Aesthesys - Alignments

Aesthesys – Alignments

Two years ago I was introduced to Russian band Aesthesys, via their album from that year, Achromata. The most exciting aspect of their music was the use of soaring violin parts over their post rock music. By no means the first post rock band to use this instrument, but easily the best of those I’ve heard (something that almost pains me to admit, as they edge out the marvellous band from my homeland, Shepherds of Cassini). This year’s Alignments leaves us in no doubt that we are in for more of the same, with the violin making its presence known immediately – and darn, Aesthesys founder, Nik Koniwzski, plays a mean violin!

The next thing that drew my attention on Alignments was the drumming of Artem Taganov. Now there was nothing wrong with the drums on Achromata, but the drumming here is on a whole other level. Even better, this seems to have upped the game of Sasha Coudray on bass, who shone anyway on Achromata, but is playing like a beast on Alignments. The rhythm section provides an almost constant gut punch, providing a wall of sound of their own, before I even take into consideration the strings and keys of Victor Krabovich (guitar, keyboards) and Nik Koniwzski (violin, keyboards).

What Aesthesys have done incredibly well, is to conjure up mental imagery of a techno-dystopian future with their music. Although there are no real similarities in sound, I’m often reminded of Muse’s Simulation Theory, and Long Distance Calling’s recent How Do We Want To Live?. All three albums mine the same sci-fi territory of replication, simulation and artificial intelligence, and come up with a retro-futuristic sound that conveys the part (or lack thereof) that humans might play in their own future. The band’s Bandcamp page proclaims Aesthesys to be “robots’ and neural net-works’ most favourite progressive rock band, soon to be the official soundtrack of the AI uprising”, and although it’s written tongue-in-cheek, it’s not hard to believe that if there were to be such an official soundtrack, Aesthesys would definitely fit the bill.

The music of Aesthesys in itself is uprising – it’s energetic, driving, and powerful. There may be more gentle and atmospheric passages, but for the most part this album is a beautiful and commanding rush. And, as you’d expect for a band whose target audience is apparently robots and neural networks, electronic. The use of electronica is not new to Aesthesys, but it’s more prominent in Alignments than any previous album. Given the subject matter, this makes sense anyway, but it really does work well. Even when a composition is almost entirely electronic sounding, it is never overwhelming, and always so perfectly integrated into the sound. There are so many layers and textures of sounds in the music. It’s all terribly complex and intertwined, and yet so simple and easy to listen to.

The one real surprise for me was Better Stranger, which may well be my favourite track on the album. It’s almost like an ‘80s throwback with a contemporary and spacey finish. It might evoke the ‘80s for me, but it certainly doesn’t sound dated. The rhythm section absolutely excel on this track, as they pound away under some quite gorgeous keys. And although it hits like a bomb, and stands out on the album, it really is simply a composition that more overtly shows the fusion of post rock and synthwave that Aesthesys have used on this album. And yet, it also sounded strangely familiar. I was thinking it reminded me of ‘80s King Crimson, or maybe Talking Heads. And then it clicked. It was Changes by Yes. Go ahead, listen to that song, and then Better Stranger. But don’t listen too long to Yes, because Better Stranger is by far the more interesting and enjoyable. (And, dare I say it, more talented.)

Alignments gives us soaring strings, cinematic soundscapes, and the technological punchiness of electronic samples and synths. It’s an ambitious and scintillating album that succeeds on every level. As good as the critically acclaimed Achromata was, Alignments is even better. This release deserves to be hailed as one of the greatest post rock releases of 2020, and I’m sure by the end of this year, it will be.

01. Exodus (5:21)
02. Black Swans (5:49)
03. 01101001 (4:52)
04. Transcendants (3:30)
05. Hello World (4:00)
06. Replicant Party (4:06)
07. Obey (3:19)
08. Better Stranger (3:46)
09. Me2 (4:33)
10. Amen D (3:41)

Total Time – 42:47

Sasha Coudray — Bass Guitar
Artem Taganov — Drums
Victor Krabovich — Electric Guitar, Keys
Nik Koniwzski — Violin, Keys

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 28th May 2020

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