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God Is An Astronaut - All is Violent, All is Bright CD (album) cover

ALL IS VIOLENT, ALL IS BRIGHT

God Is An Astronaut

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.95 | 117 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars Though I am a relatively new- and late-comer to the "Post Rock/Math Rock" and seemingly related "Experimental/Post Metal" Progressive Rock sub-genres, I am fascinated and enjoying these two areas immensely. IMO, here is where "progress" is truly being made in music--where boundaries are being challenged, the envelope being pushed. The work of Sigur Rós and Toby Driver alone lead the way in what I call the groundbreaking, mind-opening progress happening in music recently. The 60s saw The Beatles, Lou Reed, and King Crimson pushing the envelope. The 70s had Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, and Christian Vander exploring untested territories. The 80s saw the compositions and productions of the likes of David Byrne, Mickey Hart, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel and others trying to bring attention to and appreciation for musics, instruments and musicians of the world. (The 80s also saw the advent of the computer age with things like 'midi,' 'sequencing,' 'sampling' and the Fairlight exerting considerable influence, while on the quiet artists like David Sylvian and Robert Fripp continued to test sound in the forms and structures that we call 'music.') In the 90s we saw Mark Hollis, Sigur Rós, and Radiohead pushing boundaries. Which brings us to the most recent decade, the first of the 21st Century, in which we were witnesses to the innovation, courage, and artistry of Toby Driver (an asterisk of mention to the members of Animal Collective.) While my diatribe admittedly reflects an Anglo-American-centricity, I hope you readers will accept the fact that, for good or not, most of the music made publicly accessible through commerce has been able to rise to the public eye (and ear) through Anglo-American corporate endorsement. With all of this in mind, my review of God Is An Astronaut's "All Is Violent, All Is Bright" constitute's my first in this sub-genre. The reason being, it is the first "Post Rock/Math Rock" album that I have heard that I absolutely love start to finish, every song in the collection. No album from Sigur Rós, Red Sparowes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Russian Circles, Mogwai, Mono, Don Caballero, 65Daysof Static, Do Make Say Think, or Explosions in the Sky has captivated me so well as "All Is Violent, All Is Bright." ULVER's "Shadows of the Sun" is the only one yet I've heard that I like more, but it is a very different experience from the Post Rock/Math Rock experience I receive from the others mentioned. I would not even place "Shadows of the Sun" in this category, it is so different. Some are Post Rock/Math Rock album/artists are a bit too harsh/too metallic for me (Russian Circles, Godspeed come to mind), some too repetitive or formulaic in their patterns and structures (Mono, Explosions, even, at times, Sigur Ros). A few are less consistent with the high standard/quality (Mogwai, Do Make Say Think, and 65Days). For some reason I prefer Red Sparowes (especially "Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun"), much of Sigur Rós ("AB," "Takk," and "( )" [untitled]), and this God Is An Astronaut album. What I like so much about this album is its diversity. While Post Rock/Math Rock does seem to have its formulaic structures, the songs on this album each have their own identities, each have disparate styles and 'influences.' Plus, I have to admit, I rather like their relative brevity. The tendency within this subgenre is to go a bit long. Once or twice an album is great, but every song eight to twelve minutes? No thank you. Unfortunately, I just don't have time to listen to songs like that all day. I also quite enjoy GIAA's use of vocals. Like a fifth instrument--another keyboard or a violin or something.

1. "Fragile" is the album's introductory piece that reminds me very much of an older SIGUR RÓS song. Nice slow beat, building slowly, with a very SIGUR RÓS-like use of voices, even through the requisite slam of drums, cymbols, bass and synths which arrives at the 2:40 mark and then disengages a minute later for a very slow and peaceful fade. Short, sweet, and to the point.

