Is it possible that one of the best post-rock albums of 2015 will be an album recorded in 2007? The chances are very good, because Segundo is an excellent album, so good that its prior invisibility now seems stunning.
I first happened upon The Boats a decade ago, after buying Songs by the Sea and searching for more music from what turned out to be the other band named The Boats. Sonically, the two have no connection, as the latter trio is an ambient/glitch act, while this Australian trio is pure post-rock. Their particular style is caught between EITS and Do Make Say Think, as evidenced by the extended dialogue sample that opens the album and the languid, we’re-in-no-hurry-to-get-there approach. It’s unusual to encounter such a time capsule, but it sets in relief the current state of post-rock, all too often dominated by formulaic composition. In one way, listening to Segundo is like going back in time, but in another it’s like being treated to a second helping of a dish that one thought was gone.
That opening track – “Trash Can Willy, Pt. 1” – is a reminder of the genre’s potential. The song defies any strict sonic mapping, as it contains no obvious turns and concludes in a full minute of withdrawal. The 20-minute “Pt. 2” closes the album, revisiting certain themes while adding others. On their own, these tracks alone could have made a fine long EP or short LP; the western themes of the second part conjure images of men on horseback, riding to the rescue of a besieged frontier town.
The entire album unfolds like the journey that it has been: no end in sight, only the long ride. The band is confident enough to drop out for stretches of near-silence, as it does in “There’s Not a Fire That Can Warm Us,” unrolling their instruments like food from a saddlebag. Everything that must happen, will happen; the only question is when. By design, classic post-rock is the anathema of A.D.D., but a boon to those who can pass the marshmallow test. Rewards await the focused and patient. “Stairway to Heaven” was once considered “too long” at 8:02; four of these tracks top that length, and are all the better for it. The violin of lead track “The Last Man on Earth” hides like Robert Neville until it seems safe to emerge; the 15-minute “Cold Ark Revisited” takes nearly its entire length to reach Mt. Ararat.
But wait, there’s more ~ for only $2 extra, one can purchase the extended edition, which contains 34 more minutes of music. These tracks stand just a bit outside of the main album, like prospective hotel guests sitting on a front porch, waiting for a vacancy. And yet, some of the finest sounds are here, the most memorable being the clear climaxes of “Tierra del Fuego” and the two-minute film reel and violin lullaby, “I Remember….an Eon Ago”, which is unlike anything else on the album. Overall, these bonus tracks seem newer and more sharply mastered ~ a possible sign of things to come.
So what happened to The Boats? Why the long silence? One band member moved to Berlin, but that’s not enough to explain the fact that Segundo took so long to get here. Our guess is that a label deal fell through, and that after some time had passed, the band was reluctant to release an album they feared would sound dated. Such fears are unfounded, as the album stands up well against its new peers. Back in 2007, Segundo might have been overshadowed by such works as Do Make Say Think’s You, You’re a History in Rust, Explosions in the Sky’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Grails’ Burning Off Impurities and Caspian’s The Four Trees, and it would be unfair to make comparisons now because the others have had so much time to seep into our consciousness. Suffice it to say that we’re enjoying it now, and now we’re wondering if there’s a hidden Yndi Halda album out there somewhere as well. (Richard Allen)