Thursday, September 10, 2009

Be One of Us and Hear No Noise - Metavari

Be One of Us and Hear No Noise

Crossroads of America Recordings.

SCQ Rating: 66%

“It will be an adventure that will open new sights in familiar surroundings,” claims an ancient sample that opens Be One of Us and Hear No Noise, as its first song, ‘Kings Die Like Other Men’, builds from electronic keys and cut-up guitar to peak on the shoulders of a live percussion jam. Now my experience in turntablism tells me that when samples aren’t chosen to pinpoint an author’s focus of interest (be it political or wrapped in the theme of its parent album), it’s often chosen because it sounds bizarre, even ironic, when removed from its source material. The Avalanches’ Since I Left You was all about that, as was much of the early Ninja Tunes output. While Metavari, a Midwestern post-rock trio, admittedly have few turntablist moments on this latest release, there’s a palpable irony in that aforementioned sample… one that I pray isn’t lost on the band.

Put frankly, the quote is a near-perfect summation of Be One of Us and Hear No Noise; an album that envelops the sound of several well-known acts who operate on a similar post-rock/electronic fringe while providing their own “new sights” along the way. Many of their swirling emotive tracks (‘Pacific Lights’, above all) act as leaner, slicker takes of Explosions in the Sky’s epic instrumentals, while others (‘Kings Die Like Other Men’, the title track) are almost trademarked Album Leaf territory, utilizing his pristine electronic piano and backing beats before they break into a momentum that reveals their three-piece band set-up. Even the richly contemplative ‘The Priest, The Shore and The Wait’ feels locked between an ambitious Album Leaf and a sloppy Keith Kenniff of Helios. So yes, Metavari offer “familiar surroundings” in bulk but little of it feels lifted so much as borrowed as foundation for their eventual, dependable climax-building. In fact, a few slices of Be One of Us and Hear No Noise are real adventures, trading echoed menace for childhood innocence on ‘Shimmer Marina’ and indulging some Icelandic inspiration with the vocal-shards of ‘Twilight Over Akaishi’. These tracks find Metavari successfully scouring new terrain with similar tactics, which to me implies that the compositions here aren’t the issue so much as the cloying, safe arrangements.

As with Helios, The Album Leaf and Explosions in the Sky, Metavari also now share a stake in the debate of whether modern post-rock has any vitality left. Be One of Us and Hear No Noise sounds fully loaded on early listens: elegant keys and chimes rounded out by bass and guitar while fluttering electronics fill the gaps of comfortable post-rock pacing. Yet like other contemporary post-rock acts who seem limited to romancing widescreen, hipster imaginations, this new release works best at surface level and should adequately soundtrack a lot of upcoming television and film work. For listeners in search of the genre’s next wave, hold tight… and for fans of easy-listening post-rock, let me introduce you to Metavari.

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