A year and a half after their debut Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine, This Patch of Sky has returned with an album that is twice as long and more diverse. The album includes the expected post-rock belters, but has dropped the occasional scream and now includes some more ambient pieces and one dialogue-driven track.
To sidestep the sophomore slump, bands must first be sure to keep their old fans. The average listener will encounter one of two tracks first: the title track (due to its inclusion on Oxide Tones’ comp Ode to an Unspoken Movement) or the opening track and lead single, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”). The former follows the post-rock template of This Will Destroy You’s “The Mighty Rio Grande”, a fine track but not surprising, waiting five minutes to erupt with crescendoes then closing with bell tones. Fortunately, “And Death Will Have No Dominion” plays it a little less safe (although it would have been nice to have included Dylan Thomas). Odd rustling noises introduce the track, which then proceeds on a moody path, reflecting the poem. Shorter than its predecessor, it packs a more powerful punch. Of the other potential crowd pleasers, “Ten Thousand Hours” is a personal favorite, due to the inclusion of something that sounds like handheld sleigh bells.
The ambience is no longer restricted to the beginnings, endings and interludes; on the new album, three entire tracks reflect this restrained approach. A pair of such pieces brackets the title track like headphones, while “Selah” includes musings on love and loss. The expansion is a light challenge to listeners, who should already be satisfied by the time they hear them. In terms of the big picture, it’s a worthwhile move, as too many crescendoes can spoil the broth. Our advice is to keep stretching the boundaries; a varied template will lead to a longer career, and after hearing this album, fans will be happy to hear more experimentation. (Richard Allen)