THE ALBUM LEAF. Bush Hall, London. 23.03.10

People say post-rock is boring, and they might have a point. On record The Album Leaf make few sudden moves. They softly whisper, weave through ambient soundscapes and make gentle post rock shapes that even leave the rock out most of the time. Live though, the band (for while their ship is steered by genius Jimmy LaValle, with 10 people on stage at any one time a band is what they are) supply twists, turns, alarms and surprises. Ok, so there are no thrash riffs or Lady GaGa covers, nothing truly shocking, but there are thumping drum-driven dance beats, shards of static, fiery feedback, and bells and whistles which you may not expect. And it’s not all pre-programmed either- sure, there are enough machines milling away to make NASA jealous but there are three guitarists, a string quartet, and a choir of backing vocals here as well and everything coming through the big speakers in the fittingly beautiful Bush Hall feels real, organic, and vitally alive.

And that proves essential as the show begins not with any warm, familiar favourites but a brace of titles from new album ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’. These songs could have sounded cold or callous or distant but instead feel fully fleshed-out and finely realized- ‘Perro’ a barely-there alien-song of an introduction, ‘There Is a Wind’ expanded from its already rock song beginnings until there’s almost too much going on at once, and ‘Stand Still’ shimmering and essential. The full band treatment isn’t always perfect for the softest of the band’s back catalogue, for songs barely a step up from silence on record but oh-so-serene and special, but tonight’s set doesn’t stop long enough to let any negative thoughts linger. Before you can grimace long at the drums thundering newly through ‘The Outer Banks’, tape loops lope from nowhere, synching with the projections put giant on the venue walls, to steal your heart and instead of debating the introduction of anything but delicate icicle chimes into ‘Vermillion’ you can only hold your breath as its new walls of sound build and collapse and start to build again. Alarms, surprises, and everything and nothing that was expected then- and people say post-rock is boring.



The Dillinger Escape Plan are cutting ties. More than that, they’re breaking chains, burning bridges, and not looking back once. And if it wasn’t clear on their last album, the incredible ‘Ire Works’, that this band no longer care one bit for mathcore, core of any kind for that matter, or their much-heralded past, then album number five proves it permanently- this is a band of pioneers intent only on pushing forward.

‘Farewell Mona Lisa’ is the first sign of where The Dillinger Escape Plan have pushed to in 2010. The sort of squirrelly beast that this band have made their own since 04’s ‘Miss Machine’, but better, it shifts and swells from extreme noise terror to tender croons to angry beehive hum. It’s defiantly individual and singularly brilliant and in five quick minutes it bursts the bubbles of those still vainly holding out hope for a return to the firestorm fury of Dillinger’s very early days. Hell, frontman Greg Puciato sings it straight to them, “What did you expect, that we would never leave home… You should never put your trust in any of us”.

That’s not to say there is no intensity or venom here. Dillinger are still a band capable of sandblasting skin and in two-minute monsters like ‘Good Neighbour’ and ‘Crystal Morning’ they have no doubt added further fuel to their live fire. But the band are best when expanding, perverting and pulling apart these tantrums, turning them into post-everything experiments and (gasp) proper songs.

‘Widower’ goes a little clumsily from soft (love songs licks and Mike Patton-esque singing) to hard (rat-a-tat riffs and screaming about death) but handles both ends perfectly, ‘Room Full of Eyes’ is all bared teeth, electronic buzz and brilliantly rumbling bass, and closer ‘Parasitic Twins’ is dark, intimidating, and atmospheric but oh so beautiful. And despite the fact that this is the longest album Dillinger have released, as it rolls to a close you only want it to roll on and on and on.

Sure, there are other bands that do all these things but rarely at the same time and never this good. Hell, no other band on earth could put off-kilter riffs, robotic on-point percussion, inhuman barks, baroque croons, glockenspiel, strings and David Bowie’s pianist on the same record and produce something this creative, cohesive and coherent. In short, no one else is quite this good in quite this way and probably never will be.

BLUENECK- The Fallen Host

If you’d been holding your breath for this one you’d be dead. Or breaking some kind of record. Not only has it been almost four years since Bristol pock-rock troupe Blueneck released their stunning debut but while the rest of the world got it back in November, the UK (or at least the last of the actual record buying public) has had to wait until now to hear follow-up, ‘The Fallen Host’. The wait though, has been oh so worth it.

From cinematic soundscapes and walls of moody sound to creepy-crawling atmospherics and piles of classic crescendos, this is bleak, brilliant, and powerful stuff. It’s the darker end of post-rock done just right. And while it is a mostly instrumental record (it’s two tracks and ten minutes before anyone parts their lips), when Duncan Attwood does employ a ghostly whisper or distant wail, it’s as vital and valuable as everything else here. Of course comparisons can be made- no Sigur Ros or Godspeed, no Blueneck- but instead of relying on cliché or copycat sounds, this is a smart and individual record that sets its own tone from start to finish. In fact, few albums of the last decade have conjured up the same quality of darkness.

Made for fans of Godspeed, Eno and Explosions In The Sky, and those people who possess the ability to lose themselves in music, this is an equally terrific, terrifying and turbulently emotional record. Go ahead, you can breathe out now...

MATHS- Descent

Stop thinking about single riffs and separate songs and album tracks- think like that and this is never going to work- instead start thinking about bursts of naked rage, nuclear reactor noise, music as raw emotion, and about records that work best as a whole, that need to be consumed in one go. Only then will ‘Descent’, the debut full-length from British boys Maths make perfect sense. Not that this is perfect, mind- it’s obviously early days for a band that currently owes a big debt to outfits like Envy, Orchid, and Saetia- but for all its flaws, ‘Descent’ does regularly rasp, thrill, kill, and feel brilliantly, brutally honest too. It’s a rolling storm of palpably sincere screamo that goes from slow-build atmospherics, across volatile mood shifts, to heavy, heaving-chest, heartfelt intensity that slows, swerves and speeds up without warning but never stops until its done. And then you’ll only want to start all over again. Here’s hoping Maths don’t follow every move of their obvious idols and disband without getting more than album on tape, because this feels like just the beginning of something great