ED - Forest | Album Review | By Volume

...was fond of your writing, it allowed me to see into you... The Hotelier - Discomfort Revisited



Gorgeous math rock.

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Author: on May 27, 2014
E/D/I/L/S Records

Is it just me, or does great music often fall at our feet in the most peculiar of circumstances? We often find ourselves shielding our eyes from the dust kicked up by a shuffle through a vintage record shop, or besieged by RSI from the never-ending hipster blogs we’re destined to scroll through, until we pass from this mortal world, but the truth is that for most people, music just kind of sneaks up on us in this tepid reality. A simple trip to the shop? The car radio, a poster, the shop speakers and even the innocuous humming of a passerby are all outputs of this musical dimension, yet we can dichotomise these simple, almost random tonal noises into distinct groups; ones we enjoy, and ones we do not. This music is everywhere! Yet at some point in our lives, we’ve all jolted awake our iPods and thought: I don’t know what to listen to. There’s nothing good on here.

I am the greatest exponent of this laziness; in its most ineffective incarnations, my musical inspiration shudders to a halt like a beached whale as I desperately limp through list after list, of supposedly “related artists” to those I hold dear. So about a year ago I had an idea to combat this infuriating, unintentional conservatism. In a moment of moronic clarity, I opened YouTube, went to the search bar and just wrote the words “math rock”. Rather than my laptop erupting in a fiery ball of corrupted confusion, it laid out before me a succession of guitar technique tutorials and playlists consisting of randomers’ fav math rock picks, and while also ferociously dodging a cavalcade of wannabe Hellas plying their weak trade in this notoriously demanding field, I took a chance with ED – Young American girl. Mathrock. Here, one year on, I’m fully aware that it’s perhaps a little hasty and even a bit crass to kickstart this review off with a sentence like I love this band, but that’s what I’m going to do. I love this band.

I’ll be blunt; while contrived usage of “interesting” time signatures is inexplicably becoming a sort-of-norm amongst even the world’s most commercial outfits (I’m looking at you Coldplay), bands in the vein of ED are a rapidly perishing breed. In the early/mid-1990s, the math rock boom that shook Pittsburgh and the East Coast took almost no time to evolve into an aloof, haughty brand of high art rock. Yet this is not to its detriment; it had a certain class about it. A bubbling bluster; a pent-up swagger that, while challenging and even provocative at times, would only ever erupt to a somewhat circumspect, restrained degree, and this is perhaps jazz’s most impacting influence on the genre. Skip forward twenty years and the lines are so blurred that I can’t even remember the last time I saw the phrase math rock attributed correctly to a band. For example, bands with more obvious elements of post rock (LITE), electronic music (Battles) and even simply instrumental rock (Adebisi Shank) entrenched in their sound have all somehow been tarred with the same erroneous brush, meaning that we as enthusiasts need to stand tall and make sure bands like ED rightfully reclaim the crown of math rock!

… just me then? Right.

Hailing from the Siberian city of Barnaul, not far from the Kazakh border, ED have carved a masterful niche in the genre; the purist math rock that permeated every inch of their 2012 debut EP Numberism. Yet, created with what I like to envisage is a ban on all roguish digital trickery, their first full-length album, Forest, is a whole different beast and in all honesty the most enjoyable musical release I’ve heard all year. This is hefty, frightfully imaginative music, and seems an almost honourably respectful nod to those who paved the math road before them. Here, the frigid calm of the American pioneers of the genre and the adolescent enthusiasm of their Japanese counterparts are all rolled into one for a short, syrupy helping of those gloriously elaborate set ups and familiarly offhand drops. With all the sophistication and charm of early Don Caballero, the band take on twenty-nine minutes of nothing but tasteful, reticent grooves, framed by absolutely prodigal finger-tapping, a musical technique that, until hearing Forest, I never imagined I would find genuinely moving. Yet that is where the similarities end; that is what duly separates ED from the math rock pioneers. Where they had been ice-cold and disaffected to an almost impenetrable magnitude, this Russian four-piece, as unusual as it may seem, create genuinely beautiful music. In its moments of less precarious intricacy, Forest is soaring, it’s hopeful, it’s melancholy and it’s just magnificent. Take “Tropic”, while frisky and fiery, the piece preserves a dashing elegance that ED’s contemporaries simply do not possess even at the best of times. “Trains” is math rock at its absolute finest, and that is no exaggeration; even behind the exquisite construction and elegant execution can be heard a real, unmistakeable heartbeat, and such a powerful expression of such delicate emotions is an almost unfathomably devastating weapon to bring to an already truly exhaustive genre.

Though this series of loosely-collected ramblings would suggest otherwise, it is possible to sum up Forest and the efforts of ED in one word: Inspiring. For a band only two years into their hopefully lengthy career, this is extremely serious weight they are throwing around. Brave, intelligent and impassioned, I’ll suspend my debilitating realism for a moment to say that I hope with all my heart that ED are the spearhead of a new — admittedly highly improbable — movement of stunning math rock that sees no need to pander to the pretentious, that effortlessly exudes beauty and zeal without any pontificating irony. Yet my naivety would never get the better of me here, so I just have to hope that Forest, along with whatever this resourceful, imaginative band have yet to throw at us, stand as a benchmark in time for how this ever-changing, ever-devolving genre should sound. After saturating your consciousness with an album of this quality, ED leave me no choice but to go sailing out with the same phrase I came crashing in with, and one that you too will be singing from the rooftops once Forest drifts into your life: I love this band.


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