Life cycles, reincarnation, the underworld… curiously enough, these mythological concepts seem to inspire more and more post-rock bands recently. The latest releases of iiah or Last Builders of Empire, for instance, would fit in that group of concept albums where life and death are fearlessly explored, usually producing very good outcomes. Before And After Science‘s new release is another example of a life-review work – in their case based on some difficult moments they had to face to remain active as a band.
RELEASE DATE: 15 September 2017 LABEL: Shunu Records
In our collaborative list on the Portuguese post-rock scene, the Porto based quartet had already caught our attention with their Vital Signs Of A Fallen World EP which was released in 2013 and their only musical reference at the time the article was written. Apparently, the band had recorded Relics & Cycles in 2015, but it took two years for the full-length to be actually released – a not so uncommon pattern in the underground scene. In their case, it looks like it was well worth the wait.
Album starter “Downburst” pulls out all the stops during an impressive first minute that shows their heaviest distortions combined with powerful drums to create a flawless wall of sound. After that, the song reinvents itself with soft guitar arpeggios which seem to be slightly out of tune, creating a surprisingly longing feeling for that genesiac wall that gets insinuated but never fully reached again during the rest of the track.
“Howling” follows the journey, escaping some persisting flat notes thanks to its radiant composition, slowly building up a harmony plateau that gets fulfilled by the second third of the track and preceded by an awesome implosion of guitars at exactly 2:28 that may even produce goosebumps. Even better, from “Foëhn” onwards the tuning gets back on track, allowing the audience to completely relax to enjoy creations like “Nostalgia”, probably the best song of the album that also brings back that initial magnificent wall of sound. However, this time the distortion wave is based on an addictive chord progression alternated with a 2-note melody pattern that includes two of my favourite musical resources: expectation-crushing halftones and distorted solo bass lines that simply blow the listener’s mind away.
More classic post-rock approaches can be found in “Nostalgia”, making honour to its title with a non-stop growing tension to be resolved by the end of the track; or in “Poinsettia”, graced by a quick-paced ternary drum rhythm that creates the necessary flow to keep the tension up till the end of the album, where a single chord gets repeated several times, anticipating the end of an enjoyable trip that should bring the band new opportunities to keep exploring cycles, memories, distortions, or whatever they will, whenever they will.
Sometimes albums feel like a snapshot of a very particular moment within the evolution of a band. Instead, Relics & Cycles reads as more of an extended exploration of existence, managing to condense and convey a wide range of intense and opposing experiences in 37 minutes. From the darkest pages of defeat to the glorious glimpses of achievement, the album paints the entirety of human life to us from start to end. Play when you are ready for a self-retrospective in depth. Obrigado!
Relics & Cycles is available on digital, CD and as a bundle on the band’s Bandcamp merch page.
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