I’ve always enjoyed late night hangouts: the kind filled with having a couple of friends over, drinking some beers and just keeping the night going and going because nobody wants to be the first to leave the house. At the beginning of the night, the music is just an accessory for the background while everyone’s talking, and people don’t put too much attention into what is played. As the night goes on, however, people run out of things to say and start to focus more on the music, and it’s not long before everyone starts talking again—about music! Even if these late night sessions got rarer as I got older, I always have great pleasure in spinning some great post-rock records when it’s 4 in the morning. There is something about the smoothness of post-rock that is just perfect for these moments when your head gets fuzzy from booze and tiredness. Normally, it’s played as background music, but as everyone gets in the mood, people notice what is playing and shift their attention towards it, especially with a particularly great album. And great, Kovlo’s latest album sure is. I couldn’t stop thinking about the mood this album was putting me in as I were listening to the sweet groovy licks of Timelapse. However, this album is not merely the sort of post-rock that you can put as background music, but also a complex and complete record that requires a total immersion to be truly appreciated.
RELEASE DATE: 23 January 2016 LABEL: Fluttery Records
I was a little shocked to learn after discovering Kovlo through their latest album that they already had written 4 albums in the past years and I hadn’t heard any of them (which was something I corrected quickly). This is one of the problems regarding this modern, Internet-fueled era of music; the endless offerings make it impossible to keep track of every band and every release. Nonetheless, the Swiss band Kovlo has a strong combination of musical talent that explains the great production, the well-thought compositions, and the five carefully structured songs on their latest album. They fit in very nicely on Fluttery Records, a label that has more than a few of my favorite bands in their catalogue (April Rain, Ana Never, 417.3).
As soon as Walesa (the first song of the record) is 2-3 minutes in, the audience is already hooked, wrapped around their beautiful bass-driven melodies that lead pretty much every song on Timelapse. There is always this soft, comfy sound that feels like a late groove, and it’s easy to just get carried away by the beautiful music. Don’t get fooled though; the album has plenty of louder moments while staying crystal clear, and the rock influences are everywhere—especially with regard to progressive rock.
I am always pleased to see the bass guitar put at the forefront (where it should be—but that’s a bass player speaking) which Kovlo does, refreshingly so, as it is not often the case in post-rock music. This isn’t just some kind of bass player caprice; the bass playing really leads the entire band and holds the compositions together. When the melody is constructed by the guitars, the bass playing is still easily discernible thanks to the high-quality production. This is even more clear on the few moments, notably in The Dakota Killing, where the bass guitar steps back. When it does, no instruments seem to take its place in the lead, and we are left with music that lacks direction and misses what distinguishes them the most. Since their very first record, A new position for a second degree burnt back in 2005, they seem to always be fond of low-end, but as the records piled up, they periodically took this love to another level, culminating in the current phase on Timelapse.
I don’t want to talk too much about the songs individually, as the album is produced, composed, and shaped together in a perfectly coherent and global way. This feels like a long 50 minute song, carefully building up, with movements and melodies coming back and forth like a leitmotif. Some critics have (often justifiably) criticized post-rock for stagnating as a genre and having a hard time bringing something new to the table of contemporary music. I think Kovlo is a good example of the possibilities and potential of post-rock music within the boundaries of its genre. They have loud rhythms, they have melodic guitars, but they turned it around in a very personal approach and in the end, they found their way. Sure, they don’t always refrain from using the hackneyed patterns here and there. The jerkily ending climax of Opec Raid feels somewhat of deja vu. Nonetheless, thanks to Kovlo’s musical instinct and sense of composition, they make the best out of it most of the time. With Timelapse, they prove that they are among the bands that help keep post-rock alive through gradual innovation, and for that, we are grateful.