And So I Watch You From Afar – The Letters EP

M is for Minimalist album artworkBand ”“ And So I Watch You From Afar
EP ”“ The Letters EP
Release date ”“ Feb ’10
Label ”“ Smalltown America Records
Sounds like ”“ a roundhouse guitar to the face and a bass drum to the spine.

It’s always good to kick things into a higher gear. No-one wants to be stuck following down the same narrow linear tunnel; showboating the same moves and familiar scenes. If you’re Pennywise ”“ fair enough, you stick to what you know which is rehashing the same album over and over, albeit with a different title and more songs about sticking it to the man than the last one. For bands like And So I Watch You From Afar you forgo the use of a frontman and instead do your speaking through guitars and drumbeats. Instead of falling into what I see as a familiar pattern with most instrumental bands (although they don’t claim to be this), And So I Watch You From Afar have examined their past material, thought “ok, that was brutal”¦it was the kind of crushing heaviness we wanted”¦devastating rock music”¦what do we do now?” The answer of course lies in the 4 tracks they’ve created in the form of ‘The Letters EP.’  In certain places it’s not as dense as their self-titled debut. It cuts and changes pace with a spasmodic jerk; flitting from a pummelling barrage to intricate string plucks, before changing tact again and swerving towards a winding mass of prog-punk.

‘S is for Salamander’ begins with a disjointed guitar drone ”“ a see-sawing stagger of choppy riffs that envelop you like a warm, yet aggressively loud bear. When the drums enter the fray, they fight a valiant no-score draw battle with the groaning guitar for supremacy. It has the same pattern as an erratic heart monitor, just before the unfortunate individual goes into a cardiac arrest. This rickety build lasts for a good minute before it all stops and a cocky build enters play. Chris Wee’s superb drumming; all flamboyant rolls and wrist-flicking flair brings a positive marching beat to the And So I Watch You From Afar sound. The kick at the 1:45 mark is absolutely sublime as the snarling guitars cut in and out of each other with swirling grace and pinpoint accuracy. The bass roars behind this all, threatening to devour the drums, which become the dominant driving force. It ends with a somewhat low-end snarl of bass-heavy grunge rock excellence.

Despite ‘D is for Django The Bastard’ only being 2 minutes and 32 seconds long, it manages to cram in a hell of a lot of styles. For instance; first it starts all summery; melodic guitar tones a soft, sweeping haze of twinkling notes ”“ then the drums muscle in, stamping over everything with snotty, enraged post-punk disgust; before rolling into whistles, yelps, cat-calls, chants and distorted percussion, supplemented by jerking stabs of angry guitar notes. It then falls into a bouncing jazz beat, sounding like some act that’s soon to be introduced by Louis Balfour, jazz club style, before climaxing in a metallic build of scything guitar lines, those rolling drum blasts and a cacophony of ecstatic noise.

B is for B-Side’ sways uncontrollably. Once again, the drums take lead, whilst the irrepressible wash of the twin guitars and mangled bass hum angrily in the background, flooding the track with their down-tuned filth-encrusted salvo. Guitarists Rory Friers and Tony Wright create an unholy disharmony of strangled mesmerizing sounds from their instruments; bending and twisting this raucous chaos into a feedback soaked squawk of beauty.

‘K is for Killing Spree
’ is a closer to end all albums. Again, it starts with that subtle build; all calm, focused guitar plucks, allowing the drums to fade in and keeping a steady, regimented beat. It’s then that everything starts to go out of control ”“ as the drums finally find their stride and volume, so to do the guitars, churning out scrawling riff after scrawling riff with energetic prog-rock styling. There is a fair few amount of builds in this ”“ much like 65daysofstatic; ‘”¦Killing Spree’ relies on the construction and then destruction of sound. It’s like a huge wave, raised high above a lone surfer that then swoops down, crushing the poor bastard beneath its rolls of foam. The midpoint is just after the 3 minute mark, during which ASIWYFA snap the track in two. The first part ending in a turbulent mix of stuttered feedback and garbled drumming and a distorted whine that slams into the Mastadon-esque grunt of metallic barbarianism. But it’s CONTINUOUSLY broken down ”“ it suffers from ADHD; not content to follow the same path, the twists and relentless urgency are so focused and the closing 2 minutes is a spiraling noise-a-thon of unremitting resonance and shapes, sounding more like an army of musicians than the 4 determined noise-makers that make up And So I Watch You From Afar. Vocal-less rock music has never sounded more mesmerizing and destructive as this ”“ With these 4 tracks, And So I Watch You From Afar say more with their haste-fuelled barrage of instrumental prowess than most bands manage in a lifetime ”“ easily the best thing they’ve recorded and sets an impressive outlook for their 2nd album.

Links

And So I Watch You From Afar
Smalltown America Records

By Ross Macdonald

Lizard Hips

Lizard Hips

Junior Vice President of Keep It Fast. In other news: I work in social media, talk about dinosaurs, run a book club and have amazing facial hair. I am also a male man who is still not dead.

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