The mob at Birds Robe Records sure know how to pick em.
This is an instrumental record first, post rock album second. The musicality of the art on display here is better explained as simply beautiful music rather than genre casting it into several neat little boxes which rob you of any freedom to interpret the work for yourself. If I go on and compare it to this band or that band for reference, it’s fair to assume your mind would consider if you like ‘those’ artists first and then proceed to judge Grun’s new album accordingly without having spent any time with it.
So.. yes there are pretty guitars, reverb laden and delay drenched. It’s ambient and spacey at times which no doubt gives it an ethereal quality. There’s ample amount of gain and noise in the opening moments on ‘Knifed by Punks’ but that in no way sets up what is to follow. The drums are clear and roomy as they begin to form patterns and fill the space with a crash of cymbals and rhythm. The band plays as a tight unit passing through section after section of building intensity. The first track on ‘Manyana’ is an epic (nearly) 10 minute proceeding which bends and sways through styles and sounds seamlessly. Are they a rock band, are they a melodic drone band? Are they a post metal group? Yes to all. It’s equal portions dark/heavy/uplifting/inspiring music. Not easily ignored.
Other songs take more winding paths, meandering into softer places and more luscious soundscapes through slightly shorter arrangements. There’s a lot on offer in the hour of music that the band has produced.
Track #4 ‘The Vicious’ begins as a monstrous wall of noise with piano highlighting notes that give a haunting melody. It’s at the midway point that this song takes a new turn and introduces a string section that feels as orchestral as it does cinematic. Where it goes after that is something so amazing I would fail to describe it. A 9 minute journey to the other side might be a good way to put it?
The rolling bass line which underpins track #5 ‘The Baker’ is a welcome groove that helps support what the guitars are doing over the top. The low end is locked in between the drums and bass to a subtle perfection. It’s almost hypnotic. The wall of noise comes back, things get big and then wind down. It’s admittedly a little predictable but that same sense of safety, knowing what to expect next isn’t always a given here. It’s like looking at a mountain; knowing you go up, scale the summit and then you come back down..but that knowledge wouldn’t necessarily spoil the journey.
Track #7 ‘The Monk’, whilst being another entraining post-rock jaunt, has a fantastically heavy and crushing ending which feels as though the world might actually be ending, the bad guys might actually be winning, our heroes might have failed. There’s some organ-type sound..or an octave thing.. going on with the bass, deep guitars, massive guitars and sounds droning over the top of crashing drums. It’s huge. Huge.
Where this album struggles is only in the length of the arrangements. It may take some time for a casual listener to get through the initial barrier of requiring more than your standard 3 minutes to get the pay off. The crescendo isn’t coming early, they hold off on the ‘big awesome’ until they’re ready. Grun build and build, get a little lost, find their way back to the path and then bulldoze the fucking way forward. You cant rush this kind of art.
Where it excels is in the production value, everything sounds clear, up front and balanced. The drums keep their ground, the bass is really well mixed and sits nicely in an low-mid pocket so that you can always make it out beneath the cacophony on top of it. Guitars are wild..untamed and fantastic. The strings and keys that feature throughout add the colour and sheen needed for an album like this to stand out.
This is what excellence sounds like. ‘Manyana’ is a fully realised, mature and dark album that will astound and enamour fans of the many genre’s contained within.