For Fans Of
I’ve said a lot already about why you should always be ready to give post-rock a good, hard listen. The beauty, the chaos, the calm before the storm ethos, and the sheer magnificence of hearing what’s available to those who have nerded out on pedal boards makes this layered genre often a delight to dive headfirst into. What’s more appealing, though, is the variety offered in instrumental music as a whole, not just the post-rock sub-genre.
It’s here that the esteemed likes of Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai and Sigur Ros shine so brightly. They don’t confine themselves to a formula that makes them sound overly predictable; they branch out. In their music, across each of their man records, is a broad church of sounds, dynamics and experimentations constantly at play.
In this sense, I do feel that Melbourne quartet Bear The Mammoth can take a leaf or two out of the book of these above acts. Because their newest LP, the gloomily titled ‘Years Under Glass‘, all too often strays into predictable, over-used sonic territory. However! Before I go on any further, I want to make it crystal clear that ‘predictable’ does not by any degree mean ‘unenjoyable’. For ‘Years Beneath Glass‘ has some wonderful moments, executed with real precision and professionalism.
Opening track ‘Eyes Still‘ ushers in similar melodic lines as one might hear across a Meniscus or even a sleepmakeswaves LP; a somewhat ‘homely’ sound that makes any avid Aussie prog-rock fan feel comfortably at home. ‘Sank‘ is also a wonderfully composed piece of music that picks up into a trot that builds climactically but never once blows itself up; demonstrating the band’s control in songwriting that more mature bands of the genre possess. ‘Mossian‘ offers the biggest highlight of the record, containing two ‘chapters’ of sorts: beginning with an anxious drum shuffle and playful call and response between the rhythm and lead guitars, all before transitioning seamlessly into a steady slow burner. It’s abrupt but it’s the most progressive moment of the record, and it works a treat.
So why then am I not proclaiming ‘Years Under Glass‘ as one of the best records of 2018? Because everything here, and I mean do everything here has been done to death before. Whilst the band do pleasingly replicate the many staples of a genre that they do clearly love, they don’t add enough of their own flavour into the wider musical conversation. It doesn’t need to be unique or new for, it just needs to be them, is my point here.
‘Decembering‘ is a solemn track with some heartbreaking guitar lines – the same thing that can be found on any Maybeshewill record, minus all of the pianos and synths, of course. Likewise, ‘Known Unknowns‘ sounds like territory well-explored by This Will Destroy You in both title and sound. Here, I enjoy the droning tremolo picks that sit softly in the background, and I greatly enjoy the constant repetition of the main lead line, which is taken into a number of different context’s throughout the piece. But everything can be heard on ‘Young Mountain‘ or ‘Another Language‘ to a far better degree.
‘Years Under Glass‘ is a record full of well-executed post-rock songs, for sure. However, with four years between their albums, with 2014’s ‘Yamadori‘ the last we heard from this group, the only real thing that this group have pushed themselves in is condensing their song lengths. Given the space in which the band inhabit, this is a great area to grow in. However, everything else is far to easily confused with other artists, making this record retreat into a waterfall of reverb at times.
It’s a tough thing to write when it comes to listening to a band that produces a style of music that they so clearly love. All the basics are done so well here. James Carman’s drumming is to be particularly commended, with each part carefully performed with the greater song in mind. Closing track ‘Sous Verre‘ showcases this musical awareness, with James resting back on a solid groove that anchors the slowly blooming textures moving around him.
Despite these positive takeaways, however, ‘Years Under Glass‘ fails to leap out as anything super exciting. Everything here is good. Not bad, just ‘good.’ In a genre that all too often suffers from similar formulae, I think it’d be wonderful to hear Bear The Mammoth push themselves more on future releases, not into creating a new genre but in carving out their own sound in their music. Because man, they sure do have the songwriting skills and musical chops to indeed make something ‘great’.
‘Years Under Glass’ is a great entry-record for anyone looking to test out the cool post-rock waters. Had this record been released a decade earlier, it would have been Australia’s answer to the instrumental boom roaring over Europe and America for such music. As it stands, Bear The Mammoth’s new LP won’t say anything that will take well-versed listeners by full surprise. Although, it’ll still make a welcome addition to that “mountain drives” playlist.
1. Eyes Still
6. Known Unknowns
7. Sous Verre
‘Years Beneath Glass’ is out now via Art As Catharsis.