Affinity is a slow grower. One wants to resist its charms, seeing the traditional post-rock mountain on the cover and hearing the familiar timbres. But as these blissful songs unfold, they begin to cast a spell. For this we can credit strong composition, as well as the warmth of violin, cello, viola, music box and glockenspiel.
Heima may come to mind, but this music is from New Zealand and is specifically earth-conscious, akin to the works of Rhian Sheehan and protégée Lauren King. We mentioned Sheehan when we reviewed Levi Patel‘s Of Sleep and Time EP, and now Sheehan is thanked in the credits as well. There’s an obvious affinity among these artists. While Patel is in good company, the creation of a signature sound would go a long way in defining him as a singular composer.
This sound has been evolving over the course of the past couple years, as the last EP headed more in the direction of modern composition, following a flirtation with ambience. All three influences are present here. The mid-track bloom of “And she translated into the sky” (which first appeared in 2013) provides the first indication of a scoring mentality, as one can imagine Hollywood calling ~ especially Disney Nature, whose music could use a little boost. Look no further than the video for “Since Last Letters” for an example (see below); the visuals of Nils Clauss, combined with the music of Patel, are stunning, offering dignity to character, creature and setting alike.
Now we come to the facets that make the album work, and which one might argue are the foundation of all memorable post-rock albums: sadness, nostalgia and triumph. The sadness is communicated by the strings, especially when they are allowed to operate virtually unadorned (“For other days”); they tug at the emotions, challenging listeners to remain impassive. The nostalgia is etched into the bright notes of the glockenspiel and music box, which bear associations with childhood. These associations are nothing new, which is why we try so hard to resist their charm. Perhaps this is a reflection of the current climate, in which comfort seems so elusive; to have it here, at one’s fingertips, is a solace. And more than ever, we need encouragement: to be told that we (or our nations, or our world) can reach the summits of our metaphorical mountains, planting flags of hope and peace. And this is where Patel and his fellow New Zealanders excel. As the latest Lonely Planet introduction reads, “As the planet heats up environmentally and politically, it’s good to know that New Zealand exists. This uncrowded, green, peaceful and accepting country is the ultimate escape.” Even more encouraging is the fact that the artists we’ve encountered from this island nation are not in favor of escape as much as engagement; they are thoroughly involved in the preservation of ecological balance for future generations. And so as Patel’s music lilts and lifts, rising toward crescendos and climaxes, we might at first protest that these sounds remind us of sounds on other albums we own, but ultimately conclude that there’s always room in our collections for more life-affirming music. (Richard Allen)