It's really hard to find a post rock band in Taiwan.......
Just kidding! Obviously there are lots of them (about 3 billion at the last count) and as such, there's a very high probability that at least one is probably post-rocking their socks off in a room near you right now.
It's a genre that seems to really resonate with Taiwanese music crowds, and the influences of this sound have started to seep into popular culture, cropping up in everything from TV ads to movies and probably other stuff too. Like chocolate (but that one can't be proved, or, within the context of this particular paragraph, even really be made to make any sense).
One band in Taipei who seem to be taking a slightly bigger step forward than some of the other newer post-rock groups is Goosander (川秋沙). Since this album was released not so long ago, their name seems to have been cropping up left right and, indeed, centre, piquing interest from many different areas, including enough for their EP of last year to get a review right here on GigGuide.
That EP, in this writer's opinion, was a pretty damn good debut release, which hinted at the distinct possibility of much better things to come. So the obvious question to ask is how does the new album compare to the EP?
Well, in all honesty, not much has changed since last time. It's pretty much the same kind of thing but, whereas the EP had a very full and confident sound, there are moments on this recording that suggest that a bit more time was needed to really get this album clicking quite so well as before.
This is a band who obviously already have a good understanding of what they are aiming for in terms of song writing and they put this to very good use for the genre that they play. The Taiwanese vocals of singer, 翁宜襄 (Yvonne) are really very beautiful and add an equal dose of power and depth at just the right moments. The singing also adds a slightly more interesting layer to the band, giving hints of the much more traditional Taiwanese style that constantly lurks beneath the surface of every song.
The other band members, 林村宜 (Vincent) on guitar, 亞柏 (Abraham) on bass and 彥 (Hiko) on drums all play their parts well and in particular, 林村宜 does an admiral job of using his sound to help marry each song to the vocals and maintain the build and drive that's such an important feature of their music.
The songs themselves follow the same cyclical formula as those on the EP, with a soft simple beginning gradually building momentum through noise before climbing back down from emotional peaks to rest once again in a more peaceful place. The album flows well in this sense and the music comes at you in waves, it's just a shame that this feeling is not captured quite as well as it could have been.
There are some standout moments, such as the build on 管芒 (Silver Grass) or the marching drums on 風尾 (Fong Wei), but unfortunately these moments are more parts of songs than entire ones.
The track 車尾燈戀人 (Taillight Lovers) is probably the best example of what Goosander do on the album. Starting strongly with nice effects and delicious melody, the song gradually moves through the gears whilst never losing that feeling created at the beginning. This kind of success is repeated throughout the album, though unfortunately none of the other songs really feel as complete as Taillight Lovers (so it's probably a good thing it's towards the end of the album).
Looking back at this review it seems as though it's a bit negative. It's really not supposed to be. This is a young band who have come a long way in a very short space of time and who have shown already that they have the talent to keep going further. Recording an album is a very different bag of chips to recording an EP, not least the financial restraints on time. Artificial Shoals shows very clearly what Goosander are capable of, and hopefully it will bring them the success that gives them enough time and space to make the next album a cracker.
Right, this writer had best be off, he's got 472 post-rock bands to go and watch tonight...