Artist : 65daysofstatic

Record: We Were Exploding Anyway/Heavy Sky

Rating: 9/10

Words: Harry Higginson

65daysofstatic’s fourth studio album turned ten years old in April, but few records of its style hold up in quite the same way that We Were Exploding Anyway does. The band’s breakout debut, The Fall of Math, released in 2004, which delivered a potent and energetic blend of math rock, post-rock, ambient music, and some more electronic elements. Over the rest of the 2000s, the band honed their driving yet serene sound into an angular, intricate blend of textures and styles working seamlessly together. 

there is a sense of huge scale to the record, each song steadily looming in to focus

If The Fall of Math was 65daysofstatic’s OK Computer, then We Were Exploding Anyway was their Kid A, complete with its own EP of B sides and remixes vis-à-vis Amnesiac, entitled Heavy Sky. Pushing further away from the Sheffield outfit’s more straightforward instrumental math rock roots, We Were Exploding Anyway incorporates more elements of dance music and electronica, featuring extensive use of drum samples and distorted synths, to create oppressive, chaotic soundscapes. The intensity of the record is remarkable, as songs such as ‘Mountainhead’ or ‘Crash Tactics’ begin subtly, piling on extra layers of instrumentation, building tension until the band releases into cascading, enormous climaxes. In many ways, the sound of the record is distinctly comparable to the early work of fellow British rock/electronica outfit Enter Shikari, as songs like ‘Come To Me’ feel like more complex iterations of some of the more melodic cuts from Common Dreads.

This comparison is, in a sense, slightly reductive. Though the magic of artists like Shikari is undeniable, WWEA doesn’t feel like the product of the fleeting trancecore subgenre that spawned Rou Reynolds and co. Instead, 65daysofstatic’s largest stylistic shift of their career takes the form of an ambitious and mature take on IDM-infused instrumental rock. Points on the record, typified by ‘Go Complex’, are akin to a pummelling and intense videogame soundtrack, elevating this energy to a level of almost awe-inspiring scale, unsurprising given the band’s involvement with the soundtrack for the comparably ambitious game, ‘No Man’s Sky’. Much like the game the band lent their musical wizardry to, there is a sense of huge scale to the record, each song steadily looming in to focus as tension is built. The absence of vocals save for Robert Smith’s stellar guest appearance on ‘Come To Me’ only adds to this, the grandeur of the band’s soundscapes feeling equal parts alien and beautiful. 

Songs flow seamlessly into each other, the ebb and flow of timbres and dynamics weaving throughout the track list

There’s something distinctly unpersonal about the record, which in another context might seem like a criticism, but on We Were Exploding Anyway, this feeling of distance and spectacle only adds to the immensity of each soundscape the band cycles through. Songs flow seamlessly into each other, the ebb and flow of timbres and dynamics weaving throughout the track list, creating a flow without the record getting too repetitive. 

Rarely does music manage to reach the scale and sense of awe that the band capture on We Were Exploding Anyway and Heavy Sky

The Heavy Sky EP is, in essence, We Were Exploding Anyway but more. By increasing the presence of the electronic component of the band’s sound, tracks like the remixed closer to the full record, ‘Tiger Girl’ feel brighter, busier, more optimistic. It is clear that these tracks were very much products of the same recording session, but were perhaps not quite good enough to make the cut, especially with tracks like ‘Sawtooth Rising’, which feels a little less dynamic, and altogether more straightforward than what might be expected on a 65’ record. This is not to say this collection of songs should be disparaged though, as the band trades much of the intensity of the main album for a more glittering, soaring sense of nostalgia on tracks like ‘Pacify’ and ‘Px3’. The closing tracks, however, are a reminder of the throttling energy the Sheffield outfit are capable of. ‘Beats Like a Helix’ powers through the latter parts of the record with a frenetic drum sample, driving the song to its close, whilst the distorted ‘Guitar Cascades’ brings the record to a dense, chaotic yet somehow delicate ending, as a minimalistic synth drone is warped and pulled out of shape.

These records deserve to be listened to together. Products of the same creative process, there is something genuinely otherworldly about 65daysofstatic’s departure from their more conventional math rock roots. Whilst the complexity of rhythm and time signatures may be a little more fleeting than some math purists might want, the compositions across these two projects are undeniably huge.

Rarely does music manage to reach the scale and sense of awe that the band capture on We Were Exploding Anyway and Heavy Sky, yet 65daysofstatic manage to achieve this feat on consecutive releases. In these two projects, 65daysofstatic produced a musical experience unlike any other, and one that is much better served being listened to than being put into words.

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