Jardin De La Croix – 187 Steps to Cross the Universe

187 steps to cross the universe cover art

Artist Jardin De La Croix
Album 187 Steps to Cross the Universe
Genre Post-Rock / Math-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
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Label Noma Records
Release 21 February 2013
Rating Excellent

“The Math Heroes are Back! Are You Ready?” exclaims the banner at the top of Jardin De La Croix‘s bandcamp page. While the Madrid 4-piece might have gnashed their teeth on their math-rock roots, ‘187 Steps to Cross the Universe’ is a far cry from being just a top tier math-rock release. I knew from the moment that I first saw the track listing that this album was going to be exceptionally good. Four tracks clocking in at 33 minutes with three being in the seven minute range and one pushing 10 minutes long generally signals the ground work for a solid record. Little did I know just how good this album would be. In short, ‘187 Steps to Cross the Universe’ is without question the most intense album released in 2013 so far, and that is reason alone why it should garner plenty of attention.

From the opening moments of “Man Made Lightning” I knew that my premonition about this album was right on the money. Screaming math-rock guitar work plays alongside a second layer of distortion guitar as high energy drumming struggles to keep pace. As the track desolves at time you can get a real sense of appreciation of the wizardry that drummer Israel Arias is doing behind the kit. The two guitars compliment one another nearly perfectly, their intensity equal as they clash and come together throughout the track. This is an opening track that simply refuses to let off the gasĀ  as it speeds forward, leaving an instant impression that upon initially hearing this track had me picking my jaw up off the floor.

“Topsy’s Revenge” has firmly etched itself as one of my favorite songs of all time. Yeah, it’s that good. With an epic build up of lingering distortion riff murmurs filled with lingering bass and drums with continuously climbing intensity, by the time the distortion riffs come in at a full head of steam a couple minutes into the track your ears have already been overloaded by all that’s going on around them. The guitar work from this point forward is masterful and the emergance of double bass drumming throughout the track is enough to put “Topsy’s Revenge” over the top as the clearcut best in show on this album. The straight forward math-rock interlude in the middle of the track is a highly energetic clever nod to the band’s roots that only adds to the powerhouse insanity this track offers. And if none of that was enough, the track even has a false ending only to go into hypermode for the final minute. Band’s looking to melt faces in 2013 be warned: The bar has been set high.

“Colarado Springs” does a great job at maintaining the absurdly high energy level the band has set throughout the album. I think the hangover from the previous track has really lead me to not appreciate this track as much as I probably should. This track presents probably the strongest ties to the math-rock genre and does an excellent job of giving bassist Carlos Schonert small windows to shine without overpowering guitar work stealing the spotlight. “Talking With Planets” is the most explorative track of the album and starts off with some strange noises that sounds similar to how I’d imagine a giant stone golem might sound if it tried to talk. Guitars rev up one final time as the track takes a somewhat laid back route for the first four minutes, letting the drumming and bass shine before taking over for a showstopping finale. Guitars let out high pitched screeches as they transition into punchy distortion segments that eventually give way to math-rock inspired riffs as drum fills go off left and right without warning. The final two and a half minutes or so are yet again a reminder of just how powerfully energetic this album is. It isn’t flashy nor is it raw. Jardin De La Croix has created a powerhouse album that accomplishes what it set out to achieve from it’s opening moments. ‘187 Steps to Cross the Universe‘ is here to blow you away and make you remember this album. It’s clear that this whole album and particularly the final track warrants multiple playthroughts to really get a sense of all the sounds that are running through the highly layered mix this album serves up.

My biggest problem with math-rock has always been the lack of intensity the more technical bands suffer from as they craft their odd time signature songs full of spasticly complex riffs. There have been very few math-rock albums that have captivated me the way JDLC‘s latest offering has, the most recent being Mental Architects 2012 masterpiece ‘Celebrations‘. While a line can’t be drawn linking these two albums together, a strong line can be drawn comparing ‘187 Steps..’ to Toundra‘s latest offering ‘III‘ . These two albums share the same sort of song structures, overpowering riffs and relentless energy that makes these albums forever linked together in my mind. If I’ve lead you to believe I think that this album is somehow a ripoff of ‘III‘, I need to reiterate that’s not the case. Essentially ‘III‘ is a power-metal infused post-rock album while ‘187 Steps..’ is a math-rock infused post-rock album. I’ve never for a second considered this album to be a straight forward math-rock album. Instead it is yet another release that belongs in that hybrid post-math-rock area that continues to grow as the genre lines surrounding post-rock, post-metal, math-rock & ambient continue to blur.

Fasten your seat belts and secure your headphones tightly to your head because you are in for a hell of a ride. An excellent must-listen to release that is not to be taken lightly. – IamHop