God is an Astronaut: All is Violent, All is Bright (Revive Records, 2004)

by Jason

GIAA All is ViolentOk, so post-rock bands are coming out of the woodwork with a mix of breathtaking and not so impressive results, depending on which bands you listen to. Detwiije, Bark Psychosis, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, My Education and Mogwai happen to be some of the greats. I think that now we can add to the list God is an Astronaut. Hailing from Dublin, this three-piece space/post-rock band makes beautiful soundscapes and breathtakingly use volume and noise control to make epic lands of sounds and energy. The emotive element in their music is infused with their great compositions. Being only three members, this band produces music that sound like much more than that and must do musical gymnastics in their stage show to get things done. All is Violent, All is Bright is their second offering and the title is perfect for what the listener encounters inside. Torsten Kinsella (Vocal, Guitar, Keys), Niels Kinsella (Bass, Guitar, Artwork, and Visuals), and Lloyd Hanney (Live Drums, Loops, and Synths) are the masterminds behind this impressive disc.

“Fragile” eases the listener in with beautiful layers of keys and minimal guitar. This moves into killer drum loops and Torsten’s, Sigur Ros style vox that really add another instrument to the song. Keys add a “windy” feel and the song just draws you into their musical world. I was listening to this in my office while thunder and rain blasted against my windows. It was one of those epic listening moments. Eventually, the song explodes with voices, heavy guitars, and strong live drums. The effect is momentous and perfectly timed. One of the first things I noticed about this band is their attention to details and the small nuances they place in the song. “All is Violent, All is Bright” begins with an ominous, low layer of keys. The guitars come into the mix and usher in what might be called the melody or hook of the song. This floats amidst spacey sounds and inaugurates the drums and bass. This slow tempo build moves in anticipation of an explosive burst of guitars and percussion. While the build is moving along, killer keys and samples float in-between the sounds of the stringed instruments. The explosion of instruments hits you like a brick and is huge and infectious. This comes off the build quickly and leads the listener into a more melancholy moment in “Forever Lost.” This begins with a low hum and the piano keys floating on top. The movement is moody and wistful. The guitars fill in the sound and the drums and bass eventually come in to move the song along. The sound of wind blows across the spacey keys and piano while the drums are moved a bit back in the mix. As they build and play with the volume and sounds in the track, Torsten’s ghostly vocals float amidst fuzzed out walls of sound along with all the other instruments that have been building to a crescendo.

“Fire Flies and Empty Skies” reminds me at first of early M83. There is a catchy tune and great guitar work that is supported by fantastic bass and percussion. The keys float spacey sounds in-between all the intricate guitar work and forceful percussion. “A Deafening Distance” fills the speakers with warm keys and jangly guitar. The guitar line has a great hook and really draws the listener into the wall of keys and percussion. “Far off longing” may be at the center of what is communicated in this track and it is beautifully done. Being in Texas now, I kind of know the look of an infinite horizon. God is an Astronaut paints this picture with sound oh so wonderfully on their track “Infinite Horizon.” The vast blue sky, the clouds traveling in the wind, and the birds as they interrupt the fastness are all painted into this soundscape. The tempo is slow and patient with glimmering guitar, floating voices, and a blanket of keys.

“Suicide My Star” begins with a very spacey feel and leads into some trippy drum work and great bass and guitar work. I have to say that, since the bass player usually gets short shrift in bands like these, I would like to give Niels props for his work on this disc. He sits in the pocket perfectly and really glues the song together like a bass player needs too. “Suicide My Star” is an excellent example of his subtle work. As the bass and drums dance their slow beat, the keys float amidst them and really lend themselves to the atmosphere created. The song builds and then the drums explode over pipe like keys. The double bass drum really creates an explosive feel to the climax of this song. “Remembrance Day” gives the listener a breather with gorgeous, reverberating piano on a cloud of humming keys. This transforms into a subtle mix of slightly distorted bass, beautiful guitar lines, and a mix of spacey and subtle work on the keys.

“Dust and Echoes” begins with a breezy type set of keys that really remind me of a dry desert on a hot summer day. The samples are odd bumps and clicks mixed in with glimmering guitars and Torsten’s soaring voice. Lloyd’s drum work is amazing throughout the disc, but this track is especially intricate and perfect. Visually, I see eagles soaring through the United State’s Southwest sky over mesas in New Mexico or the dry wastelands of Arizona. Beautiful music that evokes great imagery is always welcome in my player. The last track on All is Violent, All is Bright is a 10 minute track, the longest on the disc, called “When Everything Dies.” A strong wind like sound starts out the song with a low hum and minimal piano. Eventually the hum disappears and a spacey key drops in with bass and piano at the fore. A drum track comes into the mix and the volume begins to build. Apparently the band has visuals when they play live and I would love to see how they are interpreting their music visually because the music is very powerful and full of emotive energy. The song fades out at about 6 minutes and there is silence. After about a minute, crackles and pops slowly come into the mix and a very techno sounding synth begins panning in the speakers while a low hum rises in the background. Piano eventually infuses the song with great work on the rides of the drums. And here ends the journey.

Spacey keys, walls of sound, intricate drum and bass work, wonderful guitar and extreme attention to detail make this disc amazing and breathtaking. God is an Astronaut have produced an incredible piece of post-rock music that will stand the test of time. The compositions are perfect and there are no moments of let down or boring lulls. I highly recommend this disc to any music lover. Go buy it now!

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