Adebisi Shank - This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank | Album Review | By Volume

What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow. Sam Brookes - One Day
Adebisi Shank - Big Unit

Abedisi Shank

This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank

Belgium.

Comments (0)
Author: on September 3, 2014
9.5
Sargent House

Glossary -

  • Math Rock

n. a subgenre of rock music that uses numerous different time signatures in one piece. Often has a very stop-start feel.

  • Post Rock

n. a subgenre of rock music that is often described as ‘using traditional rock instruments in non-traditional ways’.

  • Adebisi Shank

n. an Irish post rock band that if one more person refers to as a math rock I will strip them of their vocal chords or typing fingers, whichever need is more pressing.

* * *

Okay. Here comes the most tenuous of all strangled similes I have ever attempted to crowbar into a piece of writing; This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank is like Belgium at this year’s World Cup. Hang on, bear with me, because I can sort of justify this crossover statement. To those of you not engaged in the ‘Beautiful Game’, Belgium have – for many decades – been a fairly ordinary team with fairly ordinary players. However, after the 2010 World Cup, an absolute slew of universally acclaimed players came rising from the ashes like a chocolate waffle phoenix. Names like Fellaini, Kompany, Hazard, Vertonghen, Courtois and De Bruyne – amongst many others – proceeded to bolster the reputation of football’s perennial underachievers, and soon their stock had risen to that of a ‘dark horse’ for 2014. On paper they were underrated, flexible and deadly. However, four years can change a lot, and by the time 2014 came around, the term ‘dark horse’ had been slung from one melon-IQ’d pundit to another with such frequency that the horse in question had been bleached into some magical glittering unicorn which, if not at least a semi-finalist, would be deemed a failure and a major disappointment. No pressure there, then. However, once they got to the World Cup, everyone kind of shrugged them off and decided that no matter the strength of the squad, everyone was somewhat indifferent to poor old Belgium.

However, one day I realised how similar my fickle experience with Adebisi Shank had been in almost exactly the same time-frame. In 2010, This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank reared its roaring, brilliant head from within the depths of hyperactive, post-rocking madness and almost killed me. What an exhilarating, exciting new sound! It was such a treat; so rare was it to find a trio of musicians so gloriously talented while so unashamed to try anything and everything to get the sound they want. After the excellent-but-safe This is the First Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank (this is exhausting), it put the band on a pedestal. They were suddenly a fantastic band from Ireland that had little more than a cult following of fervent, ardent followers. However, things soon changed; I’ve been there since the First Album, watching their fanbase expand exponentially, so by the time the four years had passed, the unassuming Irish post-rockers had great things expected of them, and indeed, once the superb “Big Unit” and bubbling jig “Voodoo Vision” leaked early, anything else would be a failure. Yet, due to the strength of these early releases, I found myself shrugging off  the remainder This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank once it was unleashed.

Just like Belgium. There. I told you I’d convince you.

However, the truth is that I’m a misguided fool. After a number of listens in a non-distracting environment, it hit me; This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank is literally only one or two direct hits short of a masterpiece. A ferocious, genre-bending, elastic record that proves once and for all that post-rock doesn’t have to be comprised of 9-minute epics with Chinese gongs and bowed guitars. Though their fanbase is now considerably larger than previously, their sound is more experimental and ‘out there’ than ever before, with a larger number of sonic chances taken, particularly in regards to instrumentation. Where the band were once a tight instrumental rock outfit with layers of distortion chewing up the aggressive tumbles across the fretboards, the Third Album is far more electronic and loop-oriented, and is extremely reminiscent of guitarist Lar Kaye’s 2010 solo EP, the aptly-named EP, leaving very little of the old Shank in this sonic blender.

In fact, “Thundertruth”, “(Trio Always)” and large parts of “Turnaround” can barely even be classed as rock music, as thrilling as they are. “Turnaround” in particular is Adebisi Shank at their most rambunctious, every second of the track jammed with what I assume was as much wailing, gameshow-esque synth noise as was possible to make during recording. However, for those that would rather not witness the blossoming of this aspect of the trio, the album’s most whirlwind moments are when the rock and the binary collide head on, such as in the genuinely extraordinary “Sensation”, which left has left my jaw on the floor more than once during my endless go-arounds of this record. An absolutely pulsating five minutes of music, it sets out its stall as a danceable, almost ‘silly’ cut with chewed-up, squeaking vocals, but after a handful of minutes, the powerful groove clunking away under the surface subconsciously develops this almost hypnotic intensity as layers of cacophony are mercilessly bundled on top of each other, and, uniquely, it’s kind of terrifying and beautiful at the same time. No word of a lie; every time “Sensation” kicks up a gear, no matter how couchant I may be, my heart rate accelerates in the same fashion as a swift jog. It’s like being possessed by a beat.

Indeed, the track also highlights a brand new weapon in Adebisi Shank’s arsenal; prominent melody. They are draped all over the Third Album, from “Voodoo Vision”‘s earnest, almost Sigur Rós-esque piano break, to “Chaos Emerald”‘s wickedly joyous guitar riff, the record has layers of beauty hidden under the boisterousness; a surprisingly effective use of dynamics where before it had all been distorted guitars being tortured and experimental rhythms. It seems Adebisi Shank have both matured and grown sillier in the past four years, creating a paradigm within which it’s possible to headbang until you pass out during one listen, then ponder pensively the next. However, no matter the changes in sound, the addition of electronics or the removal of the rock, the album’s centrepiece – the epic “Big Unit” – well… not only would I class as a fairly separate entity from the remainder of the album, but I’d also admit that it takes proceedings up to a whole new level of crazy. Yep, I feel like I’ve already made my views pretty clear on that matter.

So what’s not to like? Outside of comparisons to their ever-changing sound, the answer is not much. During my first baby steps into the album, I was disappointed that Vin McCreith, an exceedingly talented bass guitarist and driving force behind the trio, is barely noticeable outside of the confines of “Voodoo Vision” and “Turnaround”. I was also somewhat chagrined by the inclusion of “Thundertruth”, a short series of intricate loops played over a chugging beat with very little actual input from the musicians. This too sat awkwardly with the fact that the album is a mere 9 tracks long and already contains what is effectively an outro in “(Forever Trio)”, so while a pessimist could say that This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank is not particularly meaty in substance, as a musical optimist I’m going to respond that, like a 6oz fillet steak, what meat there is is about as juicy and filling as it gets. In fact, to close, I’ll put my neck on the line; the Third Album of Adebisi Shank, though confusing in its structure and exhausting in its relentlessness, is without doubt the finest musical release of 2014 so far. There. I’m off to Belgium. See you later.

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