This Is Your Captain Speaking: Eternal Return
This Is Your Captain Speaking

On one end of the “instrumental rock” spectrum lie Explosions In The Sky and Mono, outfits that like their music to have huge dynamic contrasts and dramatic peaks and valleys; on the other lies Melbourne act This Is Your Captain Speaking (David Evans, Nick Lane, Steve Ward, Seth Rees) who opt for a more even-keeled approach to the genre that may be less attention-getting but is no less appealing for being so. The group's second album (after the 2006 Storyboard release on Resonant) largely eschews grand climaxes for a subtler dynamic and is executed with such remarkable sensitivity and restraint it could be a model for other like-minded groups to pattern themselves after.

Eternal Return's forty-eight minutes are split into five tracks, three of them simply identified as parts only and titles given to the others. Following a scene-setting of glockenspiel and shuddering electric guitars, a slow and gradual accretion of detail ensues in “Part 1” with the quartet scaling a mountain in a way that won't sound unfamiliar to post-rock devotees. Having reached its destination, This Is Your Captain Speaking shifts its attention to atmospheric guitar interplay with washes and chiming patterns weaving in intricate formation before initiating the ascent to the next elevation level. At no time does the music's mood turn euphoric or violent, however, but instead remains suffused with melancholy throughout. “Incirculation” likewise grows from its pastoral beginnings of plaintive guitar melodies and delicate interplay into a more epic and expansive piece. Impressively though the two opening pieces are, they're not radically different in conception from others in the “post-rock” playlist. The third and fourth tracks are where Eternal Return distances itself from the competition with what might be some of the prettiest music you'll hear all year. Augmented by cymbal shadings, “Part 3” presents a meditative lilt of guitars, bass, and glockenspiel that fully entrances no matter its sedate character. That tranquil mood carries over into the soothing “Lullaby” where a distant electric wails while acoustic strums and cymbal splashes resonate in the foreground. The album-closing “Part 2” begins promisingly with a tasteful episode of chiming guitar intertwine before briefly lunging into an aggressive section halfway through that in turn segues into a marvelously-handled coda of elegiac character. Despite an occasional lapse into signature “post-rock” conventions, Eternal Return impresses most of all for the remarkably simpatico playing of its creators. Kindred acts would do well to follow This Is Your Captain Speaking's lead when it comes to the meticulous execution of its material.

February 2009