A spectre is haunting math-rock – the spectre of high energy. OK yeah, that reference doesn’t really work there; give me a break. The important thing you take away from that horrible beginning is that there’s definitely a movement of sort that can be ascertained within mathrock and it’s one which puts focus on big guitar tones, punchy drums, bright electronics and an overall huge feeling to the music. While this sound was always a staple of math-rock (especially of the English, Scottish and Irish varieties of it), it’s definitely seeing a sort of renaissance. Three Trapped Tigers, VASA, Alpha Male Tea Party, The Physics House Band, SEIMS and many more have all been releasing a slew of releases of this kind, filling the math-rock milieu with iridescent chords, poppy vocal refrains and all that jazz.
Honestly, Fecking Bahamas could probably tell you a lot more about all of this. Seriously, check those guys out right now. But even poor Internet Metal Nerds such as we (perhaps especially because we’re Internet Metal Nerds and math-rock has become a staple of that image) know that there’s one name missing from that list, a name that can’t be omitted when talking about weirdly energetic, spastic and punchy math-rock. That name is, of course, And So I Watch You From Afar. After releasing one of the finest examples of the sub-genre, All Hail Bright Futures, the band erroneously became the only name that people could cite from this movement. This became even more of a shame when they followed up on that excellent release with Heirs, an album that was fine but was definitely no standard-bearer of the approach to math-rock.
It now seems, however misguided it may be, that ASIWYFA are back to claim the crown of large math-rock once again. The Endless Shimmering, sporting one of the most dubious cover arts we’ve yet to lay our poor eyes upon, is very much a return to form for the Irish band. It reaches back into their earlier roster to bring forth the sounds that made us fall in love with them while still keeping enough from All Hail Bright Futures to satiate our thirst for its particular tone. The Endless Shimmering is, from beginning to end, an album focused on delivery, punch and vibrant math-rock. We mean that by the way; the album doesn’t mess around with intros or build ups or elongated passages musing on time and space.
Instead, it gets right to business. The opening duo of tracks, “Three Triangles” and the marvelous “A Slow Unfolding of Wings” (perhaps one of the best tracks the band has ever made) announce them with full hurrah, guns blazing on all barrels. The classic ASIWYFA is all present and resplendent; the time signatures are accessible but just that little bit “off” to give things an interesting dynamic, the guitars are massively prominent in the mix and the composition focuses on bright chords and an inescapable sense of powerful optimism. But it’s on the third track, “Terrors of Pleasure”, that ASIWYFA’s desire to return to the forefront of the math-rock movement they helped pioneer is most apparent. It lives in those fuzzy effects, their drawn out screeching a signature move if there ever was one.
The break into the lilting guitar that follows their first arrival, and then the passage that follows that one (with its giant guitar strumming fading into cymbal-game led passages), are basically ASIWYFA by the numbers. And you know what? We’re fucking fine with that. There’s a reason that formula became so popular in the past and it’s because it’s just so damn good. Hearing this band reconnecting with what made them great is a true pleasure. It also reminds us why we like the sub-genre they helped form and there’s plenty of that to go around. This is another great thing about The Endless Shimmering; it just fits into the narrative so damn well. This is exactly the album ASIWYFA needed to make this year and by god, they did just that. If you’re looking for that incandescent, strangely infectious and happy-go-lucky math-rock vibe, there are plenty of albums you could go this year. But there’s also this one and there’s something refreshing about hearing one of the masters back in true form.
The Endless Shimmering released on October 20th via Sargent House Records. You can grab it via the band’s Bandcamp right above.