Opening with a brief moment of found sound, "A Thousand Motors Pressed Upon the Heart" slowly gains momentum as crisscrossing guitars are layered over a pumping organ. Arlie John Carstens' scratchy, Bob Mould-like vocals and the contributions of guest bassist Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie) help push this three-guitar band to a harder rocking sound on the second song, "Covered With Hair," but after a slow guitar intro guides you into "When I Was in _____," it becomes clear that this intricately arranged and spacious-sounding album is as much about developing, sustaining, and then changing a mood as it is about individual songs. Indeed, A Future Lived in Past Tense doesn't feature an overabundance of memorable songs with catchy hooks that demand your immediate attention; instead, Juno methodically builds and envelops the listener with swelling, emotionally subtle textures of sound while Carstens sings his poetic, fragmented, and somewhat melancholic lyrics. For example, Carstens begins "The French Letter" with slow, restrained, and somewhat mournful vocals, then his singing becomes more expressive, and eventually he sounds like an unusually emotive Roger Waters fronting a punk band. After ten minutes of this song, it's tempting to think the band has finally settled into a groove for the rest of the album, but it's followed by "Up Through the Night," which is an instrumental, and then "Things Gone and Things Still Here (We'll Need the Machine-Guns by Next March)," which features spoken word vocals and sounds like a poetry reading from a space rock college radio show. Indeed, parts of this album may work best as atmospheric late-night music, particularly considering that brevity is not one of the key virtues of this 70-minute album. But as soon as the band seems to have drifted off into the ether, it punches out "You Are the Conductor of This Orchestra," a solid rocker that finishes in less than five minutes, then refines its Fugazi-meets-Lungfish sound in "Killing It in a Quiet Way," with a coda that maintains the song's momentum even though it stretches its running time close to the seven-minute mark. Then the album ends with another moment of found sound (preceded by a minute of silence). A Future Lived in Past Tense won't please listeners who want nonstop punk action or consistently sedate background music, but it has a lot to offer if you're willing to immerse yourself in it.
AllMusic Review by Todd Kristel