65daysofstatic - Wild Light | Album Review | By Volume

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65daysofstatic

Wild Light

A rare misstep, but a nasty fall all the same.

Comments (1)
Author: on September 30, 2013
4.9
Superball
September 23, 2013

In a musical context, careful usage of emotion is surely one of the most basic foundations for success. It should please, comfort or challenge us. It should depress, excite or relax us. Hell, it can even disturb us if it wants, but when we put on headphones or crank up the speakers, we just trust it to conjure up something. Yet, much to our eternal confusion, this is perhaps the most mystifying aspect of the medium of music; we as humans can’t correlate it to any distinguishable emotional reasoning. Vastly different to more definable, relatable artistic substances such as words in literature, or images in film — music is at its heart, just noise. Yet it’s all uphill from here; the shapeshifting of this sound into such strong, overpowering feelings is like running an egg-and-spoon race through a minefield. There’s so much to get wrong, and the slightest mistake could spell the difference between a classic and a flop. However, the now-prolific 65daysofstatic, with their sixth album, have left the minefield altogether to head further down their inimitable road of post-rock cacophony, trampling the egg into the dirt as they run.

Speaking of inimitability, I think we can safely call 65daysofstatic veterans of the post-rock scene now. Though perhaps somewhat young for such a title, the manner in which this Sheffield-based four piece have pushed the boundaries of an already-boundary-pushing genre is at times both commendable and awe-inspiring, and has remained so for twelve years now. Mixing dense, soaring soundscapes with anything from electro (We Were Exploding Anyway) to claustrophobic piano (Heavy Sky) to straight-up rock, perhaps the most extraordinary feat they have achieved is to keep this sprawling mess in check. The grooves are bubbling and tense, the builds are considered, controlled and the climaxes exhibit just the right amount of restraint, and thus, in the case of Wild Light, one question remains: what went wrong?

Though on paper it sounds like just about the most exciting prospect in band’s history, the genuine problem, is that the caged animal that is 65daysofstatic, has broken the bars and escaped. No more restraint, no more consideration. Yet all that potential energy, all that pent-up power is utilised in such a way as to almost immediately strip itself of any complexity, credibility or subtlety. Ironically, it is the lack of frustration in their music has ultimately led to an abundance of it in the listener, and straight from the off, the roaring “Heat Death Infinity Splitter” exemplifies this perfectly, acting as a near-perfect microcosm for Wild Light as a record. The problem? It plays all its cards much, much too early. A repeating sample of “no one knows what is happening” pierces the eerie, crackling introduction, but the sudden eruption of deafening, distorted synths a mere twenty-seven seconds into the album tells you everything you need to know. Unwaveringly forceful, painfully abrasive and head-crackingly loud, this isn’t going to be a rollercoaster of emotion. Or if it is, it’s going to be stuck at the top, and it’s this force-feeding of a supposedly impassioned message that is so utterly infuriating about this record. It’s one thing to say an album has left you emotionally spent, but to be literally pained by its sledgehammer-like ferocity is simply unpleasant.

In all honesty, Wild Light is at times devastatingly epic. It has those same trademarks that made 65daysofstatic a force to be reckoned with. Sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s bold, and sometimes (though rarely) it’s dreamy and ethereal. However, one has to dig unreasonably deep into the record’s brutish façade to uncover even a small fragment of these features, as the distortion has been applied so liberally that the record has somehow managed to distort itself. The very definition of a confused album, Wild Light hasn’t got a clue what to do with itself. Every track seems to be split into two movements almost, where the indifferent builds convalesce into climaxes that aren’t really there, and the bland, aimless grooves outstay their welcome until being forced to fall ass-backwards into tame electronica just in time to save us all from slipping into a coma. This bafflingly half-baked compositional style, scattered across vast swathes of the record, constantly acts like a bucket of ice water over our heads, breaking that illusion of a dream-like state that we’ve come to expect from 65daysofstatic. What’s more, the no-holds-barred “Blackspots” – far and away the album highlight — showcases that the band’s ability to methodically compose a truly complex piece of gritty textural overlapping is still alive and well. So this grating crunch of the other seven tracks leaves Wild Light feeling even more like a missed opportunity than before.

Though it pains me to say it, I found listening to Wild Light a near-excruciating experience. The first album I have ever found myself having to pause intermittently for the sake of my eardrums (and my sanity), it left me restless and irritable, to put it bluntly. In my heart, I know it’s not a purposefully lazy album andI know it will please purists and hardcore fans. I know it’ll serve as a fitting dramatic backdrop to any number of indie films, but for God’s sake, “Sleepwalk City” is about three minutes too long. “Prisms” is too much of a patchwork job of different ideas. The drums on “Taipei” are way too high in the mix. One simply cannot enjoy an album with this white water rapid of faults streaming through their head, and unfortunately Wild Light stands as a clumsy misstep in a career rarely blighted by errors, and also acts as a makeshift waypost for the point at which too much of a good thing simply becomes tiresome. For instance, where monumental, dark and ferocious can all be used in a positive context musically, here they are all to the detriment of a misshapen, bloated and immodestly lengthy album by a band from whom we would expect far, far better.

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  • Adrian

    see, we do negative reviews sometimes!!

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