And So I Watch You From Afar - All Hail Bright Futures

Too often the songs feel like first drafts that search for a melodic through-line and never quite find it.

Label: Sargent House

Rating: 5

Three albums in, no-one can deny the experimental nature of Belfast four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar. Their style, instrumental math-rock that puts its weight on catching the ear of the listener through complex new sounds, is a risky one that hasn’t afforded the band much mainstream radio play. ASIWYFA’s style is still singular and exciting, but unfortunately ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ is unlikely to attract any new listeners to the band. Though this may be something that the band are content with, and the album is likely to please fans, it displays a disappointing lack of development for a band on their third outing.

The album is something of a scattershot approach, combining unusual rhythms, styles and instruments to create a unique sound that misses just as often as it hits. Occasionally things all click together and a great track is the result, and there are a few on here. ‘Mend And Make Safe’ is the album highlight, and ‘Ambulance’ is similarly hooky and entertaining. But the album is plagued with a number of messy moments where the individual parts feel like experiments that needed a lot more fine tuning before making it to an album. The three tracks that make up ‘The Stay Golden’ are very patchy and feature some bizarre instrumentation choices, and the back half of the album feels slightly off and unsure of itself, lacking in anything that could catch the ear of a first-time listener. It’d be wrong to suggest that ASIWYFA morph into Coldplay, they are after all a band that thrive on experimentation, but too often the songs feel like first drafts that search for a melodic through-line and never quite find it.

The album as a whole does manage to click together into an interesting experience when listened straight through. The songs rise and fall naturally and it’s a satisfying listen as a unit, and that may have been ASIWYFA’s intention. However, when analysing the album from the alien perspective of someone not used to the band’s unique sound and style, ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ is disappointingly opaque. All in all, it’s interesting but frustrating in equal measures, however it is sure to please fans who know what they’re in for.