Hello! A little over a week ago, I informed you that good guys A Thousand Arms are back with yet another incredible compilation. Side A of Open Language Vol. II, with which the last post was mainly concerned, focused on post rock and metal bands from the good ol’ USA. We dug deep into the release finding plenty of gems hidden without it. Now, I’m back as promised to take a close look at Side B, which collects post rock and metal bands from all over the world. This side caught me a bit unawares; it suffered from a slightly lackluster opening half. However, there are some bands almost hidden as a reward for the careful listener near the end of the volume that more than make this side a must listen as well. Let’s dig in!
While the first half of the album has some good stuff (check out NOIR|REVA in particular), the magic really begins with We Stood Like Kings and “Night Owl”. This track comes to us from the upcoming album, USA 1982 and is, wait for it, a score to the cult/avantgarde film, “Koyaanisqatsi”. If you’re unfamiliar, this piece of art is considered a groundbreaking work of film, inherently tied to the hippie movement and condemnation of the post-industrial American society. The track is an eerie post rock diatribe, haunting piano and faint electronics mingling with punchy drums to create one hell of an atmosphere. It definitely fits into the stylized and unsettling ways of “Koyaanisqatsi”, setting a backdrop for its pro-nature/anti-societal message. Pay special attention to the three minute and forty mark as what sounds like the track’s end suddenly explodes into incredibly composed/executed piano and bass passages. Truly a pleasure.
From there, it’s as if the floodgates have opened and we are met by an almost unending barrage of great tracks. The real beauty is that they’re all so different from each other; the German City by the Sea (who, unfortunately, have few tracks released) create expressive and expansive tapestries on “Chicago”, a track which exemplifies all that is still great about cinematic post rock. Niño Koi from Costa Rica inject “Nigredo” with math rock sensibilities which turn it into a powder-keg of rock n’ roll, weaving in and out of dreamy passages and hard hitting riffs. The overall result is an intoxicating fandango which leaves the dancer out of breath and bedraggled. Pay special attention to the excellent drums on this track and how they deftly maneuver the different sensibilities on the track into careful position.
From there, we alight on the yndi halda influenced voice of Only Echoes Remain, whose violin-tinged “Distant Echoes” is a well named sojourn in the realms of crescendo-core post rock, in the best way possible. The delicate build up of violin and guitar is used expertly here, setting you up for the catharsis of the second half of the track like a gardener carefully pruning a bonsai tree towards the sun. Right after them, The Ills from Slovakia go heavy again, reminding us of the style of post rock very much present in the Austin scene, which we’ve covered in depth before. The kind of lazy heaviness combined with emotional impact fits that scene quite well and The Ills perform the style admirably. Their sense of groove however is second to none, and “Laugh Will Tear Us Apart” has some of the tastiest bass licks I’ve heard in a long while.
Building on that type of groove, Lazybones Flame Kids (yeah) paddle in post rock influenced from the kind of positive post rock we’ve grown used to seeing in Ireland and Scotland from bands like VASA or Alpha Male Tea Party. The drawn out passages have an even bigger role when contrasted with this kind of playful, energetic math rock, grounding the track and making it work as a more than just an experiment in speed and verve. The blend is pleasing indeed and “A Ride in An Amusement Park” is one of the more fun tracks on this compilation. Finally, Spruce Trap bid us goodbye with the aptly named/positioned “Preparing to Leave All This; Preparing to Leave”, a touching and melancholy track that’s all musing on the past and would could have been.
And so, another compilation ends. I’d like to take this space for a personal note: god, I love post rock so much. When it’s done right, there’s nothing quite like it. I love the community it has, the way in which it fosters innovation and unique voices. In that respect, A Thousand Arms are crucial and all power to them; may there be many more compilations like this in their future.