The Pirate Ship Quintet: Rope For No-Hopers
Denovali Records

The Pirate Ship Quintet certainly takes its time: Rope For No-Hopers, its first full-length album, arrives a full five years after its debut EP. The UK-based group—actually a septet in its current incarnation—used that stretch of time to refine the five pieces included on the album, which were chosen from a larger number composed during the past few years. The band's post-rock sound moves deftly from delicate passages to ones of monstrous force, with the heavy attack bolstered by the screams of vocalist Terrence (first names only provided)—but good luck deciphering whatever words he's singing during “Horse Manifesto” and That Girl I Used To Live In” when they're delivered in a throat-shredding roar. In keeping with the album title, the tracks are largely melancholy, even dour, in tone, which is not to say that listening to it is a depressing experience. Only five tracks are included, but they compose a full meal, given that all are long-form and three push past the ten-minute mark. The obvious reference points for listeners would include Envy plus to a lesser degree Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Mournful lines by the group's gifted cellist, Sandy (now a full-time member of the National Orchestra of Wales), are front and center during the album's opener, “You're Next,” though she's hardly the only memorable presence. The drummer, Jona, powers the septet with vigour and technical command, and the two guitarists, Alex and Alphie, wail ferociously when the need arises. Moo also contributes some nice trumpet playing to “Horse Manifesto,” even if his playing's overshadowed by the full-group attack and Terrence's singing. The band's playing makes the strongest impression during the recording's quieter passages, such as during the closing minutes of “That Girl I Used To Live In” and throughout “Doldrums” where the guitars' and cello's lines blend with such tasteful restraint. The latter piece is arguably the album's strongest, in large part because it's given over to the band's more delicate side. Sandy's clearly the standout player, as the music is elevated whenever she appears; her bowed soloing at the start of “Dennis Many Times” and “That Girl I Used To Live In” are things of beauty. Terrence's contributions, by contrast, are ones that call more for endurance, and consequently, this listener, at least, would quite happily welcome the prospect of a vocal-less follow-up to Rope For No-Hopers.

June 2012