Beyond any shadow of a doubt, 2014 was a landmark year for British math & post-rock. Not only did we see fantastic albums coming out left, right and centre, but ArcTanGent festival had its second successful year, and the genre renaissance kicked up a notch in what was truly a triumphant twelve months in these intertwined and converging worlds. However, is the extremely high standard going to be maintained into 2015? If Alright The Captain’s second full-length ‘Contact Fix’ is anything to go by, there’s plenty of reason to feel that the “math-” side of the equation (wink wink, nudge nudge) is in safe hands going forth. The missing link between …And So I Watch You From Afar and Three Trapped Tigers, between Don Caballero and Tera Melos, this Derby trio utilise the skills learnt from tireless touring well on this effort.
At just 28 minutes in total, the eight tracks that comprise ‘Contact Fix’ rarely waste a second in this dizzying, dazzling miasma of synths and riffs; ATC are soothing you one minute with spacey segments and flooring you with snarling basslines the next. It’s a quite breathtaking experience, and like many bands of this ilk, there is nary a vocal in sight other than the odd sample – they like to let their instrumental prowess do all the talking for them. It’s difficult to pick out particular highlights, as all tracks have their moments, but the hypnotic, aggressive riffs of ‘Baltirific’ and the waltzing, lurching ‘Eagle Hands’ possibly encapsulates the aforementioned two “sides” of Alright The Captain, and the heaviness of penultimate track ‘I’m Not Smart, I Don’t Have That Book Learning Stuff’ shows the brawn they’re capable of as well as their substantial brain.
However, whilst this is impressive stuff, from time to time it can feel a little formulaic; this represents the more “paint-by-numbers” spectrum of math-rock, whereas their peers have thrown the rulebook out of the window and gone completely off-kilter. This segues into another reason why it perhaps falls a little behind the class of 2014; bands like Axes, Cleft and Alpha Male Tea Party successfully subverted the idea that math was, in meme terms, “srs bsns” by injecting a sense of fun and adventure into proceedings. I’m not saying that Alright The Captain should force themselves to adopt a madcap, “whacky” humour to their songs, it can just feel a little po-faced and like these are the guys that are going to bend your ear about effects pedals for half an hour at the Math Rock Party, rather than share a tinnie with you.
While it’s not without its faults, ‘Contact Fix’ is a very enjoyable record, and though it might not be the first great math-rock record of the year, it’s certainly one that bodes well for what might be in store. We Brits have a good thing going with this underground upswelling, maybe even since the #UKSWELL-era of excellent post-hardcore bands, and it needs to be celebrated by all and sundry. Sit up and take notice of the math-/post-rock renaissance and pop down to a show – looking at their schedule, Alright The Captain may have played your local three times by the end of the month.
‘Contact Fix’ by Alright The Captain is released on 2nd February on Mountains Of Records.
Words by Ollie Connors.