Once in a while, and much less frequently than we’d like, we’re reminded of how much we like post-rock. This happens whenever a release arrives to tell us, once again, that the genre is alive and well. The latest release to perform this service comes from Amiina, whose name has slightly changed over the years and whose lineup is now distinctly different: two males and two females, instead of all-female. Pharology is a reintroduction, the band’s fourth EP (as compared to three LPs) and the first release in five years.
The title and cover photo draw a pair of lines back to 2013’s The Lighthouse Project; Phrarology is the study of lighthouses and signal lights. The track titles follow suit; “Aton” (the sun), “Refraction” and “Beacon.” The energy will rise slowly, peak early, dip in the middle and return for a grand finale: the harbor of post-rock. As “Aton” begins, the sounds are as soft as the setting sun, reaching a last beam across the water to alert the lighthouse. First the electronics. Now the strings. Now the drums. The beauty of Amiina has always been its ability to straddle to worlds of post-rock and modern composition; it’s encouraging to hear that this world has not been lost. The volume begins to rise, along with the drama; the lighthouse may be peaceful, but exists to prevent violent accidents. The music rises like a storm, waves crashing against the rocks before subsiding. Disaster has been averted. The shore becomes audible, the waves again predictable.
The feeling of peace stretches throughout the ambient middle piece, as the shore provides its distinctive sonic solace. “Beacon” rises from the quietude like a celebration of light. Chimes and light percussion illuminate the way. The track is in no hurry; brushed drums will eventually give way to more active percussion, but not yet. First, the cello and violin make their impact, waiting for 3:56, when the full timbre will emerge, only to recede at the end, wrapping back to the start. This is what Amiina is doing as well: remembering what once made them strong, and can make them strong again, exemplars of the genre, lost and now found, a beacon to the post-rock world. (Richard Allen)