There’s always a worry in the back of my mind when a band comes about that consists of only a drummer and a bassist. The concern is simply that the outcome will be bland and repetitive, sure they can be interesting, for one song, then they’ll do the same thing for the next song, and the next ad infinitum. Some bands manage to avoid the this, Lightning Bolt, with their pure raw energy and noise, manage to suppress such a worry, and Death From Above 1979 with their punk-rock sensibilities and frantic poppy riffs also manage to negotiate away from complaints, others however have not been so lucky.
Minneapolis based Falcon Arrow are certainly a band who can add their name to the list of those who quash the concerns, managing to create an interesting and immersive album with simply the two instruments, and they show what can really be done. The duo, comprised of Matt Reints on Bass and Dav Kemp on drums, formed back in 2008 and have been touring the US extensively ever since their creation. ‘Tower’ is the third full-length release to come from the band.
RELEASE DATE: 24 August 2014 LABEL: Self-Released
The album starts off strong with ‘Derelict’. It is a song that is powerful from the beginning and is great opener for the album; inviting the listener into the record nicely, letting us know what we’re getting in to. As it builds, with new bass loops being introduced throughout over the top of heavy and driving drums, the song sets the tone of the album well.
‘Dune Patrol’ follows and retains the powerful feeling of ‘Derelict’, with added lush, melodic tones, the marching drums and looping bass line that open the track really are quite beautiful and emotive, and as the song slowly builds throughout, it really comes together nicely. ‘Dune Patrol’ is a slowly evolving and cleverly constructed song that has lovely interaction between the instruments leading to a gorgeous track.
The middle track, ‘Aldebaran Serpent’ starts the back end of the album superbly. It is the longest track on the album and its length, just over seven minutes, allows the duo to really show off what they are capable of, the song builds busily before an atmospheric and reflective breakdown switches the song up in an instant, this middle section is a lovely contrast to what came before and what follows is a wonderful second wind that plays the remainder of the song out. ‘Aldebaran Serpent’ is a playful song that is a lot of fun to listen to as it evolves throughout with joy and curiosity.
Next up is ‘Cantina Empire’, which starts off light with a dreamy bass loop, that carries throughout the first half of the song backed with a strong drum beat that charges through, as the bass gets deeper and more distorted, the drums intensify and both come together in the midpoint of the song. This rousing mingling between the bass and drum provide the foundation for the remainder of the song, whilst a higher lead bass walks over the top with lush tones creating a wonderful song on a whole.
‘Revenant’ is a slower and more relaxed affair on the whole, a lofty, airy and spacious piece, it gives the listener a pleasant respite before ‘Big Rig’ slowly rises in and brings the album to a strong and powerful end. ‘Big Rig’ proves to be a perfect end to the record; it slowly intensifies with beautiful emotive bass loops for the first minute thirty before we are greeted by a crash that starts the upbeat, energetic and bright end to the album. This closing track gives a satisfying well-rounded finish to the whole experience of ‘Tower’ and is an excellent song choice to end the journey.
In my opinion, some songs may be said to fall down somewhat purely due to their short length. The build up of the songs always seems to be leading somewhere, and on some tracks, such as ‘Aldebaran Serpent’ and ‘Cantina Empire’, it feels like there is some sort of full musical journey, with long builds and accomplished crescendos that lead the listener to closure. However there are some tracks that feel like they are just about to get into the groove and are able to give even more, before they are cruelly snatched away from us before their time. The tracks on the albums first half appear to be most problematic especially with the songs, ‘Landing Party’ and ‘Mokele Mbembe’, running at only 2:05 and 2:09 respectively. However, it is the noisy and manic opening track ‘Derelict’ that creates this feeling of wanting most of all. ‘Derelict’ builds nicely and even manages to fit a little breakdown in despite its brief existence, also clocking in at under 3 minutes, however when it starts to build again it is slain whilst beginning its second life and I’m left wondering where this track could have gone had it been given the time. Perhaps though, this was the aim in the case of ‘Derelict’, as I have said it is the opening track and it definitely welcomes you into the album, wetting the appetite and making you want more cleverly hooking the listener in, but I’m not sure if I can extend this pardon to all culprits.
The ‘issue’ of shorter tracks may just be a personal bugbear however and to say that this leads to a poor album would be foolish. The duo have still made an album that holds up brilliantly and remains fresh and interesting throughout, retaining energy from the first beat of the drum in ‘Derelict’ to the final strike in ‘Big Rig’. It may be so that some of the tracks can feel a little short but that’s not to say that they don’t have a lot packed into them, and what we a given in the shorter tracks is great. It is telling of the talent on show here that all of the shorter tracks do in fact leave me wanting more, rather than leaving me questioning the point of them. Falcon Arrow are definitely to be commended for the amount of variation and adaptation there is within the songs themselves and this obviously bleeds through to the album on a whole, which, throughout its 11 tracks gives the listener a grand, energetic, interesting and commanding journey.
What Falcon Arrow have achieved with ‘Tower’ is an album that has both light and dark at the same time, they really are able to achieve a varied sound throughout the album and have the ability to generate bright, airy and melodic songs one moment, and can then change up and create a wonderfully noisy and heavy song the next. With the use of the looping bass and intricate, driving drums, the songs all have a deep and stimulating foundation, on top of which higher lead lines are able to explore and work their magic, adding a melodic and alluring sound to the songs and making for a fun and interesting album.