My first exposure to Aesthesys came last year when I stumbled upon their 2011 album ‘Camera Obscura’ while doing some research on post-rock bands in Russia. Last year Postrockstar had a firm policy that we wouldn’t be reviewing any albums released prior to 2012 as to not open up our site to a sea of older content, instead focusing on newly released albums in order to only promote bands actively releasing material. So while ‘Camera Obscura’ was a gorgeous album that made a blip on my radar, it never made it to the site. Now that we’re up to our ears in 2013 music as you might be able to tell from the more frequent posts as we wrap up 2013 I’m glad to finally be able to tackle Aesthesys’s latest album, ‘Ascendere’ which came out in September and I’m absolutely in love with.
This is the seventh release by the band that began as a one man project in 2007. Five years later this Moscow gem has evolved into a full-fledged six member band and this is their first studio release together. The thing I love the most about this album is just how varied each of the five tracks are. At 31 minutes this album is the perfect length to easily digest and get into. One of the first things I was drawn to was the excellent production on this album. ‘Camera Obscura’ had excellent production as well, but ‘Ascendere’ just feels so rich and full of layers on top of layers brilliantly harmonizing and working in tune with one another, creating reach ambient soundscapes with a post-rock flair.
Deep bassy synths and fluttering keyboards welcome us to ‘Ascendere’ with the opening song “Moving Forward.” Electronic beats push their way forward into the mix before the track really opens up with a couple guitar layers; one softer and one distorted, before we are played to a finish of keys and well placed violin that compliments the bands styling impressively. One of the things that Aesthesys does well here is the ability to free flow from softer ambient passages to heavier post-rock offerings and back again without really creating any waves in the pattern. “Arise From Dreams of thee’ is a much differently composed track, this time opening with beautiful piano amidst ambience before being joined by a low-key bass line and a steady yet prominent beat. The intensity of urgent violin work against the aggressive drumming makes for a very unique and memorable track. A finale sees spiraling crescendo guitar work loom in the background as the track comes to a close.
The song that’s really stuck with me the most on this album is ‘Anemoi’ which starts off at a much quicker pace than the previous tracks with repetitively soothing piano, dashing synths and violin work that plays opposite of more spiraling crescendo guitar. It’s oddly refreshing that the two weren’t mixed in separate channels as most post-rock bands tend to opt to do. This track evolves into a full fledged post-rock jam that sees the band’s full spectrum of potential really come to life. Every layer of guitar, percussion, bass, synths, keyboards and violin just meshes extraordinarily well to create this violent explosion of sound like no other. Moving forward, I’m really not quite sure what to make of “La Torre Del Silenzio” except that it’s very different than anything else found on this album and I find it quite charming. I am eerily reminded of the distant digital land of Spira in Final Fantasy X, because that is exactly where this keyboard dominant ambient track leads my mind. This song is one that could easily be dropped into any Playstation RPG video game as an overworld or background music and it would be right at home.
The closing song of the album “Sailing to Constantinople” is also the longest track at nearly 8 minutes. A slow build up of percussion rumbling, somber violin and elegant guitar work sets the mood. A Smooth bass line really does wonders in complimenting the rest of the instruments around it and is the real understated star here. This is the only track on the album that feels remotely of Russian influence, which tends to be easily identifiable to me on most releases from that part of the globe. I would have liked to see a much stronger finish to close the album out, but I’m picky and the band already proved capable of really ramping up their sound in ‘Anemoi’.
At the thirty minute mark or so and featuring five extremely different tracks, I don’t find my mind wandering much throughout this album, unlike ‘Camera Obscura’ which clocked in at almost an hour and almost always induced thought-provoking daydreaming with each listen. I tend to think of post-rock with neoclassical influence and/or string instruments as noble and place it on a pedestal much higher than the more modern third-wave stylings of big guitar crescendo and distortion driven tracks. Whenever I review an album like ‘Ascendere’ I expect so much more out of them than a standard album. In that aspect, I think Aesthesys has shined at incorporating these elements into a more traditional post-rock sound. In another light, I feel like their best work is ahead of them and that this album is just a taste of what’s to come from a band who’s potential is as bright as sun on the album cover. After seven albums and six years, Aesthesys is better than ever and I’m really looking forward to seeing where their ship sails to next.