Envy - 'Further Ahead of Warp'
All photographs of the Insomniac Doze 2xLP - unfortunately sold out, according to the Temporary Residence Limited Catalog. Just sayin'.
Before I get on with the post for this excellent album (just listen to the rumbling bass, and trilling post-rock guitar, of the opening song above), a short service announcement...
The Hardcore for Nerds (Retrospective) Manifesto, with exposition:
- to present music accompanied by writing; there are plenty of album blogs with little content other than download links, so basing myself on my original inspiration, I try to offer description and explanation of music that I think other people would like to hear. The aim is for it to be well-written, thoughtful and (to a degree) personal, but not an objective review - every album I put up here I already really like. At the same time, I want to show that I like this music for a reason, and that means putting it in context - genres, movements, history, and art.
- to present music accompanied by images; while music can be (and mostly is) enjoyed purely through sound, the aesthetic benefit of visual artwork is integral to its full enjoyment. Also, the internet is primarily a visual medium and text cannot generally be presented on its own. Therefore, I try at least to provide a decent-sized cover (400x400 pixels) for each album. Vinyl - I've owned a turntable for just over a year - is especially well suited to visual aesthetics, and when I'm feeling artistic I like to try out my minor interest in photography on the sleeves, records and insets.
- to provide music accessibly and responsibly; of course, words and pictures can be no substitute for the music itself, and it is in this sense that the internet is the most revolutionary for the transmission of new and old styles, artists and releases. I believe in the continuing and central importance of the 'album' in music, hence the full-album downloads instead of individual tracks - that's how I like to try out and hear new music. However, for the sake of immediacy, I've also been using streaming (full-song) clips in the past while, so you can listen to the band directly. On the flip-side of accessible music is the responsibility to support the artists and labels involved; I believe that "buy it if you like it" is implied with every download, at least where practical (and where you do really like it). To encourage an ethical approach of that kind, I try to include a link to the band and/or label website, and (legal download site) eMusic where available, and likewise to the Dublin city and online store of Road Records. Furthermore, I avoid posting full downloads of current (past year) album releases, although paradoxically a simple Google Blogs or Sordo db search will quickly lead you to at least the most popular ones.
Envy's 2006 album, Insomniac Doze, represented a significant shift from the almost genre-defining, 2001 release A Dead Sinking Story (one of my top six punk albums of the 21st century), itself a significant development in the expanse and nuance of the group's style from All The Footprints You've Ever Left Behind And The Fear Expecting Ahead (1999). Between these three full-lengths there is a fairly rapid evolution by the Japanese band from screamo to post-rock, and for many people Insomniac Doze goes too far in the post-rock dimension. For me, however, it's a great album in both categories, and deserving of almost as much praise as A Dead Sinking Story for creating the uniquely epic and intense Envy sound.
That's not to say I don't understand other people's criticism of this album, though I don't always agree with them. Pitchfork's 6.3 review took issue with the album's relative somnolence, describing it as "mild enough for the dentist's office", whereas I really enjoy its epic, cinematic tones. Nick from Worship and Tribute's generally very positive review for Sputnikmusic has a gripe with its "harmonic vapidity" and otherwise unadventurous musicianship; I have to agree that listening to A Dead Sinking Story, it seems much more musically creative in certain ways. As he says, it's "a trade-off; I like their ability to build huge passages out of simple, slowly repeating chord progressions, but I dislike the plodding feeling of it all"; though I find that the simplicity is mirrored by emotional intensity, the post-rock side just a part of the adapted screamo style.
Though I came to A Dead Sinking Story some years after the fact, I was eagerly anticipating the release of its follow-up. 'Scene' was the first song - in the form of this video - that I heard, and it was really a microcosm of the issues raised by the whole album. Expecting more of the really crushing heaviness of A Dead Sinking Story alongside that same album's quietitude, what 'Scene' presented was a far slower build-up to a more muted crescendo. On the album itself, 'Further Ahead of Warp' is a more energetic if broadly similar opening song, and 'Shield of Selflessness' is the closest Insomniac Doze gets to the shorter old-school Envy style of hardcore.
'Scene' is the statement of the new Envy, which is really just an adaptation of the old Envy, as the video makes clear. All in a blue monochrome blur, views of clouds in the ether are interspersed with shots of the band performing the song live, edging towards full catharsis mode. It's the combination of the cinematic with the electric which makes Insomniac Doze work so well, long arcs of harmony mixed with smooth crescendos of angst.
Right after 'Scene' comes this next post-rock song, so epic that it takes up a whole side of one LP (as does the next one, 'Unknown Glow'). 'Crystallize' is in many ways more cinematic, and certainly more artistic, than 'Scene'. As discussed previously, it's got an insistent melody that reminds me of 'Soon' from My Bloody Valentine's archetypal Loveless, and I think that Insomniac Doze as a whole has a strong shoegaze feel to it. More importantly, 'Crystallize' signals a new interest by Envy in simple, yet arty, melodic songs that continues into their more recent, shorter releases, such as Abyssal and songs like 'Life Caught in the Rain' and 'Conclusion of Existence' from the Jesu split.
'Night in Winter'
Although 'Further Ahead of Warp', 'Scene' and 'Crystallize' I think provide ample proof of Insomniac Doze's brilliance, it wouldn't be right not to include anything from the second LP of the album. The ten-minute long 'Unknown Glow' is, like 'Scene', an epic movement of post-rock/screamo, at times almost quasi-classical, spanning the range from near-silence to aural near-destruction; 'A Warm Room' is an intense, cathartic closer with some of the most A Dead Sinking Story-like moments on the album. 'Night in Winter', however, is a particularly beautiful, atmospheric track to bridge the gap between Insomniac Doze's weightier moments.