Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Autumn Project - This We Take With Us Album Review

For once, I really don't have much to say about an album that I had previously reviewed. The Autumn Project put out a great, solid CD. The packaging was hand-made and authentic. There was obviously a lot of passion put into this effort. Yet... when I try to think of something to reflect about in regards to it, I come up empty. So, with that, take as you will a review originally from November 20, 2009.

I find that there is a weird phenomenon at play when it comes to home-made, self-recorded albums and the types of bands that make them. In my experience, for almost every genre of music, when I receive an album that is obviously self-record, self-produced, and sometimes even self-constructed (usually using the CD case as an excuse to make an art project), the music contained on that plastic disc is, to be blunt, often pretty bad. The bands sometimes possess a large amount of ambition and definitely have their heart in it, but sometimes the talent just isn’t there. So in most cases, when I get these types of releases I often cringe before listening… that is unless the album is from a post-rock band. I don’t know what it is about this specific genre, but almost every self-released post-rock album I receive, in comparison to efforts from other genres, contains music that is extremely polished, well thought out, and very professional in nature. It’s almost as if post-rock bands tend to care about the craft of making music more than bands of other genres. I know that may sound a bit elitist, but it’s hard to deny that post-rock bands, more often than not, have a more nuanced and informed knowledge of music than bands at the same level in other genres.

The Autumn Project’s album This We Take With Us is one of the aforementioned self-recorded, homemade affairs and, being that these guys are a post-rock band, I was unsurprisingly not disappointed by this album. Hailing from the state of Iowa, it seems as if The Autumn Project has incorporated the wide open spaces of the Iowan countryside into their musical approach. Playing a form of Constants meets Explosions in the Sky meets Gifts From Enola styled post-rock-metal, the band allows their compositions room to stretch out and grow to their fullest.

The first three tracks of the album (none of the eight songs on this album have titles) show the band rushing forth, playing with different ways to create crescendos and large walls of sound. There’s nothing necessarily unique about these tracks, but they are fine examples of what you’ve come to expect from bands playing around in the post-metal genre. The fourth track, however, is where the band seems to come into their own. The 14+ minute epic starts out methodically with a structure akin to some of Isis’ more contemplative songs. It slowly grows, weaving in more and more layers until a third of the way in it pulls back only to build a powerful and melancholic middle third followed up by an overflow of sound capped off with a final minute of aftershock effects.

With such a strong first half, it’s unfortunate that the band takes a slight misstep on the fifth track, an eight minute quasi-interlude. The completely ambient piece would have felt like a natural break in the album if it were only a minute or two in length, but it drags on way past its welcome. Fortunately this appears to be the only real mistake the band makes as the final three tracks build the band’s sound out even further. Track six again has a very strong Isis feel in how the song plays out, while the seventh track does what should have been done with the fifth track and turns a long, ambient build-up into a necessary prelude to a gorgeous post-rock crescendo leading into the final track. Having exhausted their post-metal playing at the beginning of the album, they cap off this effort with a 13 minute, luscious post-rock track that, while very familiar feeling, is a solid ending to this 73 minute trip.

As has been the case in the past, I am once again surprised by the quality put forth by an independent, unsigned post-rock band. It’s apparent that The Autumn Project have put a lot of time and effort into This We Take With Us, not only musically but in the release itself. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on the physical release, it’s a nice cardboard slipcase that is hand numbered and part of a limited run. It fits in well with the rest of my post-rock collection and will with that of any other post-rock fan. The Autumn Project have crafted a very solid post-rock-metal effort that will hopefully get noticed by connoisseurs of the genre.

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