Buckle up, relax, and enjoy the ride…
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 7 September 2015
Space, the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the Spanish band Exxasens. Their mission, to explore strange new sounds, seek out new (well, hairy and denim-clad) civilisations and to boldly go where no band (ok, possibly a few – Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky) has gone before. Back To Earth is post-rock band Exxasen’s fifth full-length offering and does indeed take us on a trip, namely to the outer reaches of space and back, and I’d strongly urge you to buckle up, relax, and enjoy the ride.
The ride starts gently – pre-take off calm. Liquid pools of ambient sounds build up and drop away into other pools… a chill-out water feature if you will. Things begin to build until the main riff arrives – blast off – and it’s a sleek, polished, burnished beauty. The band has an absolute mastery of dynamics; there are wonderful moments of calm between the storms until the riff morphs into a much more metallic creation. Finally it drops away, the afterburners cease, leaving us in space – silence. Save for a few electronic chimes and a faint pulse.
Song titles are almost irrelevant in this vast aural soundscape but I need to mention just a few. The riff of ‘My Hands Are Planets’ is as skyscraping as its title implies. The juxtaposition of calm and force is brilliant – the yin and yang working together to create something beautiful and ‘other’. For some reason I’m back to water analogies – the song ebbs and flows like an ocean in the midnight thrall of the moon.
The chugging riff of ‘Hugeness’ was bound to be, er… big. You physically feel the silences between the attacks as it pummels its way towards a thrash. It’s an overwhelmingly mighty sound and the marshalling and production of it is wonderful, the mammoth riffage perfectly conveying the unfathomable vastness of space. But despite this it has an almost meditative feel… if Mike Tyson became an alternative therapies masseur the effect would probably be similar.
This all needs to be played through headphones while lying on a hill, gazing up at the constellations. Delicate piano swirls around cosmic guitar, ‘Saturn’ even has vocals, which is slightly jarring at first but adds that little bit extra to what would probably have been the weakest track.
And then we have the centrepiece – ‘Bright Side Of The Moon’. These cosmic caballeros certainly have some cojones to be referencing…well, you know what they’re referencing. But they pull it off. It’s stately, unhurried, powerfully moving guitar driven ambience. There is a fleeting moment of scruffy bikerness while a howling guitar solo screams to be heard in the immensity. As our ship circles the moon and we can again see home even the quiet moments seem more urgent, the riff changing and evolving as the solo becomes ever more insistent.
And then we are ‘Back To Earth’, the band bringing us back home…loudly. Joyously. The thundering tribal drums creating a sense of celebration. From the ethereal depths of space we are being hurtled back towards the dirt and chaos of the earth, with some nice 80’s style John Carpenter synth beats in the background.
And we’re home, really feeling like we’ve been on a trip. And in a surprisingly short time – all of these songs feel timeless even though the longest of them is only 8 minutes. They can convey in 4 minutes what it takes Isis (no, not that Isis), Pelican and their ilk over 10 minutes to say. The size, silence, crushing oppressiveness, fear and awesomeness of the universe has been painted perfectly. Exxasens can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with any of post rock’s heavy hitters. Beautiful. One of my albums of the year.
8.5 out of 10
- My Hands Are Planets
- Oniria’s Interlude
- Your Dreams Are My Dreams
- Bright Side Of The Moon
- Back To Earth