At the rate I'm going, I'm going to seriously depreciate the value of the phrase "like Mogwai, only better." Then again, it's not exactly my fault that it's such an easy status to obtain (*zing*). The latest band to fall under this label, Kent-based post-rockers up-c down-c left-c right-c abc + start (thank god they're now going by simply UpCDownC), continue to raise their bar with the release of their fourth studio album, Calaveras.
The best thing about this album is that Up C Down C are absolutely full of ideas, and each piece is crammed full of curve balls designed to throw you off. It feels like the band are trying to strike a balance between their earlier, more majestic and delicate works and their recent, drastically more compact and abrasive material. The spirit of the album is probably best captured with the aptly-titled track "Monumental Mood Shift." The song starts off with a brief, moderate march before turning into a heavy metal rocker, and then promptly shifts into a 5/4 buildup; the best part is that we're still not even half way through the track. And it's not isolated to that track alone, either; just try listening to "Wolves in the Walls." The piece starts out with guttural screaming and furious riffing (à la Firewolf, fittingly enough), but then drops out to almost nothing, rebuilding itself back up into the most oddly-placed-yet-still-effective talk box solos I've ever heard.
Of course, not all of the pieces are as chaotic as that--"Sky Net" is a short, electronic-based sketch, and "Roman Horses" is a simple, pastoral acoustic interlude. And of course, tracks like "Christmas '86" and "Sons of the Desert" aren't much more than your standard, sweet post-rockers; they would've sounded right at home on Embers or And the Battle Is Won. It's good to know that even amongst their continued stylistic growth, these guys still have time to continue writing some of the music that made them popular in the first place.
UpCDownC have really exceeded expectations here. This is a truly well-done album that is not only incredibly rewarding to listen to, but gets better with every listen. If you enjoyed the styles they experimented with in Firewolf but resented the runtime, then you'll definitely enjoy Calaveras. Actually, I highly recommend it for all fans of post-rock or indie rock alike. It's not a good starter album, but anyone who's listened to enough of the genre to have a good understanding of it will find Calaveras remarkable.
8.5 / 10
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