“Cinematic” is an adjective that is often tossed around when it comes to post-rock music. Fitting, given the grandiose crescendos and sky reaching soundscapes that have come to typify the genre. It would only make sense that some of its most seminal acts have made the crossover into soundtrack work – Explosions In The Sky have scored four films (including Friday Night Lights and Lone Survivor) and one television series, while Mogwai’s familiar noodlings have graced works ranging from documentaries on legendary enigmatic footballers to contemporary Italian crime dramas.
This adjective has been applicable to the music of And So I Watch You From Afar ever since the mathy strains of their self-titled debut album first hit the airwaves. However, it’s never been more applicable than it is to their latest full-length, ‘Jettison’.
No doubt as inspired by film scores as their peers, the album was conceived by guitarist Rory Friers as an audio-visual project and brought to life by the band in collaboration with Connor O’Boyle and the Arco String Quartet, visual artist Sam Wiehl, and featuring cryptic, spoken-word dialogue from singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and Clutch frontman Neil Fallon. The end result is the band’s most ambitious work to date – a 40-minute opus that incorporates symphonic movements, elements of African highlife music, Irish trad/folk and the colossal riffage we have come to expect from the Northern Irish quartet.
ASIWYFA’s work has always been innately hopeful, eschewing the complex navel-gazing inclination of their contemporaries in favour of seeking moments of ecstasy through interlocking melodies, rhythmic propulsion and interplay. They’ve always made post-rock fun. On ‘Jettison’, they make it especially beautiful. The collaboration with fellow Belfast natives Arco String Quartet could easily have lead to a case of too many cooks. Instead, the strings are simpatico with the core instrumentation and layered throughout graciously, as the subtle, climbing opening two-parter Dive demonstrates.
While each of the album’s nine tracks can be enjoyed individually, ‘Jettison’ works best when observed as a single piece. This is particularly evident from the math-rock freakout on Lung bleeding seamlessly into In Air, or Chris Wee’s closing flourish on Submerge paving the way for the frantic Emerge, two tracks that could just as comfortably appear on any other ASIWYFA album as this one.
It is the penultimate title track that best represents the album’s expansive sound, its six minutes boasting superhuman drumming, fiddly guitar counterpoints and a layer of arresting strings and giving way to the sweet-tempered closer A.D. Poet.
Perhaps not a complete overhaul, but certainly a fresh approach, ‘Jettison’ is the most ambitious album ASIWYFA have released to date, combining newfound influences and instrumentation with a more considered approach to their typically monolithic, labyrinthine sound.