Monday, December 26, 2011

The Seven Mile Journey's Notes for the Synthesis

The best album of 2011.

This is easily the best post-rock release since Sigur Rós' last album in 2008. It's as close to perfect post-rock as you'll get from any band not named Godspeed You! Black Emperor or A Silver Mt. Zion, and without a doubt, it's my favorite album of 2011. I can't say how many times I've listened to it. It's done more for me emotionally than any album in a long time. And part of that's due to the environments I listened to some of these songs in. Not only has this album been played more than tany other album in 2011, it's been played during some of my most special moments of 2011.

Notes for the Synthesis pretty much covers the entire emotional spectrum except for joy and happiness. "Departures" starts off as a painfully depressing intro which evolves directly into "Alter Ego Autopsies," which is, from a musical standpoint, the most accomplished track on the album. It represents, over the course of twenty minutes, neurosis, psychosis, mental instability, and a mind that's trying to come to terms with its insanity. It's twenty minutes of structural magnificence, starting out as sounding like something horrific and extremely unsettling, before finally building into something a little more stable. It's just a giant of a song - right up there with some of the more powerful works of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (which I really don't say lightly). "Simplicity Has A Paradox" represents a juxtaposition of desolation and self-preservation. "Transits" might be the most poignant track on the album, which is a piano-led passage of introspection, nostalgia, and something we all fear at some point in our lives... "moving on." "The Etiology Diaries" is kind of an extension to "Transits," signifying the passage of time, reliance of the self, and fortitude. It's super impressive how seamlessly the songs fade into each other.

It should be noted that The Seven Mile Journey limits themselves instrumentally to bass, drums, guitars, and an occasional keyboard. That's an automatic red flag to me. It tells me, like any other record featuring these instruments would tell me, it has the potential to be great, but also a handicap in that it lacks that extra element that could push it over the edge. No horns, no violins, no strings, etc., means almost invariably an inability to compete with bands who've mastered the usage of these instruments with their music. This isn't the case with The Seven Mile Journey, which is a further testament to their artisanship. They don't need that extra element to distinguish themselves from other post-rock bands.

"Transits" -> "The Etiology Diaries" is the most powerful sequence on the album. It's difficult to explain in terms of technicality, but the way the songs move forward is just exceptionally impressive. It's so subtle at times, yet noticeable. At one point in "The Etiology Diaries" I feel like I'm completely unstable emotionally. Like I'm going to lose it. I think music that has an effect of this magnitude on the listener is truly something special.

Overall, this album paints a hauntingly beautiful picture. It's full of climaxes, build-ups, twists, colossal arrangements, juxtapositions, and different sounds that are layered perfectly to mesh together. I don't know how to better explain it. It's just a colossal piece of work. It manages to build suspense and momentum over very long periods of time. This band's career spans over a decade, and this is only the third album they've released. This makes one thing clear... they like to breathe. They aren't in it for the quick kill. And this definitely comes across in their sound. It's the product of a lot of time and a lot of patience. Popular post-rock releases of the year like 'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' by Mogwai and 'Take Care, Take Care, Take Care' by Explosions in the Sky are pale in comparison to this masterpiece. Any fan of post-rock who hasn't heard this is missing out not only on the best of 2011, but one of the genre's best ever.

HIGHLIGHTS: "The Alter Ego Autopsies," "Simplicity Has a Paradox," "Transits," "The Etiology Diaries"

Originally written for my 2011 End-of-Year List on

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