When it gets to the tail end of the musical year, one of the things that you start doing is sorting out those records that have truly made a difference to your previous twelve months. The bright spark in January may no longer glow as brightly; the high summer festival moment may really have been the result of too much cider. In much the same way I find myself not really knowing what to think about the debut record from French ambient/Djent outfit, Uneven Structure and their latest record, “Februus”. It’s not that it’s a bad record- on the contrary, mes amis, this is one of the most challenging yet creative and innovative records I have heard in many a day but I’m struggling to catalogue it and work out whether I love it or whether I just admire it.
France hasn’t always been renowned for having the most vibrant of music scenes, particularly when it comes to the more left field inclined of us, but with Alcest, Gojira and now Uneven Structure , there’s a potential for a thrilling groundswell of new, pulsating music from our Gallic cousins. “Februus” sounds like lots of other records I have heard this year and, in parallel, it also sounds like NOTHING I have heard all year. It effortlessly shifts from hard, relentless Djent influenced rock, a la Meshuggah to haunting, beautifully constructed and majestically executed ambient soundscaping that would not look out of place on a bleak Moby record or in the dark depths of a My Bloody Valentine indulgence.
The best example of what I’m talking about comes early on in the record with the brilliant and evocative ‘Frost’. This is not like anything you will have heard this year. Ok, TesseracT might have hinted about what was possible but Uneven Structure are the first to truly realise the magnificent effect of jumping between hard riffing into haunting melody without any sense of the clunky or the shoehorn. It’s a fantastic song and typical of the ideas and invention of the rest of the record.
If ‘Frost’ is a perfect starter, then the main course can be found in the aptly named ‘Plenitude’ which takes the band’s considerable ideas and stretches them- not to breaking point- but way beyond what you would expect from a generally fledging outfit. Bands at this stage of their careers generally try to endear themselves. By taking the risks that they do with a track like ‘Plenitude’, they have aimed high. It is a risk that pays off handsomely.
There is plenty to admire elsewhere on this record, too. The ambient soaked ‘Exmersion’ stands shoulder to shoulder with the art brutalism of ‘Quittance’ or ‘Hail‘ wherein the band test our preconceptions and their own talent in formidable ways. The production standards on this album are admirable- each track has space to breathe, even when its pummelling your cranium and there’s a sense – and a very welcome one- of a proper narrative arc running across the record. Thankfully, they know that the album still matters.
At the start of this review I wrote that I wasn’t sure whether I loved or admired “Februus”. In the course of writing this review of this brilliant, uncompromising debut album from a band of serious promise, I have changed my mind. I both admire and love it. The bar has been raised. And how.