Underworld, London, UK - 21/5
Stop Torturing Yourself EP
Written by: DR on 08/09/2012 20:24:19
During the warm up for the release of their second LP, "Who You Are Is Not Enough", Athletics took the unusual approach of releasing a short four-song EP comprised entirely of versions of their songs reworked on the piano. The chosen four songs make up the centrepiece of "Why Aren't I Home?", allowing Athletics to show how they can take the guitar-driven soundscapes of that debut and rework them for an acoustic format.
In some respects "Stop Torturing Yourself" is an unconventional release (the timing, too, took me by surprise as it's only two weeks prior to the release of their second LP), and it's even one you might expect to be little more than a novelty to appeal to their fans - fans who have become accustomed to Athletics as a post-rock band that have more in common with Moving Mountains than Ben Folds. Yet, you'll be surprised to discover that not only is the execution of translating their songs to such a stripped back format impressive, but the overall emotional weight of the EP's highlights resonate greatly, meaning one could argue these versions of "Speak For Everyone" and "Jordan" are superior to even the originals.
"Why Aren't I Home?" is an excellent record, but like many of its ilk it focuses more on the greater soundscape; it's why the vocals are largely atmospheric in keeping with the texture of the song/album. However, the piano versions are incredibly bare, raw, and open, meaning you focus more on the relationship between the lyrics and vocals than you might have previously. The rise and fall of "Speaking For Everyone", particularly the stunning vocals during the higher parts, is perfectly paced, and it concludes with the most emotive vocal work of the band's career thus far as the cries "Have mercy on everyone but me" agonisingly fade out. Moreover, I'd never realised how great the lyrics of "Jordan" are until now. It's a song that doesn't announce emotion as much as it suggests it, but through the powerful vocal performance you can tell the protagonist cuts a figure caught in a downward spiral as he finally questions "Is a man really alive if he can't control his own life?".
The two tracks not mentioned, "Fairview" and "I Am Withdrawl", display the risk involved with a venture such as this, as they are somewhat underwhelming being so raw, not only compared to the originals but especially as they are placed between the hauntingly beautiful efforts "Speaking For Everyone" and "Jordan". Ultimately, though, what the best moments of "Stop Torturing Yourself" prove is the excellence and versatility of Athletics as artists, that they can increase their musical pallet, their artistic scope, and evolve - still making powerful music in the process.
Download: Speaking For Everyone, Jordan
For The Fans of: piano versions of post-rock songs
Listen: Deep Elm Digital
Release Date 12.06.2012
Deep Elm Records