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65daysofstatic: Heavy Sky EP

img  Tobias Fischer

For almost a decade now, etiquette has demanded that 65daysofstatic choose between being a rock band and a dance project. And for just as long, the Sheffield-based quartet have decided they couldn't care less and defiantly walked the  borderline between the two, thumbing their noses at anyone incapable of imagining them being both – or something entirely different altogether: The Fall of Math and especially 2004's Retreat! Retreat!-EP placed refined piano cycles and snappish Electronica on top of ecstatic guitars and violent double bass drumming, resulting in a personal style that was as to-the-point as it was hard to categorise. Too harsh to serve as the soundtrack to solitary autumn nights, yet too elegiac for headbanging, too impulsive to be considered intellectual, yet too intricate to work as mere club-tools, their tracks would easily fit three or more sections at your local record store. Still, at different stages of the formation's career, one of these poles has undeniably made itself felt more poignantly than the other: While The Destruction of Small Ideas was an acme of their more rock-oriented ambitions, We Were Exploding Anyway, released earlier this year via their new label-partner Hassle, presented the opposite side of the spectrum: On tracks like „Crash Tactics“, the sound of amplified guitars all but completely dissolved into an acerbic and combustible blend of stuttering beats and rabid electronics.

Of course, the band are still hedging their options and have, perhaps somewhat jestingly, suggested that their next effort may well see them turning towards heavy metal again. And yet, Heavy Sky, despite its thirty three-minute brevity, does not content itself with repeating the formula of We Were Exploding Anyway, but rather reinforces its message: That 65daysofstatic are perfectly happy working with four-to-the-floor-metrics and hypnotic loops at the moment and that there is nothing ironic or post-anything whatsoever about that. The opening, alternate version of one of Exploding's signature tunes, "Tiger Girl", is statement of intent in this regard. Sized down from its epic, ten-minute architecture to a three-minute radio-format edit (without any serious chance of actually being played there, as the band cheerfully admit), the song instantly looses its immersive, stream-of-thought-like qualities and is reduced to its naked essence: A concentrated and unchanneled release of energy. Although short and angry breakbeat-inferno „Beats like a Helix“ would not look out of place on a contemporary drum n bass-sampler and some of the in-your-face keyboard-sounds and quirky sequencer-lines do bare some references to the golden age of disco, dance is far less a question of style-affiliations or aesthetics to 65daysofstatic, but rather of production and approach: All controls on the mixing panel are constantly set to maximum and instead of bothering to deal with something as inferior as a verse, they are headed straight for the bliss of the chorus, meticulously cutting them off at the moment of greatest emotional intensity – there is a definite and entirely conscious addictive quality to these seven pieces, which have been welded tightly together with hardly a bar of silence separating them.

On „Sawtooth Rising“, the entire philosophy of their current work becomes  apparent: After a massive delayed bass drum has sounded in the proceedings (a recognisable nod to  a cornucopia of generic trance-tracks over the past few years) and a groove has begun to manifest itself on the basis of rhythmically repeated female breaths (another cliché), the group gradually build towards the anthemic Leitmotif, heralded by a military snare-drum-crescendo and a sudden drop-out of the entire beat-structure. At first played by two powerful doubled synth-lines and later further supported by thick layers of guitar, it essentially consists of nothing more than a simple-progression of chords connected through heavy use of pitch bend. And yet, this seemingly trivial invention is quite enough to keep the piece surging forward and washing over its audience with ceaseless intensity. By adding and subtracting melodic variations, focusing exclusively on the beat for a few bars, passing the theme from the fore- to the background in a hypnotic middle-section and then sending it through a massive break-down, 65daysofstatic are sculpting a constantly transforming dynamic and thematic flow, through which the listener shoots as if inside a pinball machine.

However, the deciding aspect about „Sawtooth Rising“ may not be its moments of ecstatic euphoria, but rather its soft, bittersweet coda, in which the melody is picked up one last time on guitar, this time re-appearing as a dream-like afterthought. It is in this intimate sequence that the arrangement opens up from its monolithic impenetrability and allows the listener a glimpse behind the scenes, onto a fragile emotional landscape. Heavy Sky should certainly not be understood as a work with an imposing surface, but rather as a translation of small, but meaningful gestures to the big stage. Some of the other cuts, too, with their minimalistically pulsating piano sequences and romantic harmonic framework, could easily have remained subtle and humble, but invariably take the route to ferocious walls of resonance and textural richness within the span of what feels like a concentrated pop-song. Even the EP's showstopping closer „Guitar Cascades“, described by the band as „a ten-minute-tape-loop-noise-anthem“, is no different in this respect. Building on a resonating wall of intertwined threads of distortion and fuzz, the piece may at first seem intimidating in its loud, industrial façade and obsessive repetition of the same two chords. And yet, the effect is not one of alienation, but of deep consolation, as though the music were kind enough to keep on playing like a lullaby.

Of course, despite discarding plenty of too predictable material prior to the We Were Exploding Anyway sessions, the band has once again returned to the same place: The beguiling borderline between the worlds of rock and dance. And why shouldn't they? We're living in the twenty first century, after all, and there really is no need to choose sides.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: 65daysofstatic
Homepage: Hassle Records

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