It’s difficult to know what to make of a band when they unequivocally fall into a certain genre and yet shirk all the features that seemingly describe membership to it. Post-rock has for so long now been wholly defined by its reliance on a handful of rehashed ideas that it sometimes takes a band like Midas Fall to remind us what it’s really about. Make no mistake, the Scottish duo certainly draw from the familiar pool of post-rock tropes – tremolo-picked, reverb-laden guitars; patient atmospheric crescendos; and ambient soundscapes – but they either use these features so sparingly or with such an original twist that it often feels as if one is hearing them for the first time.
Instead of relying on genre tropes, Midas Fall uses their latest release, Evaporate, to explore unpredictable, ethereal textural soundscapes that drip with haunting melodies. Most striking on a first listen are the electronic synths and computerised drums that flesh out the duet of Elizabeth Heaton’s ghostly vocals and Rowan Burn’s soaring guitars. These unconventional, futuristic sounds are also woven organically into the fabric of the album alongside more traditional, acoustic instrumentation like piano and drums. In fact, between the two of them, Heaton and Burn seem capable of playing and incorporating almost every instrument imaginable, with stringed accompaniments often delivered via cello, and unusual percussion and unidentifiable timbres frequently cropping up as well. Indeed, the duo showcases an astonishing range of talent across this record without ever appearing showy or gimmicky. With this kind of eclectic, atmospheric approach to the genre, it will come as no surprise that the band cites Sigur Ros as a major influence, although there are also helpful comparisons to be drawn with other electronically-focussed acts like 65 Days of Static.
However, these electronic elements are thrown into confusion by the incorporation of gothic and folk influences, most notably of the band’s native Celtic variety. Evaporate regularly relies on folk-inspired pentatonic melodies backed by low, sustained drone notes delivered in equal parts by traditional strings and modern synths. The band also augment these Celtic, folky influences by using medieval imagery in their lyrics, such as on tender ballad “Sword to Shield”, or “Soveraine”, which reflects on the burden of wearing a crown. The disconnect between these elements and the prevalent use of electronic instrumentation makes this record feel like the fallout of colliding worlds, and yet Midas Fall manages to merge these disparate influences so naturally.
Heavy Blog readers who generally prefer their music to be aggressive and high-energy might feel that this album is too subdued at points, particularly as it tends to eschew the intense builds of its crescendo-core peers. Evaporate is certainly emotional – even cathartic at times – and it definitely builds tension effectively in almost every song. However, this tension is never truly released to satisfying effect, and certainly never comes close to the kind of explosive outburst that many bands towards the heavier end of the post-spectrum favour. This tendency is reflected in the track-lengths on Evaporate, which even at their most extensive only creep up to around the five and a half minute mark.
On the other hand, to claim that Midas Fall doesn’t incorporate any intense emotional releases is probably an unfair criticism. Indeed, the sense of perpetually delayed gratification that they cultivate across Evaporate seems more fitting with the overall tone of the project, which palpably aches with melancholic longing. It also reflects the unusual compositional style of the record, which often tends to feel more like a meandering textural landscape than a collection of clear-cut songs. Certainly, listeners looking for substantial riffs and motifs to latch onto are often going to be left grasping at thin air. While vocal hooks and repeated ideas are occasionally incorporated into Midas Fall’s sound, the band doesn’t focus on obsessively building songs around single themes in the way that many of their peers do. Plus, what few hooks there are on Evaporate offer little solace in its transient spectral wasteland, as these brief moments of comfort are whisked away all too soon, leaving listeners floating in airy, forlorn space.
The fragility and vulnerability communicated through the delicate textures on Evaporate is also reflected palpably in the tender discomfort of track titles like album-opener “Bruise Pusher”. Comparing this sombre, dreamy track to the quirky, upbeat start to Midas Fall’s last album, The Menagerie Within, also shows just how adventurous this band has been with their sound over the last few years. Other stand-out moments include the ominous electronic moods in “Dust and Bone”, which are at times reminiscent of Björk on records like Homogenic, particularly when accompanied by Heaton’s unsettling vocal performance. “Howling at the Clouds” is also noteworthy, and is by far the heaviest track on the album, utilising a distorted guitar tone so jarring and alien that it sounds like some kind of crazy Tesla coil lightning-machine.
Midas Fall is a prime example of how post-rock should be done today. The band spare no thought for rehashing old ideas, and instead forge ahead with their own daring brand of progressive, ambient rock. The unusual blend of post, electronic, folk, and gothic influences showcased on Evaporate certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but even the most dissenting of listeners will have to acknowledge the skill with which all these sounds have been seamlessly combined. Still, for anyone who enjoys their music dark, delicate, and ethereal, this is a record well worth checking out.