Monday, 5 July 2010

Album Review: Steering By Stars - Cables [2010, Independent]


I get the feeling that people either love or hate the post-rock genre. I also get the feeling that many people simply don’t know enough about it, considering that it's not exactly the most radio friendly music going round. Have you ever actually heard of Mogwai song being played on the radio? I guess it is fortunate that I happen to really enjoy listening to bands such as the aforementioned Mogwai and other masters of the genre like Explosions in the Sky. For that reason, I get excited when I see and hear Australian bands who embrace such influences.

The debut long player from Adelaide quartet Steering by Stars, Cables is notable on such a basis. Comparitively few contemporary Australian bands embrace the post-rock genre. Decoder Ring is an obvious exception. At a stretch, you might include PVT (or Pivot as they were once known) or My Disco. Mr Maps is a great local Brisbane example.

On first listen, Cables seems reminiscent of paths walked by Decoder Ring. Early track ‘Spirits’ sounds like it would be found on Decoder Ring's They Blind the Stars and the Wild Team. Standout track ‘Closer’ comes fairly early in the mix and shares a similar genealogy. However, 'Closer' is as good as anything produced by the band’s contemporaries, featuring a slow burning instrumental weaving and yearning vocal melody that builds to the triumphant conclusion that seems so common within the genre. It is visceral stuff.





While often elative, there is always a danger that such formulas might become overwrought. Thankfully, Steering by Stars seem keenly aware of this potential pitfall and vary the record accordingly. ‘Blush Response’ uses layers of keyboard sounds and effects to create a reflective mood while ‘Gloom’ is nothing more than a instrumental piano ballad. As such, both tracks are well placed to take the listener back down to ground level after the peak of the aforementioned 'Closer'.

Like many of the individual songs, the record builds towards crescendo. “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” (whose vocal lines perhaps strangely reminds me of Scottish indie group Arab Strap) begins what I believe the strongest part of the record. Drawn out over four songs, the ending stanzas speak with both brooding and unkempt enthusiasm. ‘These Knives’ begins with a frantic and overlapping delay effects before settling into a rock groove. I'd wager that it is this song that could really work well within the live setting. ‘Ether’, perhaps the most radio friendly song on the record, embraces a more indie pop mentality while closing track ‘Residue’ is a great track in isolation, but even more stunning as the concluding part of a four-part movement. These songs all seem to connect so effortlessly together that they almost seem like one large composition.

Indeed, the entire record plays out like a sine wave. It goes through sonic peaks and valleys, allowing the listener to be engaged by the differing layers of sounds, timbres, and textures. This metaphor is not a reflection on the quality of the record. That graph will be most certainly linear, if not exponential, for some listeners.

I feel that one shouldn’t constrain a band by its alleged influences. If you’re a fan of the post-rock genre, Decoder Ring, Mogwai, you’re going to get something out of this record. If you’re a fan of acts like Deerhunter or Sigur Ros, you’re going to get something out of this. Even fans of more esoteric groups like the Mars Volta might even appreciate some of the tones that shine through. I’m not going to end by saying this band are the Australia’s ‘next big thing’ (doesn’t every record review end this way?), but Steering By Stars Cables is an enjoyable record and worthy of your pocket money.

Have a listen to 'Ether' by clicking here.

The record is available both electronically and on vinyl (no cd?) on July 8th. Keep your eyes out on their website, where you can grab a mp3 copy of 'Closer' on the media page. Fellow blogger Bianca also did a great interview with the band recently which you might find interesting, just click here to access.

8 comments:

James Pusey said...

It's really warming to see an artist decide to forsake the more dance or radio friendly strains of alternative music for something perhaps a little more detached and far less marketable. I might consider buying this, cheers.

Darragh said...

You're up late James. Yeah, I suppose it is notable to see a band embrace such a genre which may not make them money in the short (though, this remains to be seen). Still, one can only hope that they could emulate the likes of Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky and make a living out of making such music. Who knows?

Elliott said...

They are really good guys, i recommend buying the album. Their sound has also grown a lot as those recordings were done over a year ago. I don't think they are so much focused on their 'market' as much as their music, no matter i think they've created a really impressive sound for themselves

Darragh said...

Hrm, there was a post made a guy called Elliot which has disappeared for some reason (damn blogger!). Here is the text of the post.

Elliott has left a new comment on your post "Album Review: Steering By Stars - Cables [2010, In...":

They are really good guys, i recommend buying the album. Their sound has also grown a lot as those recordings were done over a year ago. I don't think they are so much focused on their 'market' as much as their music, no matter i think they've created a really impressive sound for themselves

Darragh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bianca said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm loving this band at the moment. There's really not enough Australian post rock out there at the moment. It's a shame this probably won't be heard by enough people though.

Darragh said...

Ahh finally comments work again!

Elliot - yeah, I really dig them the more and more I listen. Next big thing?

Bianca - No worries. Keep up the good work

Elliott said...

aha, they are for me at least