Against the Pull of Autumn

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Two years after Epic45's debut CD for the Canadian label Where Are My Records, the group came back with Against the Pull of Autumn, raising the bar up a few notches and adding another very fine item in that label's small but increasingly strong catalog. The core of the band remains almost unchanged -- Oli Grocott replaces Scott Massey on keyboards. Guests include clarinetist Anthony Harding, cellist Bec Stubbs, and percussionist Pascal Asselin (of Below the Sea, Glider and Metronimik). They add very small touches to certain tracks, but the album is more closely focused on Epic45 being a tight performing unit. And it works for the better. The group has gained confidence, personality, and professionalism. Their brand of post-rock has evolved into a luscious daydream based on simple riffs and rich, ever-changing arrangements (as opposed to bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor! that focus on repetition and buildup). Straightforward guitar picking, synthesizers, and samples sketch aerial songs, while the rhythm section (usually Rob Glover and Mark Oldfield) anchor the tunes without driving them too deeply into the ground. Some tracks feature electronic percussion, which tends to work less well, since it creates an ambient techno feel too contrasting with the nearly pastoral feel of the album. Still, the idea does work out in "Secret Maps of England," one of the disc's highlights, thanks to its acoustic guitars and Mellotron-like synth. The same bucolic ambience is found in "Programmes for Schools," while the title track features a lo-fi-recorded piano that takes listeners back to the melancholia-laden urbanity of post-rock. Everything else is about vast spaces, cinematic traveling, and engrossing group playing. Some listeners may find Against the Pull of Autumn lacking in energy, but this softer edge is how Epic45 has managed to build an identity for itself -- a promising one. Highly recommended.

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