It’s hard to define the music of And So I Watch You From Afar, a mostly instrumental rock act out of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The group happily, and almost defiantly, weaves a stubborn knot of diverging genres, all with the vim and mischief of a bopping Fraggle Rock character. Their lithiated third LP, All Hail Bright Futures, makes no apologies: Within 43 minutes you’ll hear dubstep dropouts, lo-fi flute solos, joyful indie-rock chanting, marimba breaks and ear-splitting surf lines. Oftentimes in the same song. “Why?” you may ask. Well, for an answer, you get the sense guitarist and primary writer Rory Friers would’t bat an eyelash in quoting the Ice Cube classic, “Natural Born Killaz”: “F*ck you, n*gga. ’Cause I can.”
And the point would be well taken. Often, All Hail’s mix-and-match, buffet-style approach leads to some exciting, if palate-tweaking, results. Not unlike plating mac salad, pizza, teriyaki salmon and a hot fudge sundae at the HomeTown Buffet—only to crush and mix one item with the other in a single sitting plainly discouraged by the faint of heart—the tracks’ recombinative bent illustrates a kind of courageous idiocy. In fact, leaving well enough alone is by no means ASIWYFA’s strong suit, and nor should it be: Even the song titles have been reappointed and rendered down to pidgin English syntax: “The Stay Golden,” “Rats on Rock,” etc. Hey, why need do you titles to sense make?
In “Big Thinks Do Remarkable”—which sounds like a Mandarin-to-English translation from Babel Fish—super-compressed waterfall arpeggios babble over a muscular, mid-tempo lurch. After a momentum-building spate of trippy house beats, the band let’s out an adolescent Teletubbies-like shout of “Whoo!” Shortly after, the track whips into an ecstatic, caramalized frenzy, tripping over itself with double-time drums and a jovial, yet strangely warlike, chant of “The sun / The sun / The sun / Is in our eyes.” The song is disparate, dippy and, like a chance-taking tray at HomeTown, brave in its commitment to the hitherto untasted.
And the same can be said of All Hail in general. From the pointillistic wag of “Mend and Make Saf” to the fizzy, soccer-hooligan mania of “Ambulance,” most of the fun is derived from the music’s checkless flavors and runaway attack. But for a few passages perhaps too odd and inconsonant for their own good, there’s no denying the bewitching razzle-dazzle of this record, which culminates beautifully in “Young Brave Minds,” whose terse and broad-sweeping loop, terrain-splitting drums and distorted djent chugs pulse in a swirling, happy-aggro morass. Then, with elfin-forest shouts of “We know! / We know! / We know!” alongside a choked trumpet melody, the song—and, with it, the album—dizzies to a close like a diabetic butterfly. Which, for an insect who ladled a third helping of cranberry sauce on his meatloaf, serves him right.