Reviewed by James
Out of all the reviews I’ve written, the most difficult ones tend to be the albums by solo artists who choose to use their own name rather than a moniker or band name. It never quite feels like I’m reviewing the albums themselves, but rather talking to the artist directly. Regardless of whether I’m offering criticism or praise, referencing the creator by a moniker instead of directly helps to create a wall between the reviewer and the artist.
I’ve never had any trouble writing a Cloudkicker review, but I definitely recall passing Nathaniel Noton-Freeman’s ‘Seabirds’ album off to fellow Postrockstar writer Shooter about a year ago. Nathaniel is my friend and I love that album to death, I just couldn’t bring myself to speak to the artist directly for whatever reason. As a reviewer my goal is to remain accountable for my opinions yet stay veiled enough that my thoughts feel more informative rather than subjective. Maybe that sounds like bullshit to you because all music is subjective therefor all reviews are especially subjective, but I’d much rather tell readers what an album sounds like or who it sounds similar to rather than shit all over it for what I don’t like about it. Oops, I started another review off with the inner politics of post-rock reviews. For future reference, just starting skipping to paragraph three if you just want read reviews.
Getting right to the album that lead into that diatribe we have ‘Home’ by Martyn Jackson, a talented solo artist from Portishead, UK who draws inspirations from the Likes of Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros and composer Michael Giacchino, who has worked on the scores for movies like Up and Cloverfield and the video game series Medal of Honor. ‘In his own words, Jackson describes his music as “…an anchor for people’s imagination. Since our music is instrumental you can paint different pictures in your head while listening to it, and the name for the track is just one of million possible roads that you can go.”
I feel like that analogy applies to nearly every post-rock album I’ve ever heard.
Released November 21st, 2013, ‘Home’ is an extremely polished effort that does an excellent job once again proving that one person is capable of accomplishing the sound of an entire band. As you can imagine, the guitar work here is stellar, a familiar trait on most solo albums. One track in particular it truly shines in heavily layered glory is “Heavy Weather”, a track that stands out to me as having a dark and raw bite to it. A crescendo guitar glistens above layers of guitar work in the lower laying tracks that fill out the sound spectrum. This track has apparently been featured on BBC playlists and rightfully so as it’s probably the most accessible song to be found on the album.
“At The End of A Dream There is a New Ideal” is another rock solid track with excellent composition and uptempo pacing, highlighted by bright guitar layers that occupy the center of the sound stage. The final minute or so of this song is awe-worthy, especially when the heavily layered guitars transition into one of the highest pitched squealing crescendos I can recall. The energy remains high through “Are We Nearly There Yet?”, the best song on the album and my personal favorite as well. Spiraling crescendo action right out of the gate compounded by a hypnotically cheerful beat that takes over the track and builds upward through the first two minutes. From there it coasts through a smooth valley of cymbal riding and a more relaxed pacing of spiderwebbed layers that all mesh together perfectly to create the tightest sound on the album. A layer of spiraling crescendo guitar creeps back into the mix and the drums and the rest of the track decide to play chase with it as the sound levels creep up steadily before declining into a clean guitar finish. Simply a marvelous track from start to finish. Top notch crescendo-core that could easily be mistaken as a multiple person effort.
I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning “Keep Your Eyes On The Tide”, an effort that would make bands like Mono and Joy Wants Eternity proud. Elegant piano plays a somber tale amongst a backdrop of ambiance, synths and classical strings that I’ve yet to determine are real or digitally produced. Either way it doesn’t matter. The piano in this track is eerily reminiscent of some of the work found on Sigur Ros’ ‘()’ album, but I’m not complaining as that is clearly their best work ever. And yes, I’m hoping to incite a riot of replies here with such a matter of fact statement.
Back to the album at hand, when it comes to albums as a whole there are two distinct negative traits I will never be shy to give criticism for. The first is poor audio quality, the second is poor transitions. The audio quality on this album is well above average for an independent release, so there is no need to fear ‘Home’ if you are an audiophile with fancy headphones like me. However, there are a couple of well, let’s call them ‘interesting’ endings to songs that make for poor lead ins to the following track. One in particular is a distorted voice saying the words ‘Nobody writes anymore’ over and over at the end of “Night Time Ideas” that leads into “At The End of a Dream There is a New Ideal”, one of the stronger tracks on the album. This track doesn’t end like the previous two. Instead it simply ends immediately on a repetitive bass note, leading into “Are We Nearly There Yet?”, the best track on the album as I stated above. These songs need stronger finishes because each subsequent song deserves a better lead in.
That is my really only gripe with ‘Home’. All in all this is a pretty solid release that deserves a listen or two (if not more) by anyone who enjoys crescendo-core. The album serves up a solid half hour to get lost in thought in. A solid debut by an artist with a great brain for song structure and composition. I’m looking forward to hearing more.