Enter the cosmic Mobius strip.
The exact point where a band goes from being a newcomer outfit to a fold of seasoned veterans has a high degree of subjectivity, but it can be generally stipulated that turning in 20 years of work in the art with an output of 9 full length studio albums and an EP qualifies one for the latter category. Likewise, with such a run producing a steady level of public interest while specializing in a rather unconventional and expansive stylistic niche, it may behoove the sonic craftsmen to take measure of where they’ve been and take stock of where the journey has taken them. Sometimes this eventuality will see the earliest work of the group in question receiving a studio update, and while the results that this can yield may prove polarizing to fan and critic alike, the specific case of Irish post-rock icons God Is An Astronaut dusting off their 2002 studio debut “The End Of The Beginning” and giving it a complete studio overhaul has resulted in one of the more successful ventures of its type.
In a macro sense, 2022’s “The Beginning Of The End” carries a relationship with its original archetype form that is analogous to Ralph Bakshi’s rotoscoping approach to animation during the 1980s and Pixar’s 2000s CGI films. While each carries its own unique charm and one doesn’t necessarily stand above the other in a qualitative sense, the latter carries a level of depth and vividness that can more readily appeal to today’s rock audience. Indeed, the advances in studio technology that have occurred in the time since the early days of the current millennium and the greater financial resources now at the band’s disposal result in a highly polished and more dynamic incarnation of their particularly blend of electronic, kraut-rock and space rock influences that brings it into greater focus. Between the more impactful punch that the guitars and drums now carry and the sheer density now enjoyed by the keyboards via higher grade patches, it becomes all the easier to lose oneself in the vastness of this 52 minute opus.
To those uninitiated into the post-rock world in which this band resides, the strictly instrumental blend of atmosphere and impact that typifies their sound could be likened to a 21st century answer to Tangerine Dream. Though this template may present a challenge to those whom prefer their music with vocals and a clear cut sense of structure, the songwriting approach they employ sees enough recapitulation and repetition of highly digestible melodic hooks within its more through-composed formula appeal to even the rock radio rank and file, hence the success of a couple of these songs on various MTV Europe outlets during their original run. It is interesting to note that the two songs in question, namely the album’s exposition and title anthem “The End Of The Beginning” and its immediate successor “From Dust To The Beyond” paint an elaborate picture of celestial bodies freewheeling through the cosmos with the first 12 minutes of the album; the former possessing a more driving feel and sense of simplicity while the latter proves to be more on developed and epic in scope, and also sees some auspicious bass contributions towards its conclusion courtesy of brother and co-founder Niels Kinsella.
When getting past the sheer density of these ambient compositions, what lies at their heart is a fairly rustic sense of groove that has been subjected to a high degree of sonic ornamentation. Whether it be shorter banger entries such as “Ascend To Oblivion” and “Fall From The Stars” that somehow manage to convey a sense of esoteric wonder, or longer-winded excursions such as “Point Pleasant” and “Remembrance” that somehow manage to be catch despite the extended passages of atmospheric ambiguity, at their heart these songs all lean fairly heavily on consonant tonal structures and straightforward drum beats that provide a needed anchor to what is otherwise a wildly elaborate dance of sounds and colors. Though it would be unclear where the chorus section would go on most of these interstellar works, the resulting stylistic flavor that is established could see the likes of Martin Gore or some other vocal icon of the 80s electronic craze lending their voice to the arrangement, but then again, what truly makes these songs unique is their musical mystique, which functions best with only the titles as verbal descriptors.
Though some may consider it a wasted opportunity to revisit the past when there could be new studio material in the works, “The Beginning Of The End” stands as one of the stronger examples of how retrofitting an olden masterwork with some new studio bells and whistles can result in a highly worthwhile listen. In a sense, this album functions as the idea introduction to the band for those that were either too young or otherwise unaware of them as they ascended the ranks of stylistically nonconforming acts over the past couple decades. It walks a thin line between being an album of meditation music and a traditional rock album that excites the more animated side of its prospective audience. It may set out to appeal to the inner space case within us all, but within its dreamy layers there is a raucous rock band in there that can reach beyond the ambient-obsessed niche that often populates post-rock circles.
Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: July 15th, 2022
Genre: Post Rock
“The Beginning Of The End” track listing:
- The End of the Beginning
- From Dust to the Beyond
- Ascend to Oblivion
- Point Pleasant
- Fall from the Stars
- Route 666
- Lost Symphony
- Torsten Kinsella / Vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Niels Kinsella / Bass, guitars, visuals
- Lloyd Hanney / Drums
- Jamie Dean / Keyboards, synthesizer, guitar
Order “The Beginning Of The End” HERE.
Twenty years almost to the day that Dublin-based post-rock trustees God Is An Astronaut first entered the musical fray, their independently financed and released debut LP receives a radical studio update while retaining its original organic and vivid ambient nature