When comes the time for experimentation to cease? Should some bands stop mutating their sound at some point and settle in? And if the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, how can they know when it comes? These questions probably don’t have an answer and all we can do is try and look at examples of different choices and timings and glean something from the tale. Long Distance Calling is a fantastic, if somewhat beguiling, example. Through their career, they’ve been known from not being afraid of changing things up. Their latest release, Trips, was an immense departure from their established sound, with influences from brit-rock and pop coming in with the addition of Petter Carlsen on vocals. But now, Carlsen has departed and it seems as if Long Distance Calling, perhaps borne aloft by their insatiable desire for new, have rather gone backwards.
Boundless is very much a return to the style of cinematic post rock that characterized releases such as Avoid the Light. But does it necessarily work? Not always. The album has some really great post rock/metal moments. On tracks like “The Far Side”, the band show that they still have the chops to write great crescendos and build ups. The production likewise serves its purpose quite well, thick tones crashing among resplendent guitar leads. The addition of choir-like vocals near the end of the track is also a welcome one, doing much to alleviate some of its structural conformity.
The track immediately after it, “On the Verge”, digs deeper into the melancholy of their sound, a trait they’re famous for. It also adds this sort of country twinge to some of the guitar ideas, something that sees more full resolution on the downright “southern” “Like a River”, a track that’s all blood red sunsets and horses on desert roads. A fantastic violin elevates this track to more than just a novelty, creating a sad and poignant tapestry near its end. But, sadly, that’s about it. The rest of the album plays on these ideas constantly, taking advantage of the highly established sounds of crescendo-core. Highs follow lows, an air of melancholy works throughout and the pattern never quite changes to that much different than what post rock is known for. Long Distance Calling do that well but other bands have done it better since they took part in the opening notes of the third wave of post rock.
Which only goes back to our first question; is there a point where, finally arriving at something unique and quite good, a band should stop experimenting? Another release like the one that came before Boundless might have been great, digging deeper into the electronic sound Long Distance Calling introduced into the mix. Alas, we realize the departure of band members is nothing the band can control; but perhaps, despite of the changing lineup, more attention could have been giving to what the band have to bring to the genre that’s new and fresh? Regardless, Boundless is a good album technically but feels hemmed in by it compositional structures, moving along a very obvious and worn out railroad.
Boundless sees release on February 2nd via InsideOut Records. You can head on over here to pre-order it.