opinion by BRENDAN FRANK
Poverty, disease, environmental destruction, deep-rooted corruption – there’s a lot going on in the world to freak out about. 65daysofstatic are out to prove that that even what seems hopeless can be uplifting it catches the light the right way. Paul Wolinski, Joe Shrewsbury, Rob Jones and Simon Wright have been a band just long enough to see the tragic complexity of the new millennium unfold in real time. And what better way to keep tabs on the misfortunes and malaises of our world than to provide soundtracks for them?
As you might have surmised without listening, 65daysofstatic’s debut, The Fall of Math, was an album of guitar-driven post-rock. Each successive release has gradually nudged the Sheffield quartet closer to electronica, up to and including 2010’s We Were Exploding Anyway and 2011’s alternate soundtrack to the 1972 sci-fi film, Silent Running. Wild Light is their sixth studio release, and it’s most certainly their most computerized. Taking their body of work as one extensive artistic statement, it is also quite inarguably the zenith of their career.
Released in mid-September in the UK and due stateside at the end of the month, Wild Light a towering achievement of vision, ambition and imagination. These lumbering sonic skyscrapers readily substitute the ethereal for the palpable, the fear-inducing for the exalting, seamlessly collating the drivers behind 65daysofstatic’s development as a band. It has a tendency to remind you of other post-rock acts without actually sounding all that much like them. There’s the Promethean grandeur of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the physicality of Battles, and the earthbound patience of Explosions in the Sky or Lanterna.
The imagery of Wild Light is nightmarish and audacious, but the thickly mantled compositions are often beautiful, surging towards some unobtainably lofty plane. Only a handful of tracks start out on modest terms. Listening to “Taipei” is like rewinding the tape on glowing embers and watching as they renew themselves into a massive bonfire; piano-focused “The Undertow” unfolds as an interlude, sequenced between two of Wild Light’s more intense offerings, “Prisms” and “Black Spots”.
The particulars of what 65daysofstatic try to achieve with their sound are so abundantly realized as to be self-evident. They address their hefty subject matter without uttering a single word, electing instead to express themselves through physical movement. Wild Light is a fully intact listening experience, peppered with sonic leitmotifs that fold back onto themselves once the final chords are drowned out by silence.
Along with cyclicality and recursion, 65daysofstatic seem fascinated with the (rather complimentary) concept of time. One of the more plausible theories for how our universe will die is that all of the energy that can be expended will be expended; we will reach maximum entropy and simply fade, which is a bit of a bummer. With its title in mind, the tireless grind of intro “Heat Death Infinity Splitter” illuminates the inevitability of our collective fate. The mechanistic synth lurches and doomed guitar bends that recall Swans track “Lunacy”, and it’s equally as dread-inducing.
But if this all sounds a little too morbid, its tempered by the obvious joy and care with which 65daysofstatic approach their art. There are nods to the their past, with tracks like “Blackspots” recalling some of the aggression of their earliest releases. Elsewhere, they’re as mild as they’ve ever been. Sendoff “Safe Passage” features nearly no percussion, instead opting for iridescent washes of noise. “Prisms” begins as an experiment in atonality, smash cutting from black hole drone to ecstatic synth bombast before a pair of plush tremolo guitars take control; one last rave tune before end times.
Everything reaches a breathless climax on “Unmake the Wild Light”. Its somber segments topple into one another, each a fluent extension of what came before it to create a magnificent collage of roving bass lines, Rorschach drum patterns and blurry power chords. Although to call it a climax is to downplay the impact found elsewhere. Every moment here is inspired. For anyone who can appreciate emotional breadth that music is capable of conveying, make Wild Light a part of your life. It may be the best instrumental album you hear this year. [A-]