52 Commercial Road: Communion
A Future Without

While some bands resist labels, others embrace them. Based on the recorded evidence, 52 Commercial Road, a London-based outfit born in 2003, seems perfectly content to self-identify as a post-rock band and, specifically, one committed to fashioning emotional soundscapes that push beyond the familiar soft-loud dynamic. Initially established by five seventeen-year-olds, the group currently (at least insofar as its Facebook page can be relied upon) is a threesome featuring: Tommy (first names only, it seems) on guitars, sequencer, synthesizer, and voice; Patrick on guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizer, and voice; and Sayeed on drums. Communion, the group's latest disc and its third after a self-released debut album in 2008 and A Wreck Provides An Excellent Foundation in 2010, began life as the score for the film of the same name released by Broke But Making Films.

Among other things, the forty-four-minute Communion proves interesting on account of the differences between its seven pieces, with “Recife” and “Clemence” in the two-minute range and the closing “Hypostasis” a veritable epic by comparison at twenty minutes, and contrasts of dynamics are evident, too. Establishing the album's sound, “Midnight Mass” morphs from a slow-burn intro into a heavily atmospheric guitar-driven rumination that's dramatically elevated by the addition of acoustic guitars and horns. Electronics play a more dominant role during the moodscape “Float Up As a Seed,” with synthesizers emphasized as much as the guitar-generated washes—at least, that is, until the guitars and drums take control at the two- and four-minute marks.

As the album progresses, 52 Commercial Road dials down the intensity for a number of quieter pieces, “Recife,” a graceful vignette for guitar, acoustic bass, and piano first of all, and then “Sermon vol2,” which oozes a church-like stateliness in its melding of organ with piano and guitar. Of course, while all such tracks reward one's attention, one could simply jump to “Hypostasis,” given its episodic and encompassing nature. Initially, the material meanders relaxedly, with twanging guitars and blaring horns strewn across desolate plains, before the music swells into a towering mass of controlled fury. The storm soon passes, of course, leaving in its wake the simmering ruins of a blistered landscape and the music characterized by loss and regret. Fifteen minutes along, a brief pause occurs, after which a radiant finger-picking episode brings the album to a hopeful close. Here and elsewhere 52 Commercial Road rewrites no rulebooks, but Communion nevertheless registers as polished post-rock executed with no small amount of style and flair.

November 2013