Anatomy of the Bear is a band composed of two friends who without question have a deep love for ambient style music. Their previous release, “Awakening” was a fantastic effort that was on the more electronic side of the genre with qualities similar to bands such as The American Dollar and The Album Leaf. They’re back with a new self titled album that boasts 68 minutes of new music over 12 tracks and by far the cutest album artwork you’ve seen all year. Just look at it! The bear is on a swing among the stars. ITSJUSTSOCUTEIWANNAHUGIT.
Ok, now that I got that out my system, let’s get to the album. “Rua” is the intro track and is has a down tempo mood going for it. It’s definitely a very chill track that really sets the table for the rest of the album. The spiraling crescendo guitar amongst a sparkling keyboards in “A Gentle Breeze” is a really nice touch and I find myself in absolute love with the drums. Drums are up front and have a nice amount of echoing to them adding nicely to the mood. The soundstaging is compact which makes for an incredible tight sound. The mixing is superb save for a few small areas where I felt certain layers were a bit too loud. Vocals make their debut in “Stars Above The Cave” and I’m split in my opinion of them. I really like the heavily filtered vocals that are deeply embedded in the mix but I’m not a fan of the upfront vocal tracks. They’re a little bit distracting and make the otherwise relaxing track too busy. It should also be noted that this track was featured on the band’s EP.
“June” has an epic build up leading to a huge wall of textured guitars that has one guitar wailing away in a truly gorgeous tone. There is an awkward transition between that song and the next, “The Glowing Night Sky” , which begins with a sea of feedback amongst electronic elements only to give way to clean guitars. The song itself is really good, but there is still an evident lack of synergy among these two and other tracks on the album. The electronic side of Anatomy of the Bear really starts to shine on “Distance” I have to give a lot of credit to the band for managing to really capture a mood on this album while still allowing each track to be unique and different. No two tracks are a like on this album. You have beautiful tracks like “Quietly Chasing Fireflys” that pull you in with their depth and beauty and other tracks like “Cold Season which any shoegaze fan would appreciate.
The album returns to a more straightforward post-rock approach with “Dawn,” and “The Welcoming.” I particularly love that the spiraling guitar is an afterthought in the latter track. Again just remarkable creativity by the band to use a traditional post-rock element in a unique and creative way in a lighthearted and laid back track. While “Paw in Paw” has the best riffs and guitar work on the album the upfront vocals again steal the spotlight away from the guitar. The album wraps with “Fireworks” which pushes the 10 minute mark as the longest song on the album. I was quite pleased with this track in that it really captures every element of the band’s sound.
Like I said earlier, the vocals are really hit or miss and I feel like they will end up being the deciding factor on whether or not listeners will enjoy this album. Anatomy of the Bear are undoubtedly one of the more unique bands to represent the post-rock genre and for that I will always be a fan. 8-1-12
Available for about $16 at http://aotb.bigcartel.com/product/album-pre-order