RIYLIf These Trees Could Talk
LabelThe Mylene Sheath
2. Dime and Suture
4. Grime and Glass
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In the realm of instrumental post-rock, it seems there are certain requirements that a band must fulfill in order to “fit in.” Since their 2006 debut Loyal Eyes Betrayed the Mind, Gifts from Enola have always been a band that managed to satisfy the demands of their genre with lengthy song titles, emotional swells, and soaring lead guitars, while also bringing something new to the table. On 2009’s From Fathoms, the band delivered an atmospherically dense and technically wonderful experience that proved their status as more than a one-trick pony. Unfortunately, with the release of their latest self-titled effort, the band seems to be stuck within the mindset of their previous successes while never quite reaching the emotional intensity of either album.
Guitarist Nate Dominy claimed in a recent interview that with their newest album the band wanted to translate their powerful live show into a tighter record that more accurately represents Gifts from Enola, and to achieve this goal they wrote the five songs in a live environment rather than a studio. As a result, the record clocks in at 37 minutes, marking the band’s shortest album to date by 12 minutes. Along with a new polished sound thanks to the mixing talents of Moving Mountains’ Greg Dunn, the band seemed to have all the ingredients for a solid follow-up. Despite these elements, however, the songs tend to recycle riffs and ideas too frequently for such a short record, creating a listening experience that is at times a bit boring.
The album kicks off with a promisingly driving intro in the first few minutes of “Lionized,” inviting the listener into the new slick sound with ease. Even by the halfway point of the opener, however, it is clear that the band had a difficult time topping either opening track from their previous albums and instead went with a more subtle approach, and subtlety isn’t exactly their forte. The track ends with a somewhat oddly placed old-time jazz sample, which segues into the equally promising yet eventually dull “Dime and Suture.” The band’s signature “here and there” vocal style returns on this album, and the muted indiscernible lyrics neither add nor detract from the song. Once again, the song fizzles out into a mandatory transition to the fairly dry “Alagoas.” After four minutes of traditional post-rock fare that we have all heard before, the song picks up and offers one of the best sequences on the album as it builds to a satisfying conclusion worthy of the band’s potential for greatness. “Grime and Glass” throws in some nontraditional rhythms and robotic riffs before it wanders into a forgettable accompaniment to yet another indistinct rant.
In true Gifts from Enola fashion, it would make sense that the closing track would redeem any missteps throughout the rest of the album, but “Rearview” only provides a temporary pleasure before the song ends in a massive teaser suggesting the heavy, straightforward and epic closing track that never comes. As a result, the album sounds like it ends before it ever truly begins.
With From Fathoms, Gifts from Enola created a record that flowed effortlessly from one heavy-hitting track to the next and a record that, most importantly, gave us a reason to listen. While this latest album is far from an unpleasant listening experience, it shows a band at its most uninspired creating simply mediocre music, and with the potential for genre-bending originality that Gifts from Enola have proven in the past, mediocre doesn’t quite cut it.