I’ve never been a big fan of instrumental music. Call me short-sighted if you will, but I’ve always found even the most intricate and imaginative of vocal-less acts to be one dimension short of truly compelling. With that in mind, I plugged myself into Belfast four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar‘s debut with a certain amount of trepidation.
Yes, aside from the brief, lyric-less appearance of a choir in -Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’ and a quick -1,2,3,4′ intro, this is entirely about ASIWYFA’s phenomenal ability to play – and probably damage – their instruments, yet there’s not the slightest hint of the two dimensional. From opener -Set Guitars to Kill’, the first six or seven tracks are so brilliantly vicious you just can’t get away. It’s like listening to Pink Floyd having a serious car accident with the members of Fugazi, whilst Matt Bellamy stands at the roadside launching a few of his famed live link ups into the wreckage.
The fast bits are as harsh as death metal, but leave no doubt the boys can strum. The slow parts are as delicate as Sigur Ros at their best, and every bit as listenable; a bull in a china shop meets the butterfly effect. ASIWYFA have mastered the crescendo, (see ‘The Voiceless’) they’ve mastered contrast (see ‘Start a Band’) and they’ve mastered those infectious little fiddly bits that characterize this album throughout (see ‘Tip of the Ha’t, ‘Punch in the Face’). Best of all, they haven’t used any of them to excess. The product is 65 minutes of instrumental rock music that couldn’t fade into the wallpaper if it tried.
In short, this is a sensational debut. It’s an album that leaves you with a moral dilemma half way through: listen to the rest, or pause it for a few minutes so you can suggest – no, tell – your friends to get downtown and buy it before the shops close. It’s a potential soundtrack to a hundred movies, a note perfect demonstration for any recording artist on how guitars should be used, and an album you’ll skip social events to listen to the end of. It’s an album that, having received my copy yesterday, I’ve already listened to four times. And I don’t even like instrumental bands.