First off, let me get this straight; I love instrumental music in all its shapes and forms. I’m a firm supporter of the “We don’t need vocals!” music movement, just mind you; making instrumental music is not as easy as you might think.
Consistency and variety are two hard-to-achieve goals, especially when simultaneously searched for. Variety, in particular, appears to be that dreadful chimera that hunts post-rockers otherwise tranquil sleeps. Showcasing a multitude of sounds, textures, and rhythms structures with a fixed number of instruments is hard to achieve, especially when vocals are cast aside. There is no question that vocals can add that variety that instruments alone (often) might not give you. But then again, post-rock as a genre often suffers from this stubbornness to leave the duty to instruments alone. Anyway, let’s get down to work and analyze this latest addition to the instrumental rock catalogue.
Wicket is an instrumental, post-rock band from Cardiff (UK) that has been around since 2011. “A Way To Leave Their World Behind” is the band’s debut album and was released on March 7th. Throughout its seven tracks, the album showcases a brand of post-rock infused with melodic, airy flashes, reminiscent of bands like The End of the Ocean, Qualia, and Caspian above all. The tracks present a balanced mix of loud compositions and relaxed, more-contained melodic moments. The ability to switch between harmony and more dynamic rhythm structures represents one of the band’s strong points.
RELEASE DATE: 07 March 2015 LABEL: Self-released
The album’s opener “We Were Sinking” is a clear example of the band’s prowess in moving comfortably between atmosphere and sonically explosive climaxes. The song begins on the sly with every instrument taking its time in creating a melody that grows louder and louder to finally explode in the sonic peak that closes the song. On a similar vein, “Light Up Berlin” begins with a soft instrumental that slowly builds up to the extremely catchy melody that follows. This is probably the most memorable moment on the record. Each instrument has its precise role in creating the delicate atmosphere that permeates the song, with drums pacing the tempo and the bass building the harmonic structure onto which the guitars write their “sweet” crescendos.
Unfortunately however, the emotional grip of this record quickly wears out. Especially towards the middle of the record, the band’s lack of suitable compositional alternatives appears painfully evident. Track after track the band offers the same tired formula build-up-to-climax, and when it tries something different the results are equally disappointing. Chant in Lonely Peace is a watered-down, ten-minute-long build-up to a climax that never comes, and when it does, sounds as predicable as ever (and on a lighter note, it sounds strikingly similar to what Caspian has been putting out in the last 5 years). And it doesn’t help either that the longest song is placed right after a two-minute interlude that doesn’t really justify its place on record. Sounding more like air blowing through a pipe than anything concrete, “Lead Them To Water” doesn’t add anything to an album that would greatly benefit from some more variety.
Production doesn’t help too much either considering how fuzzy and muffled the guitars sound during the most sonically agitated moments. Climaxes have to sound clear to be properly appreciated, especially when they are preceded by harmonious, melodic crescendos (which, to their right, the band actually does very well). Instead the guitarists opt for a heavily distorted tone that detracts rather than add momentum to their compositions.
Unfortunately, given their almost identical structure, the rest of the tracks flow without leaving their mark on the listener. “Light Up Berlin” and “The Scientific Method” are the only exception, offering a very memorable melody and a powerful climax respectively. “The Scientific Method” is one of the highlights of the album, and does a fantastic job at closing, an otherwise, monotonous record. The song presents the same crescendo-climax structure, just in a more polished and convincing fashion. The crescendo is as catchy as ever and the climax with its unexpected arrival doesn’t sound predictable or forced.
“A Way to Leave their World Behind” is by no means a bad album. However, the band’s constant search for the perfect balance between melody and sonic explosions makes the listening experience predictable, and ultimately repetitive. The album is the band’s debut, and as such it presents a group of skilful musicians with clear ideas on the type of music they like to play. However, it also contains the mistakes and shortcomings that young bands can often fall into: from muddy production to lack of variation between songs. And at last, it is that lack of variety that brings down this record. That same of variety that it’s so needed in this genre.