Sunday, May 13, 2012

Album Review: The Post Riot Era - Schism

Album Rating: B+
It’s an unhappy truth that the saddest things in life are the ones we relate to. We’re so detached from each other that news articles of famine and floods are pushed back from the headlines because Celebrity of the Month X had a fight with Fashion Designer Y. Most of us know nothing of true despair; we withhold our sympathy for something a little more tangible. So when a musician wants us to re-live the sorrow in their music, to truly emulate the experience they are portraying, they focus on more personal troubles. The eternal example of this is the break-up record, which cashes in on a kind of sadness that almost everyone has been unlucky enough to face. In its own way, Schism is a break up record; except The Post Riot Era is a rhythmic drone-ambient project with rather a lot more to display than a sense of loss for one individual. This is not one man’s break-up: it’s everyone’s. Schism deals with separation in its most real, lonely and necessary form. It’s as heartbreaking as it is mesmerising.

Schism is structured in much the same way as any other ambient album that exists to convey a thought: peppered around the album are short soundbites - monologues from either party or a discussion between friends - linked together with expanses of contemplative drones. The idea being that the music provides a backdrop for the listener to really take in what has been said. For their part, the monologues offer enough detail to piece together the slow separation of the family, though they withhold the full story in order to allow for speculation. The story itself is fairly run of the mill: the man doesn’t spend enough time at home or with his kids, but all he feels he really has to do is provide, not care for, his family, and this sparked growing resentment. Mundane, perhaps, but devoid of any romantic or idealistic taints. There is no victim in this divorce; it’s mutual, and both parties are damaged by it. It’s something that is depressingly easy to visualise and empathise with: reminding us that this kind of sorrow occurs all around us.

The music between is fairly minimal, though it suits its purpose. Sparse landscapes of swirling drones shift almost mournfully as ambient effects echo in the backdrop. It produces most of its resigned tone from repetition, although extremely subtle variations are always included to reward those who’ve finished mulling over the story. Close scrutiny will reveal a hidden complexity to the music in Schism as well, especially when the tracks unfold to leave room for the monologues: the ending of “We Have Lost Friends” being the prime example, when the absence of drones for a few seconds allows a clear glimpse at the myriad textures beneath. With tracks never progressing passed the ten minute mark the drones never outstay their welcome, either; though in some cases - namely with “I Fall Into a Category” - it may have been nicer for the tracks to develop more fully. In any case, the music in Schism always manages to do its job: to allow the listener dwell on the stories and themes of the album.

Whether this album succeeds or not depends vastly on the person listening to it, principally because so much of its energy is directed towards getting you to think. If you choose to think, however, the sheer heaviness of the album becomes apparent. Despite being ambient, this is certainly not easy listening, but the reward for your attention is a startlingly morose snapshot of an everyday kind of separation. A stark reminder of something many of us will have to go through.

Schism is available for free from the official website: here

1. I Fall Into a Catagory
2. That's When It Really Hit
3. Everybody We Know Says The Same Thing
4. We Have Lost Friends
5. It Would Involve a Responsibility

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