402: Album Review "Gangs"

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Seems like some amazing math rock is coming out of the UK lately. Adebisi Shank is obviously an instrumental opus. Someone recommended me And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA for short) if I wanted the intensity of Adebisi Shank but simmered rather than boiling. They were not wrong.

"BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION”

THE PROS
First off, I’m only comparing ASIWYFA to their neighbors Adebisi Shank because I reviewed Adebisi Shank earlier this year. It should be known that ASIWYFA has been around a few years (and album releases) longer than the Shankers. So, although it may sound like I’m talking as if ASIWYFA came after Adebisi Shank, it’s only because of how the album review orders came about this year.

Back to cooking references, Adebisi Shank is sort of like a steak and potatoes dish. It’s mostly this extremely flavorful meat, seered off and broiled for maybe 25 minutes. On the side, you have these electronic parts that sort of quell the fierce all out attack of beefy riffs and walls of sound. On the other hand… ASIWYFA is more like a risotto. All the flavors are slowly cooked into each other, held together by a main stock of juicy riffage. And, personally, I’m a very large fan of risotto.

At times, Gangs owns your life with these completely face-melting mash of guitars. It’s very akin to a Adebisi Shank or a Fang Island cut. However, what sets these guys (and particularly, this album) apart is the way they sometimes sonically say You know, let’s turn the intensity knob down a bit and see what happen. It becomes more of a Russian Circles or Explosions in the Sky flavor at that point. At times, it even tastes like Sigur Ros.

Something that some of these newer, face-melter type bands are lacking might be the completeness of what Gangs brings to you after listening through the entire thing. There is more of a story to be told through this album than any other math-rock or instrumental album I’ve heard this year, including Explosions in the Sky’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, which is a sort of milestone to be noted in my book.

THE CONS
Something that I stressed with Adebisi Shank’s release was the fact that they are a three-piece band doing more with less. They sample themselves to create these electronic sounds live, all have multidimensional abilities pertaining their instruments (i.e. introduction of slap bass on some songs), and create a sort of madness with their live show. For ASIWYFA, they don’t seem to be pushing any sort of revolutionary boundaries that haven’t been heard before. That isn’t necessarily a bad things… I mean, you wouldn’t want to ask Yo-Yo Ma to join Godspeed You! Black Emperor for a night. That would probably be a train wreck. However, no one really thought Metallica and the San Francisco Philharmonic was going to be that mind blowing, and yet it was. The big idea behind these statements is that ASIWYFA does what they do very well… but could they do more?

THE VERDICT
Between Explosions in the Sky and Gangs, Gangs clearly takes it in my book. Between Adebisi Shank and Gangs, I gravitate towards Gangs sitting here at my desk more than I would Adebisi Shank’s album. However, I’d rather see Adebisi Shank live, with ASIWYFA following behind in very close. But this isn’t about live shows. This is definitely about finding the best album of the year. And, with the 402 midterms coming up, ASIWYFA seems like a fairly strong candidate next to Adebisi Shank. Yet again, Ireland reigns.

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