Last we wrote about the LA post/math-rock enclave Arms of Tripoli was for their 2014 debut full-length Dream In Tongues, which came to us out of nowhere and quickly became a blog favorite among several of us for its mixture of bright and summery post-rock and shoegaze sounds with some knottier and more math-y elements thrown in to keep things more than interesting. As a brief personal pretext to this, Dream In Tongues was one of the first albums I reviewed for Heavy Blog, was the first album I gave a very positive review of, and it was also quite possibly the first album that myself and now editor-in-chief Eden Kupermintz (both of us were still just mere innocent and not yet completely jaded newbie writers at that point) bonded over, thus forging a friendship and partnership that is responsible for much of what you know of Heavy Blog as today.
So while that album will forever hold a special place in my heart, I was perhaps even more interested and excited at what the group would do next. As I wrote in my review of that album, though it featured a thrilling and deft mixture of sounds and influences from across the post-rock spectrum, especially from the likes of Tortoise, Do Make Say Think, And So I Watch You From Afar, and plenty more, it occasionally felt a bit hampered by its similarities to those sounds without forging a strong enough identity of its own. This seemed less like an endemic issue with the band though and more one just requiring more time and internal development.
Which brings us to now. The band’s sophomore album, Daughters, is here, and it is every bit of evidence needed to prove that time and hard work pay off. Daughters is a less wide-ranging album and overall has a more somber tone to it, but what the band give up in the happy-go-luckiness of Dream In Tongues is a focus and sonic identity that serves them incredibly well. Pretty much all of the elements that made that album great are still front-and-center. The constant interplay of bright guitars and other melodic instruments like vibes and keyboards still define much of the band’s sound, which is thick and rife with subtle details that somehow never get swallowed in the mix, whether they be melodic counterpoints or more textural. Lead single “Landlord Thumb Wars” is a quintessential example of this, as the band effortlessly shift between a late-career Mogwai-like synth-heavy groove into more aggressive and spindly guitar/bass interplay and then turn on a dime into a brightly-lit and math-y break that drives straight into the end of the song. The greatest trick that bands who trade in proggy time changes and dense production can achieve is creating music that sounds utterly effortless and natural without calling attention to its own internal complexities. That Arms of Tripoli can do all of this while still putting out music that can be described with such words as “breezy” and “sleek” belay the difficulty of writing, performing, and producing music such as this, and it makes Daughters exactly the kind of album that reveals more to the listener with every return.
The seven tracks presented here definitely represent an overall darker and heavier side of the band than Dream In Tongues, which oscillated between dreamier and lighter fare like “Miniature Habitats,” “Escalator Jazz,” and “10th Graders Forever,” and darker, more aggressive works like “Scraping Skies,” “Canna,” and “Snowed In.” Daughters certainly leans more heavily towards the feel of the latter group, preferring looser tracks that unfurl over time and can shift into several different grooves and themes without ever losing focus. “Spider Newscast,” “Here Comes the Blood,” and “Crib Notes,” the album’s three longest songs that come in sequence right in the heart of the record, all excel tremendously at building these intricate, brooding worlds that feel far shorter than their runtimes suggest due to the constant momentum that builds throughout them.
The added benefit of this emphasis towards the darker side of their sound is a cohesion and real definition of what that sound exactly is. Daughters perfectly builds on what the band accomplished sonically in Dream In Tongues while paring down and carving out what defines them. In the end, Daughters sounds like an Arms of Tripoli record, and in an endless sea of countless instrumental post-rock bands, the majority of which could be easily interchangeable with one another without noticing much difference, that definition and niche the band are molding for themselves are what will serve them the best. It may not be easy to describe what the band’s music is exactly because of everything they pull into it, but when you hear it it’s unmistakeable. Furthermore, when you hear it, you’ll likely only want to hear more.
Daughters is out now via Fluttery Records. You can, and very much should, purchase it through Arms of Tripoli’s Bandcamp.