"You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake." – Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
When Mogwai released their Helicon EP
over 6 years ago, they might have disputed this statement. Helicon was
about as unique and beautiful as guitar music seemingly could ever be. Serene
ambiance building towards searing intensity would eventually become a trademark.
Only Mogwai forgot to copyright,
and so it snowed. And snowed hard. Other bands emerged such as Mono, Explosions
in the Sky, and Stafrann Hakon with their own take on the Mogwai blueprint.
Then came Electronica. A sub-genre of a sub-genre whereby artists such as M83,
Guitar, and Ulrich Schnauss pursued similar interests forgoing guitars in favour
of keyboards and the studio. The effect of all this, happily for fans, is a
veritable ice blizzard of electronica and post rock, enough to keep even the
most demanding dreamers blissed out for hours at a time.
Cut to Ireland 2002, where the brothers Kinsella formed God Is An Astronaut.
In the short time since then, God Is An Astronaut have perfected their epic,
melancholic sound, added a drummer and built a reputation as one of Ireland's
most blistering live acts. Outside their native isle they remain something
of an enigmatic secret.
All is Violent, All is Bright is a title that conjures images
more suited to those legendary live shows than this dreamy album. I might have
been tempted to name it, 'All is languid, all is haze', for this is less explosion
and rather more sky. Not, I hasten to add, that this should put you off. I've
followed many a career of great band that tried to pack too many punches and
never learned the power of 'quiet' until it was too late. God Is An Astronaut
harness their quietness like an ancient mariner with only the faintest of breeze,
and takes you on a voyage you never felt possible.
Fragile is the album's Helicon. Slowly materializing out of
the ether, it is equally as familiar as it is breathtaking. An elegant chimer
at first, it leaves this listener windswept at the end of its four and a half
minutes. While God Is An Astronaut are ostensibly wordless, I occasionally
detect a coo or sigh not unlike a looped Jonsi from Sigur
Ros. The effect is
rather nice. Am I alone in thinking they should employ rather more of this?
Forever Lost seems something of a signature tune, appearing as it does
on both album and EP.
A wise choice too. Tranquil keys at first, urgent guitars afterwards, and to
top it all, a catchy little number. Fire Flies is surprising in that
it actually rocks unashamedly for a few minutes underpinned by insistent drumming
(not unlike Bowie's Modern Love). Yet on A Deafening Distance normal
service is resumed with another swaggering guitar epic. This is the heart of
the album for my money. Subsequent tracks mine similar veins. The song titles
hint at landscape, distance, space, and loss; but the music conveys it all
unswervingly. Stars die and horizons are never quite reached, but it's beautiful
to listen to.
The Irish Sea, I fear, will not hold them for too much longer.