Record #9: The Album Leaf – Into the Blue Again (2006)

into the blue again.jpgSee: chill music.

This is one of the first post rock records I ever got into. In fact I hadn’t even heard the term “post rock” yet, but one thing I definitely heard was how tranquil and haunting it was.

Most of the ten tracks are centered around a Fender Rhodes (oh! electric pianos! Come unto my ears!) and processed drum beats, with synthesizers, organs, and the occasional guitar filling in the background. While the record is mostly made of downtempo, minor-key instrumental pieces, three of the tracks are honest-to-goodness pop songs.

And while outfit leader Jimmy LaVarre’s voice may not be his strongest talent, he favors simple melodies and no-frills delivery, often with one or more instruments playing in unison, making his limited ability serve the simple structure of the song rather than aim for the heart-shattering expressiveness of other post-rock vocalists (Sigur Ros, I’m looking at you). LaVarre’s awareness of his limits, paired with the sequencing of the tracks, make the three sung songs chilling and (despite the flat delivery) emotive centerpieces that hold their ground against excellently composed vocal-less tracks. Also, the lack of vocals elsewhere makes these songs natural (and well-deserving) standouts.

One weakness one could accuse this record of is that most of the tracks sound more or less the same. While it’s true that the songs rarely deviates from the same tempo and key, and most of them follow the same structure, and even fade in and fade out in the same way, there’s much more at work here than a bunch of copies of the same song.

Rather, the album is filled with variations on a theme, introducing a rhythmic figure or chordal structure in one song and expanding upon it later in the tracklist. Given the purpose of the music, a great variety between the songs is unneeded, and unlike most post-rock records, most of the songs here are less than six minutes long, ending long before the repetitive nature of the genre turns them sour in the listener’s ear.

While Into The Blue Again is content not to follow other instrumental acts to bombastic highs or whisper-quiet lows, it remains a rewarding and interesting listen, seeming much more the soundtrack to a nighttime drive with your best friend than an epic journey through the whole of human experience. And I am likewise content to sit back and watch the streetlights pass by.

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