Last Builders of Empire’s sophomore album “Post War” begins like most other post-rock albums; a song of complete fluff. Every instrument dances lazily around each other, like an improv dance number. The rhythm is very loose, and the timing almost seems a bit off, but the coherence begins in the second track, ‘Quiet like a knife’.
‘Quiet like a knife’ is true, purebred post-rock. The guitars are creating dense soundscapes while the bass creates the melody and carries the tune throughout. The overall feel of the track reminds me of This Will Destroy You’s earlier work, though not as melodic. Unlike most post-rock bands thier on/off switch when it comes to ambience and walls of sounds, Last Builders of Empire smoothly trasition between the two, which makes for a much more enjoyable listening experience.
Speaking of smooth transitions, I didn’t even notice the album had moved on to ‘This Tired Wasteland’ my first time listening. The way the whole album flows from one idea to the next is a good way to sew an album together, but the lack of key change instills a feeling of being too repitious. What does change, is what the music reminds me of. It’s change from early This Will Destroy You to something like Mono. Tremolo guitars atop thrashing backing guitars is so beautifully violent, but I can’t hear Last Builders of Empire when I’m thinking Mono. As soon as that thought came to mind, they switched to yet another founding father of Post-rock, Explosions In The Sky.
‘Pyre (Where There’s Nothing Else Left)’ is a gorgeous ballad of a song, but the problem still remains; I don’t hear Last Builders of Empire, I hear Explosions in the Sky. It’s a tragedy when a band can’t sound like themselves for the beginning half of their album. Yes, they play each style with a very apparent skill and talent, but it’s not theirs.
Things do get better as the album goes on, but how many people are going to actually stick around after a song of fluff and three different copies of three different bands? I know I had a hard time getting into this album after three pieces of post-rock impressions.
There is something to be said of the other half of the album, however. They’re still a very competent band, and their sound does have a certain exotic flair to it; the very fact that they play in 3/4 time sets them apart from 90% of other post-rock bands.
Maybe the genre has just become so stereotyped that it’s getting harder and harder to avoid certain sounds, but the fact remains that you don’t hear this band until you’re already halfway into the album. To me, this screams a lack of ambition or creativity.
That’s not something I want to listen to. Do you?
It’s hard to describe mathrock in any other way than “Just a bunch of music majors constantly finger-tapping.” Or “Time changes. Time changes everywhere.” But neither of these descriptions apply to LITE. They are definitely mathrock, but they refuse to fall in line with every other mathrock band out there, and truly stand out as something special.
What I mean becomes apparent from the very beginning of ‘Installtion’, their latest album. They have a very linear structure, and don’t change times very often at all. It’s actually more like Post-rock with its structure: continually adding layer upon syncopated layer until it creates this wall of sound. They still retain thier mathy sound through complicated drumming and intricate guitar riffs, but they don’t sound like every other mathrock band out there. All that within 4 minutes. To say this is a roller coaster of an album would be nothing if not accurate.
Nothing is played that isn’t complimentary to another instrument at the time, everything is timed perfectly and executed as such. The textures that are made always fit so perfectly with the mood of the song. If this album had vocals, I wouldn’t be able to resist singing along, even if it were to be Japanese. The jazzy chord work in “Hunger” never fails to make me feel as if I should don a leather jacket and Ray-Bans. It’s so cool and smooth, it makes me feel like a neanderthal by comparison.
It’s difficult to think of a word other than ‘groovin’ when it comes to the bass. It’s as if the bassist has ADD in the best way possible, he can’t still for too long, he has to be doing something other than following the guitars around like a lost puppy. The way “Bond” and “Fog Up” are strung together show a certain regard for the bass that I don’t see too often in the mathrock bands I listen to. To me, it also shows a strong sense of flow for the album overall. They were very purposeful about what song goes where, rather than a mess of songs thrown together, which is becoming more popular with smaller mathrock bands I’ve noticed this past year or so.
Mathrock is trending within the smaller circles of music lovers, and it’s beginning to show in the new mathrock bands that are popping up left and right. I would suggest to these new bands that they look at bands like LITE for inspiration and guidance. Their strong sense of direction should be shining beacon to others, making the genre more enjoyable overall. And with Topshelf Records releasing this album on digital and vinyl later this year, I think that LITE becoming a mathrock cornerstone is a very distinct possibility.
You can wait for the vinyl, or buy it on tape now through Keep It Together Records if you just so happen to be the impatient type. But if you do so happen to order through Keep It Together, I would also recommend LITE’s previous album “Past, Present, Future” and Low-Pass’ “Trimurti”. Both are superb mathrock albums from Japan, without the incredulous shipping fees.