourful and dramatic listen full of anthemic guitar hooks and unpredictable detours. Tracks like All I Need is Space and A Slow Unfolding of Wings demonstrate that they’re capable of conjuring overwhelming soundscapes as well as any of their peers. But there’s also a clarity of vision and tightness to their song structures that will remind fans exactly what made them so exciting in the first place.

And So I Watch You From Afar Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu November 23 2017 - LONDON KOKO
Fri November 24 2017 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 2
Sat November 25 2017 - GLASGOW Oran Mor
Sun November 26 2017 - BRISTOL Thekla
Thu December 28 2017 - DUBLIN Academy
Fri December 29 2017 - CASTLEBAR Garbos
Sat December 30 2017 - CORK Cypress Avenue
Sun December 31 2017 - GALWAY Rosin Dubh

Click here to compare & buy And So I Watch You From Afar Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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