Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cut From the Same Cloth...kind of.

As a kid I never had the patience for instrumental music, especially the kind that had songs longer than 5 minutes.  Fortunately as you get older your attention span increases and your ability to concentrate (on one thing anyway) improves.  I think My Dying Bride, Explosions in the Sky, and Anathema were the first bands to show me it isn't always possible to fit everything into 3 or 4 minutes.  As it stands today, some of my favorite music today is instrumental and requires me to push my attention span further than ever (as it relates to music anyway).   One of my favorite instrumental bands in the past 5 years is Irepress and as a result this first post will focus on Irepress and two other bands (If These Trees Could Talk and Dionaea) I discovered indirectly through them.

(Boston, MA)

Previous to Irepress my primary exposure to instrumental music was mostly Pelican and Explosions in the Sky.  Although I love both of those bands I always wanted Explosions to be heavier and Pelican to be more experimental (e.g. busier guitars).  So upon hearing Irepress for the first time I finally found what I had been looking for. The tremolo guitar build up familiar to Explosions in the Sky this time did not fade away quietly, but now either lead into a massive (metallic) riff or was left alone to noodle just long enough until its mating rhythm reappeared (e.g. "June Ipper" off of Samus Octology). Although I could go on about the influences in their music, their sound and approach is really unique to them. 

The great thing about Irepress is their ability to build high tension rhythms, while the lead guitar wanders beautifully seemingly a mile above the bottom end. The musicianship is awesome, but not showy.  For the most part Irepress are wholly instrumental, however if I remember correctly their original incarnation was said to have had vocals so their experimentation with them on their second album Sol Eye Sea I probably shouldn't have been the surprise it was.  Personally I think the album  would have been better without them, but that aside Sol Eye Sea I is an awesome follow up to their first.

The songs on Sol Eye Sea I are perhaps a bit more laid-back, pretty, up beat, less tense, and generally more experimental than those of Samus Octology.  The use of gang vocals on the opening track "Diaspora" may seem a bit out of place, but if you have seen them live they end up making a lot of sense and really do fit into the Irepress experience.

I love songs that have parts/transitions that you look forward to and perhaps that is one of Irepress's greatest strengths, as they seem to build so many of these "parts" into a single song. A great example of this is in "Barregeo" in that it starts out jazzy, blends into metal complete with screams, then at the 4:00 minute mark locks into a quiet groove, only then to turn itself upside down at the 7:00 minute into an sweeping finish. 

So as you might guess, both of their albums are essential (go buy them), however if forced to choose I would probably start with Samus Octology (2007, Translation Loss) before Sol Eye Sea I (2008, Translation Loss).  It sounds like a new album is coming later in 2012 and I'm really looking forward to that.  They put out a single in 2010 called "Shaolin Knights" which is apparently a throw back to their beginnings and is more traditional (for them anyway) melodic/experimental hardcore including guest vocals by Jesse Korman (The Number 12 Looks Like You).  Like the rest of their stuff, it rules.  Check it out below.  

Please support Irepress and buy something from them.


(Akron, OH)

After being so impressed by Irepress's Samus Octology, which single handedly re-ignited my interest in instrumental music, I began searching for bands that were compared to or influenced by Irepress.  At some point I came across a band that was compared to Irepress, had an interesting name, and a working MySpace page.  The band was called If These Trees Could Talk and after a few quick listens I immediately ordered their album.  Once my copy of Above the Earth, Below the Sky arrived from CD Baby, I couldn't have been happier (One of life's simple pleasures is getting a package in the mail).

I supposed If These Trees Could Talk (ITTCT) could be lazily lumped into the post-rock genre, however that would be doing them a great disservice.  Although ITTCT are closer to the (old) Explosions in the Sky or Caspian realm than they are the Irepress/metal realm, they are far far more interesting/immediate than the realm inhabited by bands like They Will Destroy You or Mono.  I imagine having 3 guitarists lends itself to accidentally complex songs, but for whatever reason they resist complexity for complexity's sake. That said the guitars seemingly go in different directions but never hinder the songs forward movement.  Like Irepress, they utilize space between their instruments and allow each guitarist to take turns at center stage, while the rhythm propels the song forward.  The rhythms feel more linear than the jazzier ones often used by Irepress, but probably do a better job carrying the guitar melodies.

Their album Above the Earth, Below the Sky (self-released, 2009) does require some level of patience to get through and absorb, due to the additonal atmosphere (e.g. "Terra Ingognita") employed maintain flow between songs. For the most part, the payoff achieved from this additional effort is well worth your while. Without this atmosphere songs like "Below the Sky" wouldn't have the same impact. As mentioned previously, I love songs that have "parts" (for lack of a better name) to look forward to.  I love the part in the song "The Flames of Herostratus" at the 2:10 point where it explodes, only to be brought back under control at 3:05.  I love it.

If you are a fan of Caspian, Irepress, and older Explosions in the Sky you owe it to yourself to check out this band.  Get into them before the rest of the masses do (their music recently appeared in a UFC Primetime episode (really lame)).  They have a new album called Red Forest due out this March, which if the following is any indication (listen below), should be pretty awesome.

The new one:

An older one:

Buy their stuff:
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Vinyl: and


(Pennsylvania, New Jersey)

Still Cover Art

Apparently in times of unexpected peril with your imminent demise is at hand, your entire life will flash before your eyes.  No matter your age, it is difficult to imagine compressing a year's worth of experiences into minutes, much less an entire life's worth into the few seconds you have left. The speed at which these memories presumably flash by is beyond comprehension.  Of course, it is my sincere hope none of us (including me) will ever experience this to find out, but after listening to Dionaea's latest 3 song LP Still (self-released, 2011) I don't think we'll have to. The only difference in this case is that instead of a life's worth of memories flying by, we have riffs/transitions/blasts/sweeps and anything else you could imagine throwing into a song. The velocity and volume of ideas racing through these songs is mind-blowing.

So how does this band fit in with the other two we have already covered? Well, for the most part they don't, but having found this band through Irepress's Facebook page, I (for some reason) expected them to sound similar. You can of course hear the Irepress influence in Dionaea's music, most notably in the way the lead guitar is tuned and mixed into their overall sound (e.g. at 12:00 mark through 12:20 of their song "Same Story" and the beginning of "Still"), but beyond that I would say Dionaea are pretty much on their own path.

Compared to Irepress and If These Trees Could Talk, Dionaea are more schizophrenic and demand more from the listener (e.g. patience, attention span).  Their songs are commitments (shortest one is almost 7 minutes long), but travel fast and provide enough "Holy Fuck" moments to keep your interest along the way.  Throughout their craziness, there is a cohesiveness that keeps these songs together.  You would think Dionaea's youth, seemingly bottomless pit of energy, and  musical ability might get in their way of writing actual songs. To my ear that is not the case with Still and their apparent "formula" offers many moments that border on breathtaking.  For example in the song "Meraquo" I love how they introduce an idea at the beginning of a song, then go away from it for a while then re-visit it at different times throughout the song, providing necessary hooks to both look forward to and latch onto once they arrive.

As you may have surmised, Dionaea is not an easy first listen, but if you are willing to commit the time and accept the challenge, the payoff is worth your while...and for that matter Dionaea certainly are.  They describe their music as "post-grind" (whatever the fuck that means), which--to me--is a relatively new sub-genre and doesn't have a long list of bands to name drop next to all I can say is that if your music collection includes some Discordance Axis and Psyopus records next to your Irepress and Minus the Bear records, then Dionaea might be your new favorite band. Excellent, excellent stuff.

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