Friday, September 16, 2011

Record review: An Aesthetic Anaesthetic - 'Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons'

By Sasha Geffen

Maybe our apocalyptic imaginings are selfishly drawn; maybe we just don't want to conceive of a society that outlives us, don't want to think of all the future we'll miss. Whatever the motives, I love a well-rendered apocalypse. The first full-length from the cleverly monikered An Aesthetic Anaesthetic paints intricate doomscapes, worlds striped with lingering melancholy and fiery destruction built from raw post-metal guitarwork. 

Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons houses an ultimately sparse and lonely sort of world, a world still encrusted with the anger of its own demise. Opener "Liar Liar Plans For Fire" creeps in slow with an ominous trickle of piano, which soon gives way to one nervous, acidic riff that dominates the song's remainder. Power chord crunches punctuate the flickery build. The track eventually crashes into the record's sole display of vocals, a slightly awkward post-hardcore flail. But A!A!A reins in the screams for the rest of the album, instead letting the strings do the talking.

Unlike some of their strictly mathematical genre peers, A!A!A doesn't shy away from the freeform guitar solo. "We Set Tokyo Ablaze" weaves clean shreds into distorted walls of sound, and much of the record derives momentum from the tension between amorphous roars and jittery detailing. There are no crescendos like you might find on an Explosions in the Sky record; no high schooler would ever see fit to score a winning touchdown to an Anaesthetic soundtrack. Instead, Machinery plays out like Tristeza plugged into a Pelican rig: the focus rests on crawling patterns and raging noise. But the record's not out to drain us with untempered visions of a desiccated future. A few moments of optimism pierce the clouds: "Fortune Animal Cookie" invigorates the album with playful, jangly riffs punctuated by handclaps, while "Porcelain Pets" glitters with simultaneously mournful and hopeful strains. Maybe this isn't strictly the portrait of our doomsday; maybe it's also that of our rebuilding.

Clocking in at an hour, Machinery stretches into a remarkably ambitious length. Most songs linger past the 5-minute mark, stacking themselves into spaciously epic territory. While the volume of material is impressive, it does seem to want for some edits. The final act of the album frays into a buzz that lacks the same kind of urgency present at the start. But those who love their post-rock lo-fi and mean will find no shortage of solid, gritty work here.

Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons is available as a $4 download from A!A!A's Bandcamp

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