People have such a capacity for experiencing emotion. The highs can be just as overwhelming as the lows, and the melancholy approaches take over the majority of time. This weekend fans of emotional musical scores are listening to Jimmy LaValle. As a prestigious artisan, LaValle’s culmination with The Album Leaf makes a motion of nostalgic ambient post-rock. It’s been a few years since the last studio release, A Chorus of Storytellers. Since then, LaValle pulled out his Rhodes piano and composed a list of EPs. The most interesting news was the band’s signing to Relapse Records. I still don’t know the answer for the label transition. Amusing the idea that the label desired more variety than its metal-gore populous, the Album Leaf’s sound hasn’t changed drastically with 2016’s Between Waves. The slight changes come via amped up electronics. The full length 12 song collection is true to the nature of The Album Leaf, meandering through the highs, lows, and melancholy moments.
The album inaugurates with two instrumentals, “False Dawn” and “Glimmering Lights”. They both nestle in a nook of faint Ratatat guitars and fuller drumming than albums past. These songs didn’t surprise me nor hold any glimpse of entertainment. “New Soul” boasts Jimmy’s clear cut voice chanting, “All this time in my mind gets me nowhere”. At best the song is a clear distinction from the openers. But realistically, all this time got us nowhere. The song holds outlandish chords that leave too much in betweenness. The album lapsed 15 minutes spread over 3 songs. This is a redundant feature that really bothers me and I think tears away from casual listening experience. Obviously, The Album Leaf writes musical scores that stretch longer than what is preferred radio-caliber. In order to hold imagination though, the songs need variation and tellable stories. This is why I refer to the album as “melancholy moments”.
Album standout “Back to the Start” and the interesting narrative “Lost in the Fog”, herd fans back to the easy going, imaginative state of The Album Leaf. “Back to the Start” lightheartedly wisps through ongoing electronic pads and brass instrumentation. In live performances, the overshadowing of instruments, particularly the mixes between electronic and classical, avidly gain the band their resumé. “Lost in the Fog” walks the only tightrope of the album. Tension from 4 minutes of suspenseful chord progressions and brass reverb give way to the final seconds of blissful fantasy.
Appropriately named “Synthesis” gives the most hints of progression towards a “chill wave” vibe. Stripped down and more thought-provoking than the techno genre, the song presents a good introduction. But the song is brought low by uninteresting notes and over done melodies. The song has few accomplices, which kind of leaves the idea on the back burner.
LaValle took shots at incorporating unorthodox materials, while trying to keep relevant to the sound of The Album Leaf. This move didn’t feel out of place, it just felt unaccomplished. While there are some interesting modes to the album, Between Waves ought to be performed live. The band incorporates visual art into their performances, which enhance the listener’s ability to grasp the vision for why the songs were written in the first place. This is the secret place for enjoying the band.
Ambient Post-Rock | Relapse Records