Early & Often

Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense

Written by: DR on 27/09/2011 18:29:11

There are certain places in the world where you simply wouldn't expect a brooding post-rock band to come from. The famously sunny backdrop of California is one of those places, but the enigmatic Early & Often hail from there nonetheless. What's more, they don't even sound like a band who are playing this style for the sake of it. You would believe from their latest EP, "Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense", that they were from the dark, damp and dreary land of Scotland, or maybe California is just not as nice as you'd have thought?

It would be easy to label "Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense" as dark post-rock and leave it at that, it would be even easier still to say that if you loved Moving Mountains' "Pneuma" then you will like this, and although such a comparison does neither band favours, when listening to this EP it's a feeling I cannot quite shake. That's not a bad thing, and Early & Often are hardly cheap imitators, but both bands have the qualities that sound like they were conceived while night-gazing at someone's funeral.

Through the six songs and nearly-twenty-eight minutes, Early & Often attempt to seductively lull you into a numb state through their use of immaculately produced cinematic soundscapes, created by combining layers of sweeping instrumentation and impressively lush yet emotive vocals that don't distract from the overall grandiose of the compositions, but actually add to it. It's rare to find a vocalist in this field who can achieve this, but Jeff Wright manages to convincingly convey emotion while sustaining a fragile delicacy in his higher notes, like his voice could give way at any moment, that would rank him among the higher echelons of vocalists I have heard in this field.

The instrumental side to this band is good, too. With the help of immaculate production, their ambitious use of layers of instrumentation crafts intricate build-ups that don't lean too heavily on the typical guitar-based structures. The culmination of the vocals and the instrumentation is best exemplified in opener "Under The Phase", which, after a rather pointless three-minute-plus audio sample, utilizes minimalistic instrumental work and crooning vocals to build tension, before erupting in a wall of guitar-noise and the strained cries of Wright. Moments like that, of such raw emotion following a finely-detailed composition, are rare in post-rock especially, and it's worth every second of the nine-minutes it takes to arrive.

The seven minutes of "The Feast" are well-constructed, and while the rise/fall/rise of screaming guitars is a fairly over-played idea and it isn't a bad idea or poor execution of it, the problem lies in the fact that it doesn't quite have the same emotional intensity as the aforementioned opener, and therefore doesn't seize the listener's attention and ultimately doesn't quite justify its seven-minute runtime. With "False Victories" the band distance from the noisy in favour of pensive piano-dominated ballad-esque efforts where Wright's vocals really shine; this departure only serves to make the closer, "No Fiction", all the more effective as it fully launches Early & Often back into distorted walls of guitar-noise.

Despite all the positives, the biggest hindrance of this release is that, even though it's relatively short for the genre, it can take too long to get to the point. For instance, there are two "Interval" tracks that are completely purposeless, and the band also have a tendency to overplay their build-ups when they should be getting to the point.

Yet, with "Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense" Early & Often have proven that they can create genuine 'wow' moments, the kind that music of this ilk needs if it is to keep the listener coming back and to make you forget about the occasional long, drawn-out build up. It is those moments that push this EP from being good background music to being the kind of release that you can sink yourself into. Even if there are a few drawbacks that hold it back from the 'great' scores, this is definitely a space to watch.

Download: Under The Phase, False Victories
For The Fans of: Moving Mountains, Eaststrikewest, Mogwai, Mono
Listen: Bandcamp

Release Date 15.06.2011
Sell Your Heart

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