2019 is less than a month old, and there’s already a glut of new music to enjoy. One such offering is the latest album from Ohio post-rock export The End of the Ocean: -aire (grab a copy here). Seven years on from previous release In Excelsis, -aire shows a band that has experienced much emotional turmoil in the meantime, and come out the other side stronger for it. Almost every song represents an emotion or an evocation of certain feelings.
“Jubilant”, for example, really does feel jubilant. It opens with a delicate guitar motif, quickly building into something more akin to the joie de vivre found in, say, Explosions in the Sky. That band’s influence is on full display here: Wes Jackson’s drums pound away at full blast, sounding at times like fireworks, Tara Mayer’s keyboard melody adds a vibrant atmosphere to the joint guitars of Trish Chisholm and Kevin Shannon, which build off each other through the crescendos to offer a piece of music that really does live up to its title.
The pinnacle of this emotion-as-music is the trio of “Homesick,” “Forsaken,” and “Redemption,” just at the album’s half-way point and into its denouement. As with “Jubilant”, each song evokes its titular emotions. “Homesick” balances graceful and wistful guitar melodies with heavier sections reminiscent of early Red Sparowes to really hammer home the weight of separation and loss that comes with missing one’s home. Those heavier moments are made darker on “Forsaken” to evoke the desolate abandonment that being forsaken entails. Its slower tempo and gloomier melodies wouldn’t sound out of place on a doom metal album. That The End of the Ocean can plumb weighty depths like this, in amongst the more delicate melodies, shows impressive range for a band with only a few stripes to their name.
For those of you whom “desire” good music... listen to this.
And then we come to “Redemption”, by far the strongest of the ten. Starting delicately, it builds on long, drawn-out notes which reverberate across the underlying melodies to an epic climax. As it reaches that zenith, Mayer’s keys evoke some of the joyful atmospherics of God Is An Astronaut. With Chisholm and Shannon’s guitars carefully building on top of each other in the vein of Explosions in the Sky, the climax truly feels redemptive, leaving the listener feeling as though their sins have been washed away. This goes for much of the album; the music and emotions evoked almost seem to wash over the listener, coming in via the echoing guitars and atmospheric keyboards.
The album isn’t entirely emotions-as-music though. The End of the Ocean also show off a restrained, pensive mood on “Self”. It holds true to the album’s theme of each song being an evocation of its title, but in this case, it’s a reflection on the inner self. Mayer’s keys provide a captivating ambient echo through which Chisholm and Shannon’s gentle guitar melodies resound: it’s the aural equivalent of figures onstage visible amongst smoke-machine fog. These echoes are soon interlaced with gentle strumming, giving it an indie-rock flavour. It’s a slow, quiet, meditative number, just as a reflection on the self should be. More like this would be welcome on future albums, as it offers an excellent contrast to the heavier moments of “Forsaken” and the tidal-wave emotional embrace of songs like “Redemption”.
In all, -aire is a much more considered work than the In Excelsis EP, and stands up as a strong sophomore album. It clings slightly too tightly to its influences to truly stand out, but when those influences stand among the greatest of post-rockEP s luminaries, the resulting music is always going to sound great. Building on this album should see The End of the Ocean reach greater heights, but only if they can plumb more of the original depths they demonstrate they can. Nevertheless, the band have channelled their emotional turmoil into some truly evocative music thatEP s well worth a listen. They can only get better from here.
That’s it, our review is over. But there’s “Redemption” to be found in this track.