The American Dollar/Arms and Sleepers – From the Inland Sea (Split EP)

02.13.2010

I’m beginning to think that split EPs are one of the best ways to digest instrumental and post-rock music. The low track count (such as two or three songs to a side) forces each band to push as much as they can into each song, and the presence of two artists where normally there are one makes more a slightly more expansive experience than a typical full-length.

Never having heard anything from either The American Dollar or Arms and Sleepers before, From the Inland Sea acted as my introduction to both- I didn’t really know what to expect outside of some potentially noodly instrumental music. The American Dollar’s half (my favorite of the two) is a slight but welcome divergence from the oft-tread avenues of post-rock, ‘Landing’ starting out with a contemplative (though familiar) synth pad + piano motif bristling with glitchy drum machine sounds before bursting into full view with a bitchin’ drumbeat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lymbyc Systym record. TAD then quickly slathers on the reverby tremolo guitar, but instead of trying to shred your face with overly-enthusiastic bombast, they let the tones yawn across the mix, producing something that simultaneously makes you want to do a heart head bob while feeling like staring at the sky in winter.
The songs on this first half are crisp, clean and tight- only once going past the four minute mark- yet still feel adventurous and dream-like. The synthesizer and guitar tradeoff that opens ‘Where We Are’ sounds almost poppy and exuberant, especially after the solmen and processional-sounding end to the previous track. The band manages to make music that sounds bright, clean and clear, but still capable of at any momoent evanescing into an atmospheric icy fog with all the ponderous piano lines you could want.

Arms and Sleepers’ half is a great deal less melodic than the first, eschewing the narrative feeling of TAD’s half for a more opaque, groove and layer-focused progression. First track ‘The Catcher Elsewhere’ begins with a piano motif that is quickly undercut by a swaying drum and piano accompaniment, letting the hemiola rhythm of the piano slowly drift in and out of time with the rest of the song as we are gradually introduced to building long tones and more instruments pushing for prevalence in the mix- another hemiola in the vibraphone, some good old-fashioned post-rock clean guitar squigglies, all tumbling and turning and shifting in and out of view.

As I alluded to before, one of the release’s greatest strengths is its nature as a split: the juxtaposition of these two bands’ different takes on electronics-heavy instrumental post-rock decisively eradicates the monotony that always threatens to destroy music such as this. They’re both painting with the same brushes, and at times the same colors, but the results  are never quite the same.

Buy

Standout Tracks: “Landing”, “Where We Are”

~Julian

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