Artist: This Patch of Sky
Release Date: 8/26/2014
Reviewer: Ty DeLong
- Time Destroys Everything, But Our Foundation Remains
- In The House of Wolves
- Love Is In Beauty and Chaos
- The Winter Day Declining
- Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (The Battle of Frieders)
- And So They Watched As The Years Passed Us By
- Wait and Hope
It seems not long ago at all that I heard the newly-released Heroes and Ghosts by This Patch of Sky. Indeed, it has been less than nine months since the advent of that incredible album, but the band is already at it again. This Patch of Sky’s self-titled full-length delivers eight tracks of diverse instrumental music featuring new elements, and indeed a more patient and mature sound.
The album immediately opens with one of said new elements. Since recording Heroes and Ghosts, the band has picked up a cello player. “Prelude” is a relatively short track which features almost exclusively a beautiful and haunting cello line, though by the end it builds to a full, resonating strings section. The band sets the tone well for the rest of the album by introducing the newest tool at their disposal.
Next up, the lead single of “Time Destroys Everything, But Our Foundation Remains” retains hints of the opening track’s melody, but instead features a lonely delayed guitar before the full band subtly joins in. The track is exemplary of why I grew to love This Patch of Sky, but even in a song more akin to their previous work, new pieces surface. A flute-like instrument carries its own melody line for a large passage in the middle before a slow and deliberately heavy rendition of the refrain. This was one of the ways that I was glad to see the band experiment, as I’ll explain later. Overall, “Time Destroys Everything…” is my favorite from the album, especially with its title evoking introspection and reflection, as their music so often does.
“In The House of Wolves” is the longest track on the album by a couple of minutes. It begins very subtly with ambient tones which are eventually met with a soft, repeating electronic rhythm. For fans of the band’s much earlier work, which was often aggressive (even featuring muted screams at points), this may be an unexpected twist. The song does build to a full-band sound featuring fuzzy guitar downbeats about halfway through, ultimately finding a crescendo before trailing off with more ambience at the end. Such a track may be better suited for background than focused listening for emotional impact, but it depends on the listener.
Rounding out the first half of the album, “Love Is In Beauty and Chaos” returns to a style more reminiscent of This Will Destroy You. Clean guitar establishes a melody, indeed a more happy-sounding one at that, before the rest of the band joins in. Still, this song continues the more down-tempo cadence of the album, leaving a very calm feeling as cello, xylophone, and other instrumentation take the lead toward the end.
This seems like a good time to note the instrumental and sonic variety displayed on the album. In my limited experiences with post-rock bands, the temptation seems to be to lean very heavily on electronic elements to expand one’s sound. This Patch of Sky, in addition to mixing in further acoustic instruments with their core sound, often choose to utilize more natural-sounding synths. While I agree this is my highly-subjective opinion, I’m glad to see a band that knows how to use electronic elements to complement their sound instead of sending it in a completely different direction.
Moving on, title of “The Winter Day Declining” brings to mind all kinds of somber imagery, and the song matched the picture in my head quite well. Bell-like synths and even the aforementioned flute sound make appearances in this six-minute piece. While not offering anything completely different or unexpected, it is a solid composition, and the muted bell tones do make it easily distinguished from the rest of the album.
My Google searches for “The Battle of Frieders” did not yield any results, which makes me even more curious about the track bearing that subtitle. Focusing heavily on electric guitar and drums for the first half, fans of Explosions In The Sky may find this a great track introduce the band. (Though honestly, I find more depth in this track than in much of said Texas band’s music. Once again new pieces are slowly added to construct a tapestry of numerous strands. Also noteworthy, some of the more involved drumming on the album comes toward the end. I’m a fan of music where I can pick out new intricacies time after time, and this song has revealed something new with each listen thus far.
Heading down the home stretch, “And So They Watched As The Years Passed Us By” once again will evoke comparisons to This Will Destroy You, primarily in guitar and drum tone. Uniquely, the song builds slightly, has a subdued middle passage, then (spoiler alert) unexpectedly hits hard about three quarters through. I certainly didn’t see it coming the first time. This track shows that the Oregon-based band hasn’t lost all of their edge, but rather they choose to use it more sparingly than before.
The final track, “Wait and Hope” closes succinctly, in post-rock terms, anyway. Clocking in at around three minutes, it does not have the sustained build that some of the others do, though it does exhibit some nice synchronization of guitar and cello parts, as compared to dueling lines. All instrumentation save a muted synth cuts out well before the end of the song, leaving the melody fading into the distance.
Overall: This Patch of Sky deliver exactly the kind of album I hoped they would, and less than a year from the masterpiece that first grabbed my attention. A more downtempo album, it balances out some of their earlier work and serves as a natural maturation from Heroes and Ghosts, particularly in terms of instrumentation and sonic variety. As a fan of the genre, this is the kind of album I will keep coming back to, whether I need some “thinking music” to accompany me on a walk, or a beautiful backdrop to work or journal. Any lover of inspired post-rock needs to give this album (along with the band’s entire back-catalog) a listen.
RIYL: This Will Destroy You, The Sleep Design, Explosions In They Sky, Caspian
This Patch of Sky can be found on Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.