Belfast trio And So I Watch You From Afar’s post-rock deserves respect from fans of uncompromising and intellectually challenging music. But it may also grab the ears of a few listeners who had previously clung to the verse-chorus-verse shallows, in particular because it doesn’t cling to the expected tropes of its own micro-genre.
The group draws on rock’s brainiest movements — prog, math rock, and post-hardcore — but you don’t need a degree in music theory to enjoy their sophomore album Gangs. On the follow up to 2009′s self-titled debut, they switch time signatures with the best of them, but they switch between recognizable rhythms — from a rock beat to, say, a waltz with a charming wink. Certain rhythms and tonal progressions even seem teasingly inspired by their Celtic roots. Moves like this allow them to be at once highly complex, strikingly muscular, and upliftingly melodic, especially on the mind-expanding first track “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION.”
Throughout Gangs, psychedelically intricate passages rear into snarling breakdowns before before sloping into a calm jazzy meadow. And this is all without getting tedious, and that sort of thing can get tedious. The trick is that ASIWYFA will pick a bright, lively theme or even something like a hook to elaborate on. An example of this approach is the prismatic “Gang (starting never stopping),” which takes the harsh metallic blues of a group like the Dead Weather and refracts it to make it glitter.
There are no vocals on Gangs, but the music is articulate and expressive enough to entertain the mind while reaching the brain’s pleasure centers with the sureness of your most guilty-pleasure screamo band. Still, for all its grace and hallucinatory qualities Gangs is most likely little more than a well-designed calling card for the live show. By all means check out the album, but absolutely watch for tour dates near you.