Monday, 3 November 2014
Album Review - Remember Remember - Forgetting The Present
It is at the 3.40 mark in Blabbermouth, Forgetting The Present's opener, when 'it' happens. Some albums take a few tracks in for 'it' to happen, or 'it' happens on the opening moment of the first track. 'It' is something that I can't quite describe, but I am going to try - it's that moment that makes you stop and start listening. Now, of course you're listening to the track, but there is a difference between listening and listening, and those 'it' moments are the ones that remind you why you like music, why you sit there cataloguing when these moments happen for a review, why you rush to listen to a crappy YouTube stream through your phone's speakers when a band announces a new track, and why you're reading this very review. Those are the very reasons why we do this, right?
And Remember Remember's third album deploys one in the first track, like it's no big deal. The reason why this feels like one of those 'it' moments is because of the stunning previous three minutes and thirty nine seconds of tense introduction. It would be a serious disservice to say that Blabbermouth is an 'intro' track because of that 'it' moment, but it bleeds straight into La Mayo, the album's second track, and the two feel symbiotic. The off kilter drumming on La Mayo, with a low rise of synths in the background, is an early stand out moment on the album. The tense build up and resolution of the tension is one of the key aspects of Forgetting The Present, which shows a song craft at it's highest standard, without sounding like it has been engineered. It's an organic rise and fall or an ebb and flow that makes the analogue instruments, like the live drumming and bass, mix with a rumble of deeper keys and the processed arpeggiated piano that runs through La Mayo.
The band has been described in reviews of this and other albums as being 'proggy' and 'post-rock' which are two quite different genres and it is safe to say that Remember Remember don't embrace those labels on this album and shed them with gleeful abandon. Using those phrases as touchstones for this record seems like laziness to me. Like Boards of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest, Forgetting The Present feels like a soundtrack to an unmade movie. It is well known that BoC actually aimed for this, taking cues from the work of John Carpenter, but Remember Remember forge their own path - to call something cinematic feels like a cop-out too, but that is exactly the impression that I get from Forgetting The Present and the album's single Magnets, a slow and eerie example, builds this feeling almost to bursting point. The restraint shown here might be why it feels this way.
The Old Ways furthers the slow restraint of Magnets with it's mixture of flute, acoustic guitar, and the rattle-free snare as it winds it's way through a rising crescendo of repeated percussive elements on it's way to a fitting climax. A mid-album stand out however is the melody drenched Pterodactyl. Slipping under at sub four minutes long, the track has a lot of the same hallmarks that the related side-project Happy Particles, featuring band members Steven Kane, Graeme Ronald and James Swinburne, brought to the front, but at a faster pace and it serves the band well. The album's slower moments are reflective and introspective, something that instrumental music tends to lend itself to when there is nothing but melody to engender a tone and feeling. Why You Got A Blue Face opens up towards a sound not unlike Remember Remember's label owners Mogwai, with the crashing sound of guitar and percussion working their way to a peak.
On certain albums the bleeding of tracks into one another can seem like a bit of a gimmick, but on a release that feels as whole as this does, it is a thematic sigh of relief. Even on the one left turn, Purple Phase, with light Spanish sounding acoustic guitar at the front of a obfuscated production, feels at home at the back end of the album. The glorious daybreak of synths and percussion that have an almost call and response effect later on in the track feels like something truly new, an innovation that brings a sonic difference to the album, and makes the melodies that run through the album stand out. It is easy sometimes for instrumental music to fall back on repetition of motifs and simple melody, and Remember Remember's style and execution manages to avoid that entirely by using a raft of instruments in an inventive way that compels. It is only on the nine minute long album closer Frozen Frenzy does it feel like we've heard most of this before, but it doesn't detract from what could be seen as a deserved victory lap, as it slowly recedes like a vanishing tide, leaving behind a random pattern of rippled sand. The album, at 55 minutes in eight tracks, could have had this track left off, but that’s a very minor quibble. When the only complaint you have is that there’s too much of a good thing, you know that you’re listening to something very impressive.
It is very safe to say that Forgetting The Present is the most cohesive album the group has released. The impressive start-up sounds of the self-titled debut and the brilliance shown on The Quickening has been polished and expanded on to a greater degree on Forgetting The Present. This is not only one of the most impressive instrumental albums of the year, but one of the stand out albums released, hands down.
- Mark Shields
Remember Remember - Forgetting The Present is out now via Rock Action Records and is available on CD and LP from all good record shops and as a digital download from all online music retailers.