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Friday, December 6, 2013

Album Review: This Patch of Sky - Heroes and Ghosts

Album Rating: B+
Crescendos and dynamic shifts galore, Heroes and Ghosts, the third proper release from Eugene, Ore. post-rock enthusiasts, This Patch of Sky, often comes across as a perfect representation of the genre’s tried and true modern conventions. This Patch of Sky is a by-the-book post-rock band, and they’re not at all afraid to hide it. Tremolo picking finds its way into nearly every single song on Heroes and Ghosts, and all 54 minutes of the album basically narrate an extended back-and-forth battle between subdued, mellow beauty and blasting, crushing walls of fuzz. The compositions typically begin quietly with a lone guitar and cinematic synth and strings, both of which swell in volume as the rest of the band comes into the picture, pushing the dynamics of the piece to the expected all-out explosion of energy.

While certainly an archetypal formula most bands have learned by rote, if it can move the listener, why change anything? “Frozen Hands, Frozen Feet” came into being precisely because of this idiomatic mindset, and by no means does the piece’s strict conventionality hinder a successful catharsis. In fact, the maximalist nature of these customary louder sections does nothing but triumph again and again with each passing moment, despite the consistent similarities throughout the album. You would have to be deaf to feel nothing during the emotional climaxes of “Ten Thousand Hours” or “The Moon Be As Still As Bright,” even though both zealously adhere to the formula. Nine-minute epic, “Heroes and Ghosts,” is as ardent for the genre as ever, and also one of the album’s greatest achievements, thanks primarily to its spacious, though standard, slow-reveal.

There are, of course, a few curve balls here and there on Heroes and Ghosts. Resident synth master, Chris King, who provides a deceivingly refined layer of melody from start to finish, is given whole tracks to himself, like “White Shores” and “Memorial of Lights,” where he can show off in what genre his true skills really lie: drone. The latter, which follows “Through the Stars We've Seen,” the third straightforward post-rock cut in a row, serves as a refreshing sonic break from the usual dynamic rise and fall of the rest of the album, developing vivid textures and sounds comparable to some of the greats in the genre. Also primarily a drone cut, “Selah” actually incorporates the use of a female voice, which heavily confirms our human inability to withdraw from and forget emotional situations—a nice thematic inclusion for listeners to keep in mind for the remainder of the album.

Within the genre, Heroes and Ghosts is about as approachable as it gets, and it additionally caters heavily to outsiders by offering numerous tracks under five minutes in length, all with an eventual climax. The gratification arising from each composition’s emotional pinnacle, though oft-delayed, is consistently good enough throughout the record to justify such patience for the payoff. These Oregon musicians have firmly cemented themselves as true masters of their craft with Heroes and Ghosts, even if much of it is simulation, and when repetition is still this moving, is that really a bad thing?

Stream "Heroes and Ghosts"
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Track List:
1. And Death Shall Have No Dominion
2. Ten Thousand Hours
3. Building with Sand
4. Selah
5. Frozen Hands, Frozen Feet
6. The Moon Be Still As Bright
7. Through the Stars We've Seen
8. Memorial of Lights
9. Heroes and Ghosts
10. White Shores

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