2. "All Is Violent, All Is Bright" is right out of a CURE playbook: rolling bass, guitar effects, background keyboard effects, same drums, Cure cords and definitely a Cure pace. Beautiful song. Awesome finale beginning at the 3:15 mark. Go crazy, Robert! I mean, Kinsella brothers! This one could've bee a little longer. 8/10

3. "Forever Lost" is BUDD/ENO meets MASSIVE ATTACK. Great soundtrack music. Great atmospheric piano and synths. Typical build and climax. 8/10

4. "Fire Flies and Empty Skies" begins with more fast-tempo CURE-ish bass and guitar until the drums enter followed by the song's melody played on sliding up and down a guitar's fretboard. Something is so pleasantly familiar about this song and its melodies. The isolated distorted bass beginning at 3:15 mark and flowing to the end as the song's outro section is a great touch. Some OCEANSIZE feel here, too. 9/10

5. "A Deafening Distance" slows the pace down until the drums and guitar power chords double time at the 2:40 mark. Great synth melody eeking its presence out from behind the rhythm section. 7/10

6. "Infinite Horizons" slows it down to an almost ambient pace with a very ROBIN GUTHRIE-like feel and sound. Nice. 7/10

7. "Suicide by Star" Begins like an ominous yet intriguing soundtrack song. A Jason Bourne theme or something. Builds with the drums and lead guitar moving up to the foreground at the 1:30 mark. Great song, great feel, my favorite song on the album. Reminds me of U2's early experimental work with BRIAN ENO and DANIEL LANOIS--like "Boomerang" and others from the "Unforgettable Fire" period. Awesome. I love the end/climax where the bass drum is pumping frenetically while the ride cymbol paces calmly along at the same slow pace with which it started. 9/10

8. "Remembrance Day" begins with quite a different feel than the rest of the album--like a CHROMA KEY piece--with piano, bass keyboards and very treated/synthesized vocals. Then at the 1:48 mark the woofer-low synthetic bass, drums, and sliding guitar sounds enter. Wow! Space has never felt so cool! Then the 2:48 mark sees the song take a different turn into a more upbeat, uptempo, up-power level with a new melody line introduce on synths(?). The song finally decays back to the echoed piano. Cool and unusual! 9/10

9. "Dust and Echoes" again begins with such a different feel. Kind of pop-mainstream with weird synth washes flowing, floating behind the rhythm section. If you've ever heard the great music of PERPLEXA and/or WEST INDIAN GIRL, this has that same awesome, upbeat psychedelic feel. The song builds by the 2:40 point, vocals again serving a very cool and important role, before interestingly decaying early into an unusually long (for this genre) fadeaway. Great song. Another fave. 9/10

10. "When Everything Dies" is the album's only real long song (10:00 minutes). Beginning with another HAROLD BUDD-treated by BRIAN EMO piano, the main difference is the eerie and unsettling presence of a synth bass. A shift occurs at the 3:00 mark into a more pounding, speedy version of the intro piano them joined by a very treated, almost electronic MASSIVE ATTACK-like drum riff. Some FRIPP-like guitar arpeggios join at the 4:25 mark as the background rhytmitists build the intensity of their chords until 5:20 everybody drops out save the drums, bass and synth-wash, which then also drop out and fade until from 5:55 to 7:30 we are left without sound! Everything has apparently died! The first sounds to reenter our aural atmosphere are synthesized waves on a beach sound followed by a computer-robot sounding synth riff floating around the L-R aural screen. By 9:00 a piano, very distant drum beat, and new synth make their presences known before finally all fading away in the end. Weird, eerie and interesting. Not as heavy as ULVER's "Shadows of the Sun" LP and message, but interesting. 7/10

11. "Disturbance." Another ENO-BUDD sounding piece--as if from the "Apollo" album, or from the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack--definitely presents as if we are in space or on a space journey. More of a concept finisher than a song with it's own interesting presence. 6/10

Great album; my favorite yet from this subgenre. 9 out of 10 becoming 5 stars for the sake of it's high consistency and for being "the standard" by which I will measure other albums from this sub-genre.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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