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Album Review: And So I Watch You From Afar – Heirs

3 min read

The simplest way to figure out an album’s underlying theme is arguably to listen to the lyrics and find a common thread among the tracks. The guys from And So I Watch You From Afar have stated that their new album Heirs revolves around the inheritance of ideas, in that “we’re all heirs to other peoples’ passion”. Being a mostly instrumental band, however, ASIWYFA communicate their ideas not through words, but through a number of soundscapes which are frenetic at times, and subdued in others.

ASIWYFA-HeirsBeing heavily slanted towards the experimental and progressive end of the instrumental rock spectrum, electric guitars (and no doubt a comprehensive rig of effects pedals) are a pretty significant aspect of all tracks on the album. Whereas more mainstream blends of rock or pop music make use of guitars as a rhythm and supporting instrument for the vocals, the roles are subverted here: ASIWYFA use layered vocals to create atmosphere from which their furious guitars can project. They’re given the liberty to do this through the equally assertive foundations laid down by the ever evolving drums and bass. Fucking Lifer  and Animal Ghosts are prime examples, but it’s an effect that’s spread throughout the duration.

The opening track Run Home is actually like a microcosm of the whole album. It opens with a staggered, vocal harmony before the curtain, rather than being lifted, is ripped to shreds with a flurry of distorted guitar triplets that keep pace with a forceful kick drum.  Vocals continue in a series of “wee-oah’s” over the guitar until the words of the track’s title are chanted over more melodic, harmonising guitars in a different time signature. The sound completely changes to a clean, cavernous guitar sound before an atmospheric build up takes us back to the initial theme and by this time, the varied sounds and textures make us feel like we’ve been to the other side of the world and back.

This chaotic variety spreads across all the tracks, from frantic harmonising guitars in People Not Sleeping to solo acoustic strings in These Secret Kings I Know. Listening to the album is, in some respects, like sitting in a bubbling Jacuzzi  to the brink of overheating, and then running and jumping into a cold swimming pool. Our senses are constantly shocked from time signature changes (A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor), and abrupt divides within tracks where one second our mind is struggling to keep up with the distortion and tempo of the churning drums and blistering guitar, and the next we’re thrown into an ocean of peaceful reverb.

Heirs is an album that cannot be succinctly described. The guys from Northern Ireland effectively convey their theme of inheritance of ideas because they themselves show a range of influences through varied musical ideas. I think their recent touring experiences in more exotic places like China, India and Africa have definitely been translated into a sonic expression on the album. In a sense, it’s kind of exhausting, but it’s also one hell of a journey.