Music is often about the mixing of elements. The theme of mixing light and dark, slow and fast, heavy and light seems only to be increasing as time goes by and music searches for new ways to be expressive. This kind of melange also affords bands opportunities when they consider their own grown, apart from the overall trajectory of music. What was once a judgemental contrast can be broken apart to fuel forward motion, one side given precedence over the other in the quest for individual novelty. Outrun the Sunlight‘s latest release, Red Bird, is a perfect example of this. Meditating upon the inherent conflicts extant in their earlier works, the post-rock band have decided to lean more heavily on their more introspective tones.
The result is a deeply expressive album which, while perhaps tinged with some longing for more straight-forwardly aggressive passages, fully explores and fleshes out one half of this band’s sound. In the process, it also treats one of the immediate weaknesses of their previous releases, as strong as they were, namely the somewhat repetitive back and forth between the heavier passages and the lighter ones. Here, song structure is given flight as the post-rock elements have more than space to breathe and grow in. The second track, “Synergy”, is perhaps the strongest example of this. The track cleverly moves from its intro to the body of the track, picking on a specific note in the original ambiance and unraveling it into a lead.
Supported by the groovy drum and bass sections, this lead is carefully unfurled into a full fledged track. The backing guitars weave in and out of the notes of this resulting lead, fleshing out the track and giving it form. The groove keeps it moving forward while these guitar parts explore different iteration and modulations of the basic, musical structure which is hooked, like with an umbilical cord, to whence the track began. In previous albums, this exploration would have given way to some sort of heavier variety of it near the middle of it. Here however, on Red Bird, the entire seven minute run time of the track is dedicated to reveling in and understanding the musical moment.
Which is not to say the track doesn’t get heavy, per se. The middle passage is rife with blast-beats and riffs after all, and the rest of the album is no different (with the opening to the next track, “The Danger of Alignment”, being perhaps the most heavily abrasive passage in the band’s history). But there’s no back and forth, no heavy-then-light-then-heavy-once-again structure that characterizes the majority of this sub-genre of post-rock and, indeed, which characterized large parts of Outrun the Sunlight’s earlier releases. Instead, there is growth and forward motion, a tacit exploration of a musical theme without being chained to the somewhat punishing requirements of a certain formula or structure. This makes the music feel more earnest and touching, as it moves into passages that feel natural and essential to it rather than subservient to an overall theme or mold.
It is perhaps only natural then that the album’s largest weakness is its run-time. In freeing their music from the shackles of habit, Outrun the Sunlight perhaps also unwittingly made that music harder to write and compose. We as listeners can only speculate on what made the band release what is basically an EP next; it’s usually some detail of life or circumstance that forces that. However, one can not help but speculate that the type of musical change on Red Bird is also taxing and thus, results in more condensed and brief efforts. Whichever the case, an album which suffers mainly from short run-time is usually a very good album and that’s definitely the case here. The depth of emotion and musical nuance on Red Bird leaves us wanting more. Hopefully, Outrun the Sunlight can channel this newly found direction, a re-tread but different, into more of the same. Their career will be the better for it.
Outrun the Sunlight’s Red Bird releases this Friday, April the 21st. Head on over to the band’s Bandcamp to pre-order it. Check out their merch while you’re there; they have some outstanding stuff and would appreciate your support.