And So I Watch You From Afar - GangsReleased in 2011, “Gangs” caused quite a stir. It’s one of those records that got played a lot by people who don’t normally listen to instrumental music as well as those who live off the stuff. The verdict was overwhelmingly one of being knocked down by the explosion of sound – mainly the distorted, metallic, atonal riff-fest found on a few tracks. While the word “eponymous” is generally used to mean “self-titled” in describing records, it the case of their 2009 debut it also took the meaning of the band giving their name to a sound. The consensus in 2011 was that these guys remain innovators rather than followers.

Looking back on it I understand the excitement but on listening again some months on and alongside other great releases of 2011-12, some of the cracks are a little wider. For example, I find some of the repetition of the squealing riffs continues too long in parts. It’s a great sound but a little annoying in the end. Regardless, the niggles simply see me rating this an eight and a half when it would probably have scored a nine or more the first times I heard it.

One of the most noticeable aspects of “Gangs” is how tightly And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) play, with an instinct that only comes from putting in the hard work. All reports I’ve had tell me this is a quartet that knows how to play live and it’s evident in their recorded work.

The show kicks of with a rallying chant before the lads let fly with their trademark racket in “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION” (clearly not taking this name-your-instrumental-track game to seriously), before it all settles down momentarily in preparation for shrieking, loopy, bouncy riffs and crashing cymbals.

The next two songs continue the pace you don’t normally find in post-rock but is part of the new breed led by bands like ASIWYFA and What the Blood Revealed. “Gangs” is made up of songs of moderate length that maintain the anti-pop and anti-verse-chorus-verse structure that post-rock was built on. Rather than just take the highlights package of some awesome, long crescendocore, ASIWYFA does as 65daysofstatic did in 2003 and turns its nose up at the Explosions In The Sky sound- more experimental and fuller in variety of texture and sound, and above all they smack you about with a grin on their face.

There’s still some of the more laid back mathy sound of “7 Billion People All Alive at Once”, but the loopy riffs are a constant in the record no matter the pace of the song, and we are really here for 120 bpm, not some long, slow noodling.

Just as the album starts with a musical cry of “All for one…”, you can sense the beers being opened and bottles clinked as the 45 minute masterpiece of instrumental rock draws its last breaths. To tell you the truth, ignore what I said earlier. This is still almost a nine out of ten a year on. Buy it. Now!

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