You can expect a lot of the post-rock bands, especially those who were already in-tune with tragedy and the world around them, to take dark turns in the next few years. This is simply due to the fact that, you know, things are about to get much, much worse for pretty much everyone living on this planet and it could have been prevented. Post-rock, as mentioned above, is often already in-tune to the myriad of ways in which humanity abuses itself. Take We Lost the Sea‘s previous album for example, Departure Songs. It was certainly forged in the suffocating deluge of personal loss but also touched on human folly, bravery, hope, and cruelty. Its tracks covered the Challenger disaster, the “Bogatyri” (a nickname for the brave divers who gave up their lives to save Europe during the Chernobyl disaster), and, in general, our often doomed attempts to escape/live on the only planet we know.
Their upcoming release, Triumph & Disaster, builds on these somber foundations and injects them with an even greater sense of urgency. This comes across in a few ways but firstly and mainly in the song structure; gone are the longer, more ethereal sprawling passages of Departure Songs, replaced with passages which sound much more urgent. Take the opening track, “Towers”, for example; where Departure Songs might have created wide moments of charged quiet, “Towers” fills its intermissions with tremolo picking and incisive piano. This reminds us of acts like Mono (in the middle of their career) and Australian compatriots Tangled Thoughts of Leaving. When it’s time for these transitions to collapse into the track’s more energetic crescendos, however, the We Lost the Sea sound comes in through and through, creating those massive crashes and emotional twists and turns they are well known for. The contrast created will definitely feel familiar to fans of the genre and the band, the ponder-some buildups, the cavernous catharsis, but, on the whole, things feel more immediate, concise, and charged due to the reformed structure of things.
These ideas are also assisted by a change in tones. In general, the guitars are far more punchy on this album, channeling well the kind of melancholic fury that is one result of looking into the future and finding collapse. It’s a mode that very much becomes We Lost the Sea; it takes that grain of hope that their music and, indeed, much of post-rock always has at its sadder core and transforms into something incandescent. It also works very well the the drum sound, which has been mostly preserved from the previous release, the two approaches conspiring together to elevate the urgent and concise feeling of the album. The added reliance on piano and synths, always present in previous releases but even more dominant here, also introduces a new layer of complexity to the music. On tracks like “A Beautiful Collapse”, the synths are used a la 65daysofstatic to augment and power-up the main riff of the track, while on the more contemplative “Distant Shores” they’re used to instill a broader feeling of nostalgia and lazy thought.
This is perhaps another of the album’s strengths; the balance between quieter tracks like “Distant Shores” or the moving “Mothers Hymn” and heavier songs is much more careful and well-wrought. A good example is the hyper-impactful “The Last Sun”, which lies in between the two aforementioned tracks, guitars all bristling on the wavering horizon of wherever this album is taking us. This is where the darker tones also get re-introcuded, as they do on many points throughout the album, always keeping us on our toes. Where previous releases let us sink into melancholy and then surface again for the crescendo’s air, making us drunk on musical oxygen, Triumph & Disaster keeps us on the verge of running out of breath constantly, giving us bursts of overwhelming breath, pain, hope, melancholy, and a bright sense of release throughout the album.
Who knows if the narrative I drew out above is “correct”? Who know if the band were “really” motivated by climate change? I’ll posit to you that it doesn’t really matter; music is made in the context between the artist and the listener (which is not much of an answer, I know). But what is certain and beyond doubt is that as time goes on, we will need more music that is honest, emotional, and which allows us to expose our own feelings to ourselves. Music which sees the future for what it is and yet still finds the energy to hope, mourn, rage, grieve, and believe. And that, perhaps more than any of their previous releases, is what We Lost the Sea accomplish on Triump & Disaster. The very name of the album hints at it and the music speaks on that promise for itself. It is, narratives aside, an extremely accomplished post-rock album, full of variety and meaningful impact. It is, narratives aside, We Lost the Sea’s finest album to date.