I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a lot of bands for everywhere on the globe, but this is a first. Across The Waves is an ambient/post-rock band from Tehran, Iran, a country caught in amidst hostile conflict and politics as middle east tensions rise. When I hear and think about the middle east all I can picture is meaningless war and brutality I could never understand . Innocent people caught up as countries jockey over power. That’s why this album really strikes a cord with me, because it represents none of the things I’ve come to expect from the middle east. It’s the familiar beauty of post-rock and it’s one hell of an album as well. The 4 piece band was formed in 2010 and aside from am EP, this is their debut the album.
The album opens with “Amarum Diebus”, a very soothing ambient track that welcomes the listener with the opening arms of deep synths and an angelic presence. Layers of guitars and keyboards gently wash over the mix as harmonizing vocal rumblings at different keys add a level of emotion. “Adventure into the Unknown” opens with a really dreamy vibe as high-pitched synths pierce the ears. As the song sheds its ambient skin, playful clean guitars help the track to evolve into a proper post-rock track. When the drums finally hit about 4 minutes in you can’t help but appreciate the airy feel and the middle eastern influence behind them. Playful laughter of children can be heard amongst the rattling of a spiraling guitar in “Childhood Memories”, a 9 minute journey that is a masterful number. The track paints the vivid picture of a playground where children roam worry-free, laughing and playing at will. As the distortion guitar hits the bands full glory comes to fruition, not even the small inkling of out-of-place vocals can stop its momentum. This track’s build up is nothing short of epic as are it’s insane screaming guitar in the twilight of the track.
“Farwell to Family” is a curious track that grasps the listeners full attention with early rattling of guitars chalked full of despair.The track takes a long time to really build up and doesn’t go anywhere until static-laden guitars save the day five and a half minutes in. “Overrunned” is the longest track of the album, clocking in at over 10 minutes. Again this track is immensely good thanks to the addition of heavy distortion guitars clogging the low-end of the mix and providing a nice change of pace from the more drawn out clean guitar passages. When the band really opens up and things get heavy is where they really shine. Don’t get me wrong, the ambient stuff is excellent also, but there’s nothing quite like the sound of a roaring distortion guitar after 10 or 15 minutes of clean guitar tones
“You are Not Machines, You Are Men” is the sixth track on the album and is a strong contender for song of the year. The track is more ambient as heavy use of synths and minimalist instruments set the groundwork as a sample of Charlie Chaplin’s full speech in the 1940 movie The Great Dictator plays out. Withstanding the test of time, I think that this speech is extremely relevant to our world some 70 plus years later. “Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little,” Chaplin emphatically explains. “Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness,” speaks boundaries when utilized by a band who live in the heart of all the world’s conflict. This track is excellence at the highest level, even if it’s simply a sample wrapped in an ambient number.
“Cease to Exist” follows the powerhouse and is easily one of the most polished tracks on the album. Beautiful rich tones lead us into a medium tempo track that sounds ridiculously full amongst the large soundstage. Distortion guitars sound thick as hell and chug along while crescendo layers circle around, occasionally getting lost in the mix, but always work their way back into things at varying degrees of loudness and intensity. “Karaman’s House” opens with familiar ambiance and a relaxed pace. Despite being a somewhat heavy song, it still maintains a chill vibe as even the heavier guitars a little bit drone-ish. “War Ends” is an ambient track with a somewhat minimal style and an antiquated feel that I believe helps represent an aftermath like feel. I can’t help but think this dark, bleak and gloomy number is the band’s interpretation of the brutal reality following conflict that they’ve witnessed firsthand. The album comes to a close with “Misery Stays”, a keyboard and synth heavy piece which features the voice of a man telling the tale of all too real aftermath of war while remembering the happier days. “I wish I could see the end of war — only the dead can” hauntingly exclaims the voice.
The emotion throughout the album used to convey tails of tragedy, conflict and pain is some of the most inspired and beautiful post-rock you will hear all year. This is perhaps the most focused 75 minutes of music I’ve heard all year and is of the highest caliber. Across The Waves is a band that needs to continue to produce beautiful music. Not for the sake of band progression or for their fans. They need to continue to produce music because it offers a rare glimpse at the world through the eyes of four men who come together to create beautiful music as they live in a world where war is a reality and not just an ugly word. This is a must listen to album of 2012. 10-4-12
Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://acrossthewaves1.bandcamp.com/album/ward-ends-misery-stays