02 July 2011

Apollo - the small step ep (2011)

First EP for Apollo, a band from Brisbane adding his name to the underestimated, underexposed list of Australian bands showing some slowcore features in their genes.

They are citing Death Cab For Cutie or Explosions in the Sky as musical references, but to be honest, in their DNA you'll mostly find elements from Art of Fighting or Purplene, and also from these many other Australian bands using one way or the other slowcore and dreampop elements and who stayed in the obscurity, would it be Adlerseri, Sea Life Park, Broken Flight, Light's Surprising Constancy or The Rebel Astronauts.

Created in 2010, with Alex Hill (guitar/vocals), Dave Try (drums), Andrew Dahl (bass) and Jai Lott (guitar), - apparently none of them with previous experience in similar band -, they are finally going out of the woods with something publicly available outside of their live shows. 

Four songs recorded in a single day, on 3 April 2011, so everything is very clean and precise, with every variation known by heart, on the tip of their fingers, with slow and maritime rhythms, tense for the effort of looking / sounding good.

And there potentially lays a problem of this EP, a question of frame, everything has been seriously weighed up, with rationality, stamina and will, with an idea of format too, the lyrics have depth, the vocals are showing intensity and fervor, the music is slow and tense, but as a whole, it doesn't burst or overflow. It is like a frame contained in a frame, they have both tried to make it sound authentic and sincere and tried to make is sound melodic and accessible but without the attractiveness. Austere without the full release of tension, melodic without blooming.

Don't get me wrong, it is a nice EP but with sometimes you've got the feeling that everything is too much under control, too nice and clean, that it could be more extreme, more slow, more tense, more rapid, more noisy, more silent, more whispered, or more confident. But it's not an obvious feeling, it's just something that will restrain you to give yourself up completely to their music, failing by that way to give to Apollo a strong identity.

Maybe it is just the result of a first release and they can correct this later and develop something more personal and original. Maybe it's also because of a too intense focus on Death Cab For Cutie and the hope to realize something both strong and popular? Probably a more introvert and spontaneous rendering would have untangled such knot.

The two opening songs are already beautiful, "Evading" and "Know Better" but finally fail to truly convince and I rapidly feel bored and almost irritated. Everything could stop here but after this first half everything changes.

When the expected directions are embraced, it is directly much more authentic: the third song, "Drinking", is  reflexive, desperate and disturbed, the lyrics are both relentless, stinging, burning, cruel, but irremediably human and sensitive, in 4:32, they disqualify their two first songs, while putting themselves at risk, achieving a real timeless song.  It is really a strange object of desire, dark, mysterious, insolvable, like a sinking ship.

The last song "Blancing" confirms this too.

Maybe it's in the subject of these two songs, the darkness and melancholy contained in interpersonal relations while the two first songs were more about self-pitying? "Balancing" is a kind of funeral song, with a merciless lucidity which makes you breathe deeply, which slowly rises and gains in liberating intensity.  

What a damned EP, I can't relate to it when I listen to the four songs but when I focus on the two last ones and forgot the existence of the first two, I'm finally impressed and gladly reminded of the reasons why I still go on searching for new music, simply hoping such shivering experiences.

So yes, Apollo is a talented band, with much work and research in front of them but the game worth the candle.

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