We Used to Heave Horses – ‘Parts’

Parts cover art

Artist We Used to Have Horses
Album Parts
Genre Post-Rock / Ambient
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Label Let’s Juggle  Records
Release 25 January 2013
Rating Solid

Last year Niall Jones, the  tireless artist who goes under the moniker We Used to Have Horses, put out two albums and an EP within the first four months of 2012. While I did praise the releases for their stellar guitar work and use of string instruments, I cited muddy bass and out-of-place drumming during the more ambient segments as turnoffs. Jones is back this year with ‘Parts‘, a four-track 24 minute record that is an exciting departure from the more ambient side of the project, venturing into the heavier territories of crescendo-core filled with upbeat math-rock influence.

The intro track, “1.1” opens up the record with dual layered clean guitar-work that is shortly joined by a twinkly piano arrangement. As those layers setup a solid baseline, the track really kicks into gear at the first sound of distortion guitar which interjects itself into the fray about four minutes into the album. A solid breakdown at the end of the track really ties the whole track together. “1.2” leaps outward as the next track and is a far departure from what we come to expect out of We Used to Have Horses. A prominent bass-line plays over a math-rock sounding guitar layer as drums hurry the pace with a quick beat. Post-Rock and Math-rock somewhat go hand in hand and we see quite a bit of overlap in the genres, but I think this might be the first time I’ve heard a primarily ambient artist attempt a math-rock jam. I particularly enjoy the bass in the track and the whole track itself is an interesting number that finishes by spiraling out of control.

“1.3” is the real breadwinner on ‘Parts‘ in my opinion. The track opens with fluttering piano work that creates an aural soundscape that is calm and relaxing. A quiet gentle guitar plays a complimentary partner to the piano work as the two synergize beautifully to create an ambient soundscape that feels like the ideal track for heavy eyes to drift away to into slumber land. Building in intensity a second guitar layer steals the spotlight for a brief moment as a crescendo guitar spirals in the depth of the mix while cymbals crash at a reserved volume as to not overpower the mood. This is exactly the sort of excellent ambient jam I’ve come to expect from We Used to Have Horses and “1.3″ certainly doesn’t disappoint. “1.4” closes out the album as a strong post-rock track that is fairly heavy crescendo-core that I noticed shared more than a few similarities in the traits of bands Jones lists as influences. The album closes strong with a giant post-rock finale that sees the track come to a full head of steam before tapering off into the ambience from which the album begin.

Parts‘ is a real interesting album that tells the story of a well-rounded musician not afraid to branch out and try to create new sounds in unfamiliar territories. Each of the four tracks on this album are distinct and full of their own personality. And while they might not synergize together as well as the songs on his other albums, I still think I prefer ‘Parts‘ to We Use to Have Horse‘s three 2012 releases. The production of the album is miles better and I just feel like this album is really a breath of fresh air in the discography of Jones, who has already accomplished so much in the ambient and post-rock genres in such little time. – 2/15/13