Tuesday 1 November 2022

Exxasens - Le-Voyage (2022)

Country: Spain
Style: Post-Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 9 Sep 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

I'm still learning about post-rock and what Exxasens do doesn't meet the strictest definition I've found for that genre, given that they employ not only synthesisers but other non-traditional rock instruments like trumpets. However, the end result sounds exactly like I'm starting to expect from the genre, this set of eight pieces of music not so much instrumental songs as evocative journeys. Their Bandcamp page states that the goal of this particular album "is to make the listener travel to hitherto unexplored places within the EXXASENS universe" and I certainly felt like my passport had been stamped at a lot of places by the time it ended.

Le-Voyage opens ambitiously with a three part title track that accounts for about half of the total running time of the album. The individual titles suggest a cosmic journey—Departure, One Step to the Moon and Back to Space—and it's not too hard to imagine Departure in terms of a launch. The initial passages are rhythmic, as if a ground crew is going about its business. Then it gets dense as the ship launches in a burst of frantic activity. And then it gets quiet, because we're up there now. Sure, the drums tell us that there's a lot still going on but we can also see out of the window and it looks beautiful and calm.

Departure amounts to a nine minute journey all on its own, but there are five more in One Step to the Moon, with a patient beat perhaps echoing the climb down the ladder from the module and a growing sense of imagination perhaps representing discovery, and a further four in Back to Space, which is where it gets really interesting. This third part kicks off with bubbling liquid and a strange background drone. What have Exxasens found on the Moon? I guess that depends on how we feel about what else goes on within this title track and the beauty of instrumental music is that what I hear may not be what you hear and neither of us may match what the band hear. Welcome to the joys of post-rock!

The rest of the album isn't as deep and exploratory, because each piece has to do its thing in a far briefer amount of time, Alpha the most at five and a half minutes and Orbiting Mars shortest at a skimpy two and a half. When you're in the conjuring up environments business, more time is more space for imagination and two and a half minutes is just a glimpse. As such, they work the way that Tangerine Dream pieces work at glimpse length, which is to say that Le Parc is a fun album but it's not as immersive as Phaedra or Stratosfear, let alone Ricochet or Rubycon.

And that's not to say that they aren't successful. I particularly liked Black Hole, with its gloriously building darkness. Was that a cello during the initial build? It certainly sounded like one, even if it turns out to be the guitar of guest Magnus Lervik, who provides a searing solo that's the heart of the track, emphasised wonderfully by the rest of the band. That's certainly a trumpet in L'Etoiles, courtesy of another guest, Jordi Sacristan, and it lends it an utterly different tone, an exquisitely personal moment in a soundscape that's otherwise highly impressionistic.

He's there on Departure too, unless I was dreaming, which I might have been given how elegantly this one slows down after that point and how easy it is to get lost in the opener. When I went back to check, I kept intending to only listen to part one, only to become absorbed by it and realise that I was halfway through part two already or the liquid that kicks off part three told me clearly what point I'd got to. I enjoyed the second half, but the first half is where what Exxasens do can be best experienced. So this is half an 8/10 and half a 7/10 and I now have six prior albums to track down...

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