Friday, April 13, 2012

REVIEW// Rob Johnson: Throw the Sun Into the Sea

It seems post-rock is a niche market in modern music, the preserve of bands like Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky. Epic and soaring, the sound is breath-taking in both its scope and execution, the soundtrack to a movie you have yet to see. Instrumental albums retain a certain mysterious allure absent vocals, the innate electronic intelligence of Brian Eno or Nicolas Jarr or even Mike Oldfield adding another branch to an already incomparably compelling genre. What Rob Johnson records in his sophomore LP 'Throw the Sun Into the Sea' is a combination of the two; a composite sub-genre all his own. Rock sensibilities are offset by gloriously subtle electronic soundscapes to form half an hour of brilliant instrumental ingenuity! There is a tangible wild west swagger, grooving and rolling into climactic post-rock revelations. There is the potential for the album, even with a run-time as short as this to fall into a predictable rut, but Johnson utilises tone and sampled texture to good effect, throwing in memorable guitar phrases more than once!

Opening with first single 'The Wasp And The Flame', Rob runs with attenuated synths along a plain that emulates perfectly the sense of gallantry and freedom that is inevitably evoked by any western. Plucking the strings of a battered guitar, you can almost visualise the heat waves vibrating in some synchronised dance, dust billowing and hooves thundering into the distance. 'Hurricane's sampled wind forms a great backdrop to the successive post-rock build and complex acoustics, 'The Beginning Of The End's initial horns a herald to something more ominous and moody than ultimately delivered. This unexpected drop is easily lifted however by 'Throw The Sun's texture. Alien groans and the whirs of a futuristic spaceship meet lush, warm synths and the cold drips that detail them! 'Monsters' similar feel works equally well, a set of abrasive synths and lighter guitar falling into place next to keyboard phrases that sound decidedly 'Tubular Bells'-esque. A possible nod to critics who hailed his debut as such, I tip my hat to Johnson.

Suggestive and profound, 'Anchors Hold On To Hope' throbs with an undeniable optimism, folk sounds shattering like a shot of uncontrolled emotion in a climactic finish. 'The Real's humble execution brings things down to earth before 'Into The Sea's up-draft of eccentric synths and idiosyncratic guitars lifts you back into the ethereal haze. Drawing 'Throw the Sun Into the Sea' to its conclusion is 'The Be All And The End All', an aptly named finisher to an incredible record. Light and delicately wrought, Johnson throws a multitude of sounds and tempos as the song progresses. The result is driven and heart-pounding and, as the final static crackles die down, beautifully introspective. The album isn't without its flaws, concious decisions regarding length and risky sounds sometimes clashing, but overall Rob Johnson's second release is fantastic. Out on the 16th, stream 'The Wasp And The Flame' and look out for the full LP here!