Lions Paw are firmly within the old-school Pelican/early Isis tradition. It’s dead simple, has no false pretensions, and it’s catchy as hell. Like Isis and Pelican in the good ol’ days, Lion’s Paw frequently rely on the chug/flair off into the horizon/chug/flair off again device.
It’s amazing how much can be expressed on this deceptively simple model, and how it allows you to build out sophisticated statements from a simple rhythm.
It’s like watching god lay down the foundations to a building. Here’s the floor (chugging), here’s a girder (high pitched flail), back to the foundation (chugging again), and here’s some more girders thrown down like bolts of lightning. They nest new variations in the open crooks of the old rhythm, alternate between established concepts, and neatest of all is how they can turn on a dime and sweep it all away to start erecting something new.
The highlight of this EP is track 3, Trogdolyte. It starts with spoken voice, relating a variant of Plato’s the parable of the cave that ends with ..”and they kill him,” the blast of guitar being the killing blow. I challenge you to listen to this track and not feel the power, get infected by it, start bobbing their your, start wishing you were at their live show. If you want to rock out your cerebellum to some infectious, head banging noise, you should hear this EP.
There’s always a risk that you’ll give a post-rock band it’s chance, and they will just dither for ten minutes, then suddenly you realize you’re on Facebook and the track ended a while ago. The tragedy of so many post-rock acts is there us just enough to lead you on—they do atmospheric and suggestive so damn well—but then it never comes to anything.
So maybe I should have been suspicious of Room 3327, the opening track to Meniscus’ album War of Currents, but it was so fucking cool. It opens with the a computerized voice quoting from a stunning Nikolas Tesla interview with Colliers Magazine in 1926. Over ambience and a lonely drumbeat, the voice lists off several remarkably accurate predictions, then gives way to guitar notes that sound like lights leading into a mysterious building. The ambience is beautiful and suffused with a cave-chill cold, which grows and widens into aurora borealis streaks which seem to chew on the entire universe.
Then suddenly it’s over. Too soon, before anything bad could happen, like it was too much to live up to. My fears don’t come to pass until the next track, 130.
It’s an eye-of-the-tiger opening, that changes just in time and transitions to hopeful step-ups of light which clang and blend with each other before tumbling down and starting again. Then it happens: the underwhelming transcendent post-rock climax.
Or what is supposed to be the climax, you get four brisk strums of the same chord, then a gap, where presumably everyone’s looking at one another and awkwardly waiting for the same boring rhythm to come round again. This is what I fear. Thankfully they recover, and their recovery is more defining of the album than the post-rock-itis- you get a little ascending and retreating waterwheel guitar riff, backed by what sound like pipes notching up from the ground spilling ambient light over everything around them.
This is what they are good at: there’s a beautiful, cool-as-icewater feel to the ambience that can radiate out of angular rhythms, and you get it throughout the album. There are a few patches of post-rock-itis which aren’t so bad as they tend to be engulfed by the beautiful ambience. At its best, it can instill so much hope in you that something great is around the corner. War of Currents won’t live up that hope, but won’t betray it either.