As natural successors to the likes of Talk Talk, Hood and Bark Psychosis, Epic45 create incredibly atmospheric post-rock, tinged with a very English sense of nostalgia. With each release, Ben Holton and Rob Glover have steadily shown more ambition. So it should be no surprise that ‘Weathering’ involves no less than thirteen musicians, including Stephen Jones (Babybird), Richard Adams (Hood) and regular guest member, Anthony Harding from July Skies.
Initially, the arrangments couldn’t be more subtle with Holton’s gentle caress of a vocal heard above the barely-there instrumentation. After four minutes of ‘People Say This Place Is Slowly Dying’ though, strings swell and rhythms become more intense as the music flowers in to something altogether more expansive and sweetly atmospheric. ‘The Village Is Asleep’ sounds like a lost Hood track, with static and electronic noise merging with strings and brushed percussion to create a bleak but beautiful track. Jones makes his presence felt on ‘With Our Backs To The City’; employing his falsetto to haunting effect as the filigree melodies help to build up the tension and desperation. Now more than ever, it seems as if the Stafordshire-based outfit want more listeners.
Yet after this arresting start, Epic45 disappointingly lose momentum, as if they become self conscious at the prospect of commercial potential and choose to retreat back into their shells. ‘Afternoon, Shadowed’, ‘The Weather Is Not Your Friend’ and ‘These Walks Saved Us’ are undoubtedly distinctive mood pieces but they lack the focus and drive of the earlier tracks. That said, the title track is a belated but stunning recovery which makes the “epic” in their name seem less ironic.
After barely putting a foot wrong throughout their long career, ‘Weathering’ sees Holton and Glover seem doubtful of which direction to turn to next: should they embrace their flair for songwriting or retreat into the experimental margins? That’s not to say ‘Weathering’ is an unfulfilling album; rather it’s an uneven one, which sounds like a couple of mismatched EPs.
Hood, Baby Bird, July Skies, El Heath