As a fan of instrumental music, I have no problem sinking my teeth into long-form compositions. It comes with the territory. Ranges’ 24-minute “Night and Day” is one of my favorite tracks of 2015, but let’s face it: the time alone that it takes for that song to get going is equal to the full attention span for 95% of people listening to music. So there is certainly something to be said for a band in this realm that steps right up and grabs your attention within the first five seconds. That is one of the real strengths of Manila quartet tide/edit’s “Lightfoot.” Within the first few bars they have made their presence felt and set a decisive tone for things to come over the course of the album’s ten lean, confident tracks.
RELEASE DATE: 29 November 2015 LABEL: A Spur Of The Moment Project
tide/edit expertly navigates “Lightfoot”’s sonic landscape, presenting the listener with a light, airy math-iness that isn’t so dense as to demand eye-squinting note-by-note analysis, as well as welcome tinges of emo that never even threaten to become overwrought. They remind me of what Ghosts and Vodka might have sounded like had they been consistently compelling, or American Football re-imagined as an up-tempo instrumental band. Possibly the best way to describe tide/edit is the seemingly-oxymoronic “upbeat melancholy.” Melodically, they will strike you as both wistful and contemplative – a healthy sort of sad, so to speak. But the drum work tells another tale, that of vigor and joyfulness. It’s a wholly refreshing sound that puts the fun back into post-rock while still taking itself seriously.
What is most striking about “Lightfoot” is the sense of effortless chemistry and cohesiveness between band members. Each song is powered as a unit, with every member playing an equally integral role. The spectacular production supports this nicely, with all of the instruments coming through the mix with full clarity, each serving a very precise purpose. The guitar work reveals strong musicianship without ever coming across as showy. The bass provides strong secondary melodies, and the drums are active and dynamic, providing important tonal counterpoints to the guitars. With average track lengths sitting at around three-and-a-half minutes, it is a collection of songs that cut the fat, amplify the immediacy, and keep things moving along. As much as I love a good epic, I can also appreciate a band that gets right to the point. If there is one complaint I could raise it’s that there isn’t much diversion from the formula, but seeing as it is a fairly rock-solid formula, I am inclined to overlook that.
Something you will notice as you work through the album is an almost complete lack of distortion and overdrive on the guitars. “Lightfoot” is propelled by crystal-clear tones, and the absence of “heavy parts” is something that sets tide/edit apart from their contemporaries. Despite this, you will find yourself rocking out to track after track, a testament to the strength of the composition as well as the interplay between drums and guitars. “Lightfoot” makes its presence felt through sheer groove rather than loud volume, a virtue seen most clearly in standout tracks such as “Eleven,” “Aimlessness,” “Slush,” and the closer, “Afloat,” which features the only obvious use of distortion on the entire album. The restraint of previous songs in terms of switching on the overdrive only serves to strengthen this climactic moment, which is guaranteed to leave listeners clamoring for more.
A good percentage of people’s love for instrumental music was likely built on a foundation of epic song structures and soft-loud dynamics, but with so many bands aiming to recreate that approach, one needs the opportunity to turn to bands that can lead them in an entirely different direction. With 2012’s “Ideas EP,” 2014’s “Foreign Languages,” and now “Lightfoot,” tide/edit has established some real credibility for assuming such a throne.