I’ve said it in reviews before. One of the best places a band can inhabit is the sound in between happy and sad. It’s even better when a band can move between the two.
That’s what Refraction are managing to do on their new EP, and it’s pretty bloody good.
The big points of reference for the instrumental post-rock group from Dublin change song by song, but broadly what we’ve got is some excellent Pelican, Red Sparowes, Earth and at times Dysrhythmia worship with good warmth, a human production and some quality riffs.
Opener ‘(A)denine’ has the between moods effect mentioned at the beginning down really well. It’s an energetic and indeed quite breezy opener, blowing away some cobwebs with it’s driving feel.
It showcases the band’s parts as being individually strong. Indeed the first phrases confirn it: we’ve got a bass drum and snare punctuating offbeats in an upbeat and pleasantly unorthodox way, while the two guitars mingle their lines in a rather gorgeous melodic counterpoint.
‘(T)hymine’ is the basis for that Red Sparowes comment, because it’s all about the bass – how it lingers, and how the rest of the reverbed instruments around it add to a plaintive mood. The sample of Robert Oppenheimer meditating on his role as the father of the atomic bomb is a poignant addition here, as well.
But the best of the four tracks is ‘(C)ytosine’. The reason is its unconventional chord progression, which really utilises the guitars’ low ends to great melodic effect. It also picks up into a semi-blastbeat at the close, which is a welcome change of pace.
There are a couple of reasons why Refraction are doing really well in their songwriting. Consider first the limitations. Most post rock bands just swell up and fade down again. Refraction avoid that, meaning they have to actually use their brains – a good sign.
Next, they use vocals sparingly rather than abandoning them wholesale. Ok, it’s only in one track, but at least they’ve kept the option open.
Finally, they’re pushing themselves to make unexpected moves, be it in the drumming or the chord choices. Again, an unorthodox and above average choice.
I saw them at their early stages live, and they were engaging then. They’ll be superb now, having grown a bit and coalesced. The tones are great, the songwriting’s top drawer and they’re being inventive.
What they haven’t yet got, and what they really need to stand out in the rather crowded post-rock space, is an absolute motherfucker of a tune, or even riff, to let fans galvanise around.
They need a lodestone moment, an absolute stormer of a track. In fact they need it to be so good as to make their existing tracks look modest. That way, people will come to them.
The four tracks here are great, but they’re constant – the quality is even. They need a whopper to be remembered by.
It’ll make all the difference. I hope they can do it, because they’re an intriguing proposition here and hopefully further afield as well.
Oh, and fair play to Emmet Connell for the standout art as well.
3.8 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 11/06/13