Post-rock is a chameleon. It means different things to different folk. To some it all stems from the “less is more” school of minimalist and fragile songwriting pioneered, invented even by the uniquely talented Talk Talk, and carried on in a different vein by the likes of The Blue Nile, and modern day Radiohead, to name but two of many tortured crooners who implore us to join with their howls of despair.
To others, post-rock means the harmonics created from a thousand multi-tracked guitars thrashing away on a couple of chords at volume eleven for at least five minutes. Much more common, this gargantuan colossus of sound had its roots in The Jesus And Mary Chain’s influential first album, and their contemporaries, the no less significant Kevin Shields’ My Bloody Valentine. Noisy modern exponents of this branch of the tree are led by veterans Mogwai, and there are plenty of younger bands out there making ears bleed the world over in a similar fashion. This branch of the tree is far less “post” and much more “rock”.
inFictions are a band from Sheffield who fall somewhere between the two camps, with a leaning towards the songwriting tradition, but they are not averse to a good thrash, as evidenced here by the tumultuous DeadZones. Led by the understated but highly expressive voice of guitarist and songwriter Ed Cartledge, Vanity Project is the group’s second album, a mere six years on from their debut, which I reviewed at the time. A random pop-up in my news feed led me here.
Such is the nature of music making these days, when artists subsidise the huge salaries and dividends of executives and shareholders of streaming companies without being able to make an income for themselves, that I sense that the title of this album has more than a touch of irony in it. David Crosby described these new industry moguls as thieves on Breakfast News recently, and he’s not wrong. Vanity Project is loaded with pathos, and the songs are mostly a litany of despair at man’s abuse of the planet, as you may guess from the track titles. David Crosby would approve. The Bandcamp page invites you to “Explore Earth’s 9 life support systems” HERE, and why not indeed? Ed and his wife had two babies while the album was being made and there are also lyrics hinting at adulthood tapping the songwriter on the shoulder.
While there are righteous bursts of guitar noise, mostly the album ploughs a pleading furrow, and in some style it has to be said. This sorrowful yet gorgeous sound is epitomized by the penultimate track Climatics, which aches with melancholy. Ed’s voice is imploring but sincere, the music ebbing and flowing around it. Some nice percussion touches complete a picture in faded pastels. The final track The Weight Of Hurricanes leaves us in a more hopeful frame of mind as the album ends on a musically uplifting note, in a major key too!
Before that we have DeadZones and Red List setting the template with the aforementioned combination of post-rock styles. There are ballads here too, and syncopated string sections, islands of calm in the broiling globally warmed seas on which the album surfs. The latter make an appearance on the fragile instrumental Freshwater, an all too short but interesting departure from the rock band format.
This is a satisfying and warm album, perhaps surprisingly so, given its mostly stark subject matter, but this is leavened by the empathy at the core of Ed’s songs, and it is musically involving. Forget labels, this is simply good music made by a band with its heart in the right place.
01. Airtight (6:45)
02. DeadZones (3:41)
03. RedList (4:50)
04. Antarctica (3:40)
05. Formaldehyde (3:54)
06. Freshwater (2:56)
07. Desrted (4:00)
08. Acidification (5:00)
09. Climatics (5:28)
10. The Weight Of Hurricanes/The Upward-Sloping Path (6:12)
Total Time – 46:30
Ed Cartledge – Vocals, Guitars, Percussion, Accordion, Synths
Tom Chaffer – Guitars
Gareth Hughes – Bass, Percussion
James Fosberry – Drums, Percussion, Lap Steel
Hannah Cartledge – Flute, Backing Vocals
Ben Eckersley – Cello
Nick Milne – Muted Trumpet
Nick Cox – Piano
Naomi Fearon – Viola
Kat Hurdley – Violin
Olivia Shotton – Violin
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date Of Release: 6th August 2018