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Post-rock rehash ad infinitum
AKHIL SOOD  1st Aug 2015

Helios | Erebus

God is an Astronaut

Revive Records

The wall won't crack if you keep banging your head against it repeatedly, but your skull might. It probably will. What do God is an Astronaut (GIAA) want? They're an instrumental post-rock rock band, as much as they — and this writer too — hate the use of that limiting definition for their sound. But it is what it is. It makes you wonder, doesn't it? How long can a band keep repeating the same motifs over and over again? It's not like the kind of music they write is viable in the mainstream so that commerce is taking precedence over creativity. And, from the outside, the question of integrity doesn't come up as such. Helios | Erebus is the seventh album by GIAA, and still their resistance to change remains as strong as ever.

I should add that I do happen to be a fan of the band. They write pleasant songs that are easy enough to grasp but never vapid. Even here, songs like Agneya, Finem Solis or Obscura Somnia are solid, if non-threatening. That's basically what the problem with GIAA — and plenty of others that have evolved from the Mogwai/Godspeed You! Black Emperor/Sigur Ros school of songwriting. Without the right level of emotional manipulation and dedication to structuring and arrangement — and a degree of iconoclastic rawness — the music can seem unnecessarily melodramatic. And extremely inoffensive. You can hear it in passing, or you can pay attention to it if you'd like through repeated listens, and you'll grow to appreciate, even love, it. But does it stay with you? All the edges have been meticulously rounded off for the smoothest possible listening experience.

Helios | Erebus is guitar-driven (and keys) music, and the interplay between the swiveling clean guitars and underlying bass is beautiful and so very exciting, with the passing trace of distant, softly hummed vocals. The production is slick, highlighting every ghost note and between-the-lines melody in the mix. The arrangements are tight and compact — they stray rarely from their implicitly stated purpose of visual soundscaping. But the strengths of the music are, sadly, also the very tragic flaw that brings it down to several notches below greatness, and only a few above carefully crafted mediocrity.

 
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