Codes In The Clouds: As the Spirit Wanes
Erased Tapes

Anyone entering the instrumental rock arena—post-rock, if you prefer—at this stage of the game needs to bring something bold and fresh to what has become a rather predictable enterprise. Alas, no such re-invention occurs on Codes In The Clouds' second album As The Spirit Wanes, and though Dartford, England mates Ciaran Morahan, Stephen Peeling, Rob Smith, Jack Major and Joe Power no doubt put forth a sincere effort, that's not enough to compensate for the album's formulaic and undercooked qualities. That the album was recorded in a mere six days in September 2010 might suggest that the tracks would be exploding with energy but no such hint of danger or Dionysian passion is present in the album's too-contained pieces. Apparently some behind-the-scenes personal drama of one kind or another occurred prior to the recording process, but there's little evidence that such experiences worked their way into the resultant material so as to elevate it in any transcendant manner.

All of the post-rock genre elements are present and accounted for in the opener “Where Dirt Meets Water”—lattices of chiming guitars, driving bass-and-drum interplay, and dynamic changes that find the band traversing the usual peaks and valleys—without adding a whole lot new in the process. “Look Back, Look Up” opts for a more poppy tone and fleet-footed attack before lunging into full-bore mode for a too -short climax. During “Washington,” a glockenspiel gets hauled out to add a few tinkles to those moments when it's not buried under the crushing weight of the band's attack. “We Were Alive Together (first position)” and “If I'd Have Known It Was the Last (second position)” are interludes of little consequence that feel more like time-fillers than key parts of the album's conceptual plan.

It's all expertly executed, the songs and production are as polished as might be hoped, and there are some decent moments: the middle section of “You and I Change Like Seasons” is distinguished by an appealingly raw charge that's capped by an equally satisfying if brief string-based dénouement, and “The Reason In Madness, In Love” catches one's ears with a ringing guitar motif that the band tears into with passion. But As The Spirit Wanes is also missing that something extra that would make it stand out from any other generic post-rock release vying for the listener's time and attention. Disappointing too is the fact that, just when it appears a given track might be on the verge of developing into something memorable, the piece ends, limply abandoning the opportunity to take things to a higher level. Ultimately, one comes away from the album bored rather than emotionally affected to any lasting degree. As The Spirit Wanes might work well enough as an introductory point for the listener new to the genre, but those already acquainted with outfits such as MONO, Explosions In The Sky, The Timeout Drawer, Cecilia::Eyes, and Mogwai won't hear Codes In The Clouds' release as required listening.

April 2011