Upcdownc

Calaveras

Written by: DR on 16/02/2012 15:19:03

It has become a cliche to say that genre X is over-populous, generally lacking in creativity, or even stagnant. This cliche is as applicable to post-rock as it is any other popular genre. Upcdownc, from Medway, Kent, are seemingly aware of this, and as a result how difficult it can be for a band to establish themselves. Hell, that could be part of the reason they chose such a... ahem... 'creative' name in the first place (their full name is Up-c down-c left-c right-c abc+start). Moreover, it's probably why they attempted an opus as creative as they have intended "Calaveras" to be.

The beginning of the record is generally a gritty affair, with the opening three tracks rarely leaving a substantial amount of space for light to shine through. By drawing from constricted thunderous chords akin to the likes of Isis, perhaps even the darker ambient side of God Is An Astronaut, and utilising hardcore-influenced screaming, Upcdownc hope to create a bleak post-apocalyptic world around their instrumental math-rock base.

In an attempt to create a record as diverse as possible, they end up drawing from a myriad of different styles. In itself this isn't necessarily a drawback, it's merely a commendable display of artistic ambition. However, while they sometimes reap the rewards of incorporating multiple influences into a single song, it could be said that the rest of songs fall short just as often, which doesn't exactly make for a cohesive listening experience, especially when the album changes so drastically in shape and character. Upcdownc's execution is lagging behind their ambition over the course of "Calaveras".

"Wolves In The Walls" is as comprised of bad ideas as it is good ones. It sounds decidely like a solid hardcore song for the first two minutes, and seizes your attention by being so. Yet, the acoustic break that bridges the opening of the song with the following post-metal soundscapes is highly awkward and serves no purpose, except to hinder the momentum of the track. The shrieking guitar solo is one Upcdownc could do without, but in comparison with the horrifically misjudged Daft Punk-esque vocoder it sounds postively great. "Roman Horses" attemps to shed some light with an acoustic folky Mumford & Sons type offering, though with more recognisable post-rock melodies building in the background, but the tuneless vocals smother it out of any redeemable qualities.

Kicking off the second half of the album is "Monumental Mood Shift", which isn't quite as apt a title as one would hope, but its quiet/loud dynamic, introducing ambient electronics in conjunction with Explosions in the Sky guitar tones in the quiet, as they continue to explore metal and its various sub-genres in the loud, is on the whole a very decent song. Although all it really is, is a segue between the heaviness of the first half of the album and the more scenic road the second half treads. It barely feels like the same band when "Spectral Fires" - one of the stand out pieces due to its genuinely pretty combination of ambience, electronica and youthful guitar lines - comes around.

In subduing their crazy, frantic, often needless, desire to keep the listener on their toes, and allowing more focused, though not as creative, post-rock song writing to come through in the second half of "Calaveras", Upcdownc create songs that are simply more affecting. "Christmas '86" is straight-forward and uplifting enough that it could have been a discarded Explosions in the Sky track.

"(The Plains) Skeletal" hopes to become Upcdownc's epic, the kind of the song they would typically close off their live shows with, as they throw just about every influence they use on this album into it. Surprisingly, despite how jarring the relatively sharp transition from gorgeous tones to harsh hardcore vocals may seem in theory, the band don't slow on the pace or comprimise on the intensity once the song truly kicks in - this is a song that pulls no punches and wants to kick ass, and it succeeds.

The first half of "Calaveras" sees Upcdownc exploring their heavier side, the second half sees them exploring their slightly streamlined and more accessible post-rock sound, all closing off with the stand out song of the album (assuming you don't count the atrocious reprise effort, and I don't). When this band fail, when they do fail, isn't because they are unafraid of trying something a bit different or of widening their song-writing scope, it's simply in misjudging certain songs as needing more changes in flavour than they actually do. It's not a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, but too many ingredients spoiling the recipe. However, when they do get it right, as the second half demonstrates they can, Upcdownc might be on their way to becoming the force they zealously want to become.

Download: Spectral Fires, Christmas '86, (The Plains) Skeletal
For The Fans of: 65daysofstatic, Isis, If These Trees Could Talk, Explosions in the Sky, God Is An Astronaut
Listen: MySpace

Release Date 07.11.2011
Field Records

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