Underworld, London, UK - 21/5
Collapse Under The Empire
Fragments of a Prayer
Written by: DR on 20/09/2012 21:49:02
Between 2011's "Shoulders & Giants" and (hopefully) 2013's "Sacrifice & Isolation", two albums that are two halves of a concept, is "Fragments of a Prayer", German duo Collapse Under The Empire's latest opus. Having released an LP every year since 2009, not only is the inevitable arrival of a new CUTE record every year one of the few consistencies in music, but so is the consistently high level of quality their output has maintained thus far. This trend continues with "Fragments of a Prayer".
At the time, "Shoulders & Giants" was their finest work to date. Often abandoning the familiar guitar-centric format so accustomed with instrumental music, in favour of composing soundscapes built from layers upon layers of wide-ranging musical and cinematic elements, "Shoulders..." represented a level of cinematic-soundtrack-esque intricacy rarely applied in instrumental music . "Fragments of a Prayer" simultaneously continues in this vein while bringing back more recognisable guitar-fuelled post-rock elements, ultimately combining the best of both worlds: The accessibility of their early work with the art rock level of ambition found in their more recent work.
As "Fragments..." is CUTE polishing their sound, everything great about them, so far, is apparent: The soaring post-rock tendencies of old, the cinematic qualities of new, and the consistently impeccable textures. The most epic post-rock song since Sleepmakeswaves' "a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun", "The Beyond", is the finest example of this. The familiar build/climax format is given new life with a build up that relies very little on repeated guitar progressions, instead favouring sublimely textured layers of piano, synth, strings and, yes, guitars, in a wave of glorious melodies that sweep you away. Moreover, though the rise/fall format is familiar, opening combination "Fragments of a Prayer" and "Breaking The Light", particularly the latter, are confident cuts of star-gazing post-rock, offering plenty of nuance among the waves of invigorating lush guitar sound, ultimately offsetting any doubts of them retreading previous glory.
This album is not meant to be as great a leap, in terms of ambition, for CUTE as "Shoulders..." was. There are new elements throughout, though, such as the tribal-drumming intro and droning post-metal-esque outro of "In The Cold", the dive into electronica with entirely-synth "Opening Sky", and "The Great Silence", which honestly sounds like its carrying influence from art of the far east. Collapse Under The Empire's willingness to grow into new musical territory is not hampered by their rediscovering of post-rock, and their treads into new territory do not hamper the flow of what is, largely, a post-rock record - and a great one at that.
Though "Sacrifice & Isolation", the second half of their concept double-album, was originally planned for this year instead, there can be no complaints about "Fragments of a Prayer". Considerably less of a headgame than its predessor, in many ways it is more affectionate and cathartic, yet it's still demonstrative of the steady, progressive steps made by Collapse Under The Empire in their discography so far. And, even at their level as one of the most consistently excellent instrumental bands of recent years, they have seldom been as assured, precise, and more deserving of your time as on "Fragments of a Prayer".
Download: The Beyond, Closer, Breaking The Light, Opening Sky
For The Fans of: God Is An Astronaut, Sleepmakeswaves, Mooncake, Brian Eno
Release Date 28.09.2012