Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 3/12
Collapse Under The Empire
Shoulders & Giants
Written by: DR on 01/11/2011 13:59:58
As the post-rock genre has become as crowded as it currently is, hopeful bands will try their hardest just to conceive an album worthy of being attributed with words such as 'cinematic'. Collapse Under The Empire have gone one further, and are trying to create two albums worthy of being heralded as such. "Shoulders & Giants" is the first part of an ambitious two-part concept that thematically deals with human existence, advancement, a life of freedom, isolation and finally death. The second part, "Sacrifice & Isolation", will be released next year.
With their second album, "The Sirens Sound", Collapse Under The Empire proved they could take on the generic wall-of-sound post-rock template and execute it admirably. On their recent split EP with Mooncake, CUTE deviated from that sound, becoming more willing to shorten their song-lengths and include electronica influences. In all honesty, I should have seen "Shoulders & Giants" coming. It's the next natural step in their growth, as it not only maintains what they have done in the past but also shows the band's desire to progress.
"Shoulders & Giants" is that sweet spot where the path leading away from their epic post-rock past and the one leading towards an electronic, soundtrack-esque future meet. The soaring guitars haven't been done away with, but they are dialled back, which creates room in the scope for other elements. By relying less on walls of guitar sound, and by adding greater textures through the use of electronics and keyboards, CUTE now provoke thrilling tension within the listener. This album should, in all honesty, be adopted as the score for the next Hollywood thriller blockbuster.
At first glance, what makes "Shoulders & Giants" grab you is how post-rock, electronica and even classical elements have been combined so immaculately, and ultimately produced to perfection. Opener "Shoulders" is a finely-constructed mesh of garbled synths, off-kilter drum-machine beats, colourful guitar-patterns and stirring electronics. Although the song is actually surprisingly restrained in comparison to what lies ahead, making it arguably the weakest effort on the album, it serves its purpose in the sense that it eases you into "Shoulders & Giants". In what is one of the highlights, the immersing "There's No Sky" combines the typical gorgeous post-rock guitar sensibilities and minimalistic electronics which culminate together in one of the few 'true' crescendos of the album. Yet, unusually, it's not the finish that captures you; it's the beautiful and delicate build-up.
That's a theme that dominates "Shoulders & Giants". Whereas a lot of their post-rock contemporaries are striving to re-hash the final, powerful climax, the two members of Collapse Under The Empire are masterful composers - they know how to engage the listener in the build-ups instead. If there is one small criticism to be aimed at this album, it's that the songs are all of a similar pace; however, all this is really indicative of is a band hitting their stride, and as a result they are establishing a corner of the post-rock scene as their own. Now let's see where they go with "Sacrifice & Isolation"!
Download: There's No Sky, Disclosure
For The Fans of: God Is An Astronaut, 65daysofstatic, Thrice's "Water"
Release Date 21.10.2011