In some ways, it seems like post-rock has burned itself out. That is, for a good while in the early part of this century, i was very excited about a lot of acts that took all sorts of music and threw them in a blender, pouring out something that had strings, and distorted guitars, and electronic beats, all of which built songs that were outside of the verse-chorus-verse song structure.
But, like anything, new ruts form. New patterns get codified, we tip our hats to the new revolution and pray we won’t get fooled again... And again. And again...
At any rate, this is kind of a shame for Beneath the Watchful Eyes, because this duo are continuing to mine this territory and creating some interesting stuff while doing so. Many listeners will have moved on, but there is still interesting stuff to happen in post-rock.
BtWE are a duo from Blackpool UK consisting of Simon Morgan and Barry Parkinson. The two of them also play in the awesomely named band Goonies Never Say Die, while Morgan is also a member of Midas Fall.
Together, the two of them make guitar rock that has a lot of stings and also some cool electro beats. The overall effect reminds me of Lights Out Asia, in a way.
The record starts with a piano tinkling along in Blood and Sand. A tremoloed guitar wanders in and the song glides along slowly, a slow burn of layers that slowly build up, almost four minutes before drums come in. Eventually, a skittering beat takes over, rapidly stuttering as guitars whirr, like the unholy halfway point between Autechre and Hammock. Cool.
Box Cutter reminds me of July Skies, that sort of wistful, slow, aching Englishness to it. It is pastoral in tone, music for wide open spaces and views of greenery stretching to the distance, the threat of cooling rain lingering just out of view. Towards the end it goes really electro, with a lot of burbling beats and synths popping away under the guitar.
All They Did Was Stand and Stare starts with the skittering beats and power chords grinding away. This is instrumental electro metal, and it pretty cool. BtWE totally switch it up for Left Fractures which is a soundtrackish tune built out of a wavering drone that rumbles in a very "contemporary classical" kind of way.
It is back to the harder rock with At The End Of The Pier. Guitars grind in staccato riffs with percussion thumps deeply. Oddly enough this is countered with an airy keyboard bit and wood blocks clapping. Exposed is a funky little guitar riff and a frantic electro beat, skittering behind the drone and the guitar. It works really well.
Letters From Zedelghem is more piano-driven, with layers of keys droning over a stuttering beat. Waiting For Them To Leave starts off much the same, but halfway through electronic beats layer in, and the song is like some freaky Aphex Twin rave number, people injuring themselves trying to dance to it.
And finally the record ends with The Wolves Are Running, another cinematic droning piece, the guitar chimes like Hammock over a faint beat.
There are some really great moments on this record. However, i find that many of the songs are too busy -- there are so many layers going on, and sometimes every element doesn't quite mesh well. Also, there is sort of a formula here that is in effect in almost all songs -- they start off kind of mellow and grow along to eventually be overwhelmed by some harsher, IDM-esque electronics. Most of the songs repeat that pattern.
Still, there is potential here, and i bet that diehard fans of the post-rock genre will find much to enjoy.