Listening to the taut, lightning-quick interplay of instrumental rock band North End on their new album Alpha State, it seems impossible to imagine they did not record it in the same room feeding off each other’s energy, making eye contact, and communicating in the seemingly telepathic way of kindred spirits who are used to performing together. But that is hot how the new record came together at all. Whereas the band members were once co-located within a 20 mile radius near Philadelphia, life changes scattered them around the country forcing them to find new ways to collaborate if they were to continue, a challenge they embraced with the same unbridled enthusiasm that characterizes their music.

Life changes quickly, in a positive way, if you let it, and Alpha State is a culmination of these changes manifesting into the style of music we love to write, play and share….Drums were tracked in KB’s basement, guitars, some keys, and bass were tracked at Pete’s house, mixes were generated by Kam while still in an RV in Yellowstone and tracks were mastered by Paul Gold of Salt Mastering in Greenpoint Brooklyn. If you listen to the closing moments of “Imperial” you can hear the faint sound of rain captured by a single microphone in the park as Kam wrapped up the final edits during mixing.” – North End

Continue reading “North End – Alpha State [AM 800 Sound]”

Kusanagi is an instrumental rock band from Liverpool, and with their second EP, ‘They Will Come Back For You….’, they deliver a rousing and irresistible set of progressive/math/post rock jams that will have you wearing out the repeat button on your favorite music player.

The arrangements here are inventive, requiring a high level of energy, musical telepathy, and precision timing, which the the quartet of Alan Caulton, Ben Davis, Dan Hunt, & Dean Caffery demonstrate consistently throughout.  As admirable (and fun) as that is, what I find especially impressive is the range the band demonstrates as the album progresses.

As if drawing in a deep breath, the sound of blowing wind fills the first ten seconds of the album before the opening track ‘Spires’ shoots out of the gate like a hydraulic launch roller coaster right into an adrenaline rush of crunching riffs, rapid progressions, taut bass lines, and staccato drum fills.  The thrill ride continues as math rock segues into post rock with the power-chord laden ‘What fools these mortals’ and back again with the scintillating intro to ‘Rhinoceros’.

It is several minutes into this song that we are introduced to another side of the band’s sound as the pace slows to feature acoustic rhythms and clean, shimmering electric guitar (think Signal Hill).  These bucolic moments in the middle of ‘Rhinoceros’ and the song that follows, ‘Danxia’, are lovely and add welcome depth & breadth to each. Another pleasant surprise is the bonus title track which  shows the band are quite capable of creating ambient, cinematic soundscapes as well. 

So perhaps ‘They Will Come Back For You​.​.​.’ is not so much a roller coaster ride as a drive through a winding mountain road in finely tuned sports car, letting the listener experience moments of satisfying exhilaration without forgetting to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  I know I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  Highly recommended.

Ordering/Download: https://kusanagi.bandcamp.com/album/they-will-come-back-for-you

Philadelphia instrumental rock band North End unleash their new 5 track EP “Cognoscere” today.  I say unleash rather than release because this record bolts right out of the gate and doesn’t let up until the last note.   There are no brooding atmospheres, euphoric crescendos, or long musical walkabouts here.   Whereas many post rock bands stop to smell the roses, as it were, North End opts for the high speed downhill slalom while the countryside goes by in a blur.  “Cognoscere” is a 20 minute thrill ride packed with swirling call and response guitar lines and frenetic, aerobic drumming and it will put a smile on your face once you catch your breath.

While “Cognoscere” might be loosely considered post rock and will appeal to fans of post rock, it is really more accurate to call it instrumental math rock.  And therein lies the method that goes with the madness.   It may be fast and fun, but look past the sheer rush of the music and there are well constructed complex progressions and precise disciplined playing.   If you have not experienced this style of music before, it is something like hearing people talking in an unfamiliar language.  Conversations sound unnaturally fast at first, but as one learns the vocabulary and grammatical constructs, the same conversations suddenly seem to slow down.  Of course, what changed was not the pace of the conversation, but the ability of the mind to assimilate it at the same speed at which which it is spoken.   In both cases, if one slows down the quick, natural flow, there is substance and structure.

I particularly enjoyed the opening track, ‘Miles Dyson’ which is full of hairpin turns, accelerating guitar lines, intricate drum patterns, and staccato double bass fills.  ‘Gabardine’ and ‘Test of Thyme’ have a slightly more airy, searching feel, but then the pedal goes to the floor for the title track to set up the expansive, and almost anthemic, closer ‘Warm Winter’.

Kudos to North End for bringing something fresh and exciting to the genre and delivering it with brio and skill.   You can find “Cognoscere” on North End’s Bandcamp page and while you are there, I recommend also checking out their Novmber 2011 release, “Atlantica”.

Cognoscere on Bandcamp