Thursday 19 November 2020

I am Waiting for You Last Summer - Self-Defense (2020)

Country: Russia
Style: Post-Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Jun 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | VK

In the mood for some unusual post-rock before I listened to the new Pig Destroyer, I sampled a bunch of albums before I found anything particularly interesting. Then this one showed up and I knew it was the one. I am Waiting for You Last Summer (talk about a band name designed for post-rock!) hail from Ryazan, three hours outside Moscow, and I don't know a heck of a lot about them. They appear to have three members, one of whom is Sasha Sokolov (not the Canadian-born Russian writer) and this is their third album. Sokolov also keeps himself busy with side projects and work for Hollywood trailers.

That latter makes a lot of sense, because this is highly cinematic but in a schizophrenic way. Certainly the album doesn't tell a coherent story, but I'm not convinced that many of the individual tracks do either. It's like they tell parts of separate much longer stories, broken up into highlights to hint at a bigger picture, while remaining engaging and dynamic. Boiling Point, for instance, sounds rather like the good five minutes of a Michael Bay movie but with the boring two and a half hours stripped away.

There is an overarching concept, the album's Bandcamp page tells us. It's "about what happens inside the mind of a person living in a big city in the era of ubiquitous digitalization." Or, as if to highlight the cinematic nature of the music: "The person is by themselves, surrounded by digital avatars." This suggests to me a world in which we pay little attention to the physical world surrounding us because our connections are virtual instead, making for crowds full of people who never interact in person. By extension, that suggests a barer, more fragmented world in which what we're used to seeing in shared spaces has been gradually shifted to individual digital overlays.

That's pretty damn cyberpunk and the music that follows does a pretty good job of detailing that, not least because it's almost entirely instrumental. The introduction, Brave New World, is calm and warm and empty, as if we're in our safe space. Then In Circles hits us from a dozen directions at once, like the flavours in the air if we stand in the middle of a food court and close our eyes. But in Neo-Tokyo.

Listening to In Circles is like travelling at speed through a thriving metropolis, with ambient sounds around us waxing and waning, erupting and vanishing, according to a whole host of external factors. The pulsing beat suggests we're not walking but riding in a vehicle with the windows open through a city that seems alive but only when we look down on it from above with timelapse photography so we appear as merely one streak of light of many. There's so much to unpack from this song. I heard bits of Tangerine Dream and Gary Numan and a host of others I don't recognise.

In Circles is only one of a few highlights here, and there's more Tangerine Dream to find on the closer, Renascence, but it's a fantastic place to start because it takes us out there, somewhere, anywhere, and we don't really return to ourselves until the album's over. It's a hard task for a band to do that when the listener is on headphones in a dark room, let alone on speakers in an office, but I am Waiting for You Last Summer manage it here with ease. No hallucinogenics needed.

Je Me Demande deserves mention too, not only because it's the only piece of music here to feature a vocal track, presumably courtesy of Gdeto, who's the guest on it. It's dreamy stuff from the outset and her voice adds to that feel. While there's rock all through this album, there's plenty of pop here too and this moves from the latter to the former with panache, dreampop to searing guitar solo.

Everything Ends takes a little while to build, but it's well worth the wait for it to get there because it functions as its own crescendo. It feels not only apocalyptic but inexorable, yet somehow not final, as it's not cut off at its peak. It does end but there are a couple more pieces of music to come, so it's only a temporary end. And the first of those is Boiling Point, my favourite piece here, a heavier one but an ethnic one too. The drumming occasionally reminded me of the Geinoh Yamashirogumi soundtrack to Akira, but it's industrialised up and with other melodies overlaid. It's interweaving layers and they're fascinating.

In short, there's a lot here and I look forward to shifting this one onto earphones in the dark.

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