CITIES – Manning Alaska

8 Production
9 Composition
7 Mood
9 Instrumentation

A while ago, 5 people from Swansea, United Kingdom were spotted in Alaska. Supposedly, they were doing fieldwork for their first release. Recently, those rumours were confirmed with the release of ‘Manning Alaska’ on the 21st of June. We’re talking about a 5-track debut EP by the band CITIES, with a seemingly geographic and mythological inspiration behind it. While geographical themes seem to be popular for post-rock releases nowadays, this record does not have any trouble deviating from the path laid out by its predecessors.

RELEASE DATE: 21 June 2015 LABEL: Self-released

While the post-rock influences become clear in the structure of the individual songs and the album as a whole, the instrumentation is far less typical of the genre. A lot of electronica has been thrown into the mix. The band’s keyboard player only occasionally plays a clean piano and is mostly found experimenting with different sounds and samples. They even temporarily replace their drummer with programmed drums at the start of ‘Callisto’, the record’s fifth track. However, those electronic components, which are emphasized by the band, are hardly the only features that make this EP stand out. An unexpected — but very much appreciated — funk riff defines the record’s opener ‘Clozapine’. That same funky business is present in the shape of the many bass licks on ‘Frontier Light’.

Where ‘different’ often means ‘interesting yet hardly enjoyable’, this is certainly not the case for CITIES. Each and every track is a completely distinct experience and they all stand out in their own way. Even when the band goes back to basics on a track like ‘Potential For Recovery’, they seem to offer just a little more than usually is the case. It’s hard to grasp, but it’s most definitely there. Of course, it’s hard to please everyone and an argument can be made for the lack of coherence between the different tracks. It has to be remembered, however, that this is a debut EP and it exquisitely does what it’s supposed to do, which is showcasing the band’s potential.

This effort was deemed all the more remarkable once we learned that the EP was made largely independently and on a limited budget. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it contains such a unique sound. One can hear that a lot of work and passion was put into this project, which also shows in the way one of CITIES’ guitarists talks about it:

“The reason why each song turned out to be so different is probably the combination of people in our outfit. We never set out to write this or that song. The writing process is pretty organic and the fact that it’s not contrived is probably an advantage. Also, each member has been in different bands with one another at some point in their life, which shows in the chemistry the music brings forth. It’s that chemistry, that type of musical dialectic that we’re able to achieve on stage, we want to translate into a record. That’s a pretty hard exercise.”

It seems they largely succeeded in doing so. Currently, CITIES is busy writing new material for a follow-up release. In the meantime, their EP is available on bandcamp as a digital download or it can be ordered on vinyl.

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