Monday, June 28, 2010

Gifts From Enola - Gifts From Enola (Album Review)

Gifts From Enola - Gifts From Enola
Release date: July 13, 2010 (The Mylene Sheath)

On their new self-titled album, Harrisonburg, Va. quintet Gifts From Enola sound like a band that's ready to step out of the shadow of their post-pock forebears and cement a legacy of their own. Gifts From Enola is one of those rare bands that manages to somehow sound familiar, yet unlike anything you've heard before. Comparisons to the usual post-rock suspects like Pelican and Isis certainly aren't unwarranted, but repeated listens to GFE's third album reveal that the band's influences stretch well beyond the last five years or so of Hydra Head releases.

 The first two songs, "Lionize" and "Dime and Suture," are fairly standard post-rock fare, which should by no means be taken as a slight. Post-rock certainly has its "Pitchfork flavor of the week" qualities, but few bands do it as well as Gifts From Enola. The third song, however, is when things start to get interesting. "Alagoas" is clearly rooted in the Pink Floyd school of prog rock, with its clean guitar tones and sweeping scope. The fourth song, "Grime and Glass," plays like a tribute to the late '80s/early '90s output of criminally underrated prog metal veterans Voivod (no small fans of Pink Floyd themselves, it's worth noting). The album wraps up with the aptly-titled "Rearview," indicating that GFE is a band that isn't afraid to look to the past while continuing to move forward.

Each song is its own journey, with all falling into the six- to eight-plus-minute range, but at just five songs over the course of 37 minutes, the album never feels bloated or ponderous. The songs ebb and flow, transitioning into one another so smoothly that you often don't know quite when one ends and another begins without looking at your stereo. To call Gifts From Enola an instrumental band would be an inaccuracy, but they certainly don't employ vocals in the traditional verse/chorus/verse sense. GFE treat vocals as just another instrument, sometimes drowning them in the mix to the point that they're audible but not quite intelligible. Other times, samples and spoken word take the place of traditional singing.

Overall, Gifts From Enola is an album that can impress as much with its beauty and simplicity as with its occasional moments of majesty and bombast. With their second bona fide "album of the year" candidate in as many tries (2009's From Fathoms finished fourth on my year-end list), Gifts From Enola is a band that shouldn't (and most likely won't be) ignored for much longer.

Gifts From Enola - "Alagoas"

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