And So I Watch You From Afar – Gangs
by Nick Hugon (International Affairs), published November 14th 2011
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Instrumental music is a delicate art, and one that is perhaps not given the attention it deserves in rock, where the concept of a frontman is so alluring. There’s something to be said for the aura of the Robert Plants of today, but it’s far too easy to back up the argument that any artist without a vocalist doesn’t have the cultural appeal to make it big.
Instrumental music‘s presence is most recognized under the monumental umbrella of “rock music” within the post-rock genre that, while not necessarily instrumental, seeks out more formless, ambient melodies and is often better heard without vocal accompaniment.
Many post-rock bands do bring a healthy dose of rock and roll insanity to their music; bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky certainly feature enough riffing and the kind of song structure that you could claim that this is rock. But ever since Sigur Rós set the standard for post-rock and ambient music with 1999’s Ágætis Byrjun, the definition of the genre has changed. Artists sought to portray beauty and nostalgia over carnal energy, and while that’s in no way a bad thing, I don’t think I’d be out of line in asserting that most post-rock isn’t rock music at all.
I recently came across And So I Watch You From Afar, a band from Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is an instrumental rock band. But it doesn’t play ambient or post-rock music. It plays rock; face-melting, riff-rifling, drum-pounding rock.
Gangs, the band’s latest and second record, is forty-four minutes divided into 8 tracks of consistently enjoyable music. The opening track, “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION,” is a good indication of the band’s stylistic preferences on the whole. Geometric riffs steadily mutate with the aid of fiery drumming and tactfully layered guitars, and loud, cathartic climaxes would make great sing-songy pub anthems. That is – if there were any words to sing.
ASIWYFA is certainly capable of tender moments, however. “7 Billion People All Alive At Once” sounds like a pleasantly intoxicated Kumbaya moment (à la “Beautiful Day” by U2). “Homes – Ghost Parlor KA -6 to…” features a smooth math-rock riff to far less aggressive drumming than is featured on most of the record, that recurs on the nearly ten minute follow-up track “Homes – …Samara to Belfast.” “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION” and “Search:Party:Animal” also feature slower interlude sections.
And So I Watch You From Afar probably won’t get the kind of acclaim Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky have received, but has seen good work reap results. The band has toured with Them Crooked Vultures and played at 2011’s Reading, Eurockéennes and Bennicàssim, SXSW in 2010, and Pukkelpop and Oxegen in 2009. It’s a young band with considerable technical chops and a real knack for composition; ASIWYFA is definitely worth your attention.
Gangs, was released this past April by Irish label Richter Collective, and was released stateside by Sargent House on November 8.
Recommended Tracks: BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION, Gang (Starting Never Stopping), 7 Billion People All Alive At Once, Homes – …Samara to Belfast, Lifeproof