The Enright House - A Maze and Amazement

This has been out quite some time - well it has in NZ, at least, not yet here - but I was listening to it again recently and I considered that whole 'is post-rock a suitable tag to throw on instrumental, long-form rock music any more?' question that always rears its head. That's not to simply use this album as a prop in a generic debate, because precisely I'd like to argue that it represents a certain trend (and certainly not the only) emerging out of post-rock that is precisely about poetic expression as traditionally thought of. In this sense, I think the first LP by The Enright House, A Maze and Amazement, joins with All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, something corroborated in that 'artistic' way Munaf Rayani spoke about his band's work. I'm assuming here that the prototypical post-rock record is all about decentring and that type of thing, which itself might be misguided. So, anyhow, time for some disparate thoughts.

I think much of post-rock nowadays has shed the initial ambition and weight of the world of the earlier stuff, like it had to tear everything apart and rise only from a broken rubble, and has concentrated on using the same musical elements to make just shamelessly emotive and pretty music. It's like post-post-rock. When rock finds itself back in touch with the tender side of it's history - or maybe borrows from the sweetness of pop, but never with the sour aftertaste - nevertheless underpinned by some dense riffage and beaten, stalling drum-work. To put it another way, it's like post-rock that has shed its ambition to thunderously document the apocalypse and turn inward once again, to explore emotional soundscapes. Still uses textured guitar, beaten, stalling drum-work, stretched out compositions, soft-textural vocals, spectral guitar timbres, etc. but it is to what these stylistic features are put in service of that is distinct, here.

Along these lines, A Maze and Amazement takes the atmospheric lessons learned and reverses the equation - the long tails and heady elements no longer thunderous signals of the social crumbling, but crimson internalisations of the personal, of thought and heart. Because it becomes more obvious from the second track onwards that Mark Roberts is a recalcitrant pop musician. A song-writer going straight for the heart strings, even if he discovers a more interesting path there might be through clouds and classicist arrangements.

So I start to think of him as strongly influenced by the Postal Service when I hear the third track, 'Up'. But there's also something more oblique here that stops that comparison from operating directly and opens up that crucial space between the 'personal expression' of the writer/performer and the 'personal import' such has for the listener, thereby preventing this from taking the 'all eyes on me' traditional singer-God [author-God] framing of rock.

The album is lined with strangely narrative-driven lyrics, like they would read as paragraphs in a story if you put them down on paper. Well, actually, tracks five and six feature the poetry of Mary E. Jones.

There is also something very relaxed, or maybe just considered, about this. Structurally and texturally. Lines do not obey their proper direction, electronic peels sweep/stretch across places. Languid, sombre, washed. In that, A Maze and Amazement opens itself up quite gradually, showing deeper complexity than you might first think.

Eventually, this album transcends all its geneses for an intensely idiosyncratic and fragilely beautiful music; an achievement ironically predicated upon its genre.

2 riffs:

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a fascinating discussion of post-rock and A Maze and Amazement. Really liked your point about post-rock shedding it's apocalyptic pretensions in favor of a more personal narrative.

Lawson said...

thanks; though the more i read over that post the more i feel like i've sold the album short, it's so not post-rock. that was the point i was getting at originally i spose though.