One day soon, I’ll write a post analyzing Big Scary Monsters in depth. They’re a fantastic label, with bands running the gamut from post rock to emo and indie. A few weeks ago, they held a sale in which, for one weekend, all their stuff on Bandcamp was Name Your Price. I used the opportunity to follow up on some recommendations I had heard on Talons, a British band I should have checked out much, much earlier. Pegging these guys as post rock might something of a simplistic approach; New Topographics is an intricate, often abrasive but mostly beautiful album which upends the relationship between noise and silence within the post rock genre. It’s more similar to the old school approaches to post rock of the mid 2000’s, where bands like 65daysofstatic and Red Sparrowes were still shying away from delay-ridden guitars and focusing on heavy hitting, big post rock.
The album’s structure might be a good place to start talking about it. It’s book-ended by two long tracks, each clocking in over eight minutes. It then interchanges short, four minute tracks with a few longer pieces, creating a rich rise and fall structure which hints at its titles. The contents of the tracks vis a vis their location is also worth noting. “Monuments” for example, the opening track, is not an accidental choice to usher in this album. It contains with it all the elements that will later be scattered across the release: it begins with over five minutes of tight, thick, groovy post rock focused more on substantial bass and drums than on paper-thin guitars or ambiance. However, right alongside and behind those elements runs a violin, beautifully utilized to add an additional layer to the composition.
That ambiance you might have been missing is then introduced by that selfsame, now heart-breaking violin. These two interchanging roles of the violin accompany the entire album, moving between backing section to lead, expertly holding both ends of the stick. Check out “The Wild Places” for example, where the violin first plays a furious addition to the guitars only to then be instrumental to the classic build up before returning to its explosive genesis around the crescendo itself.
The two poles are also separated to allow them to exist on their own, diving deep into the ambient undertow and fully exploring exceedingly heavy manifestations of it. On “Reverie” for example, the violin emerges from the ambient darkness in morose cries, puncturing through the general static that makes up the meat of the track. On “The Dreams Have No Dream” however, one can find blastbeats and fierce tremolo picking accompanying the violin as it sheds fury all over the composition, break-neck strummings creating a wave of sound and power.
Thus, Talons can be both uplifting, abrasive and groovy at the same time. They build on classic elements of post rock to achieve that, far from the cinematic trappings in which it is too often delivering today. By adding the violin is an honest, complete part of the composition they are able to add yet another layer or element to these classic sounds, creating their own unique take on them. Keep an eye out for these guys; New Topographics was released in 2014, so hopefully a new album is coming soon.