The Calm Blue Sea - The Calm Blue Sea
Record Label: Modern Outsider Records
Release Date: August 2, 2011
In my recent explorations of post-rock, I have discovered that it is a genre that seldom disappoints. With the right production and the right sense of melody and soundscape, it certainly isn’t hard to produce quality post-rock that is its own unique entity. However, I have also discovered that every band within the genre is like an introverted person; in that they seem rigidly impersonal, and with homogenized, typified personalities. In essence, it takes time to really sense and appreciate the difference between post-rock artists and their individual releases, and it is unfortunate that so many find it difficult to carve out an individual identity for themselves when bogged down by incessant, ignorant, and impulsive comparisons to the same few pioneers.
But whatever happened to the bands that make statements with their music that are so bold that it immediately sets them apart? Do they still exist? I say yes. The Calm Blue Sea is one of them, and they have proven it with at least one track on their debut self-titled album that I’m listening to right now. Do not mistake it.
The Calm Blue Sea commits a bit of a folly by putting their assuredly most exciting and arguably best track in the first slot, as it creates some unmet expectations, so I’ll make my first paragraph seem equally out of place by addressing that. Immersed in its surreal and mystical beauty, I found myself wanting more, only to have the small sting of disappointment reluctantly relaxed away by the remaining tracks. On the flipside, “We Happy Few” is The Calm Blue Sea’s demonstration of their inner genius. It is the moment in which their brilliance becomes fully fleshed out into its ultimate form; transcending their undeniably exceptionally good typicality into something elite, breathtaking, and unforgettable, something rarely achieved and often left less than fully appreciated, and something much more than a simple magnum opus. A word of warning, however: don’t hit the stop button yet because there’s much more to come, as outlined in my overview below.
The use of piano throughout The Calm Blue Sea is intriguingly executed. There are parts of the album that sound as if one is listening to a more idyllic easy listening or classical piano piece rather than a post-rock one. Strong examples of this are found between the fifth and eighth minutes of “The Rivers That Run Beneath This City” and at the fourth minute of “We Happy Few”. Aside from this, the keys’ adeptness is proven in their flexibility, shown best in the opening of “Now These Ashes Are At the Bottom”, where they create a gorgeously celestial air of sovereignty. The guitars tend to use less strumming than a standard post-rock album, holding out one note for as long as possible, while layering additional guitars behind the focal melody so as to not break each track’s continuity.
The percussion is rather quirky. Through most of the album it manifests itself in a transparent form. One is hard-pressed to give it much attention apart from sensing its presence in the background, which does a great job of allowing a good old post-rock zone-out experience. Despite this, in the heavier Maybeshewill-esque crescendos (“This Will Never Happen Again” comes to mind) it morphs into a nebulous, muddy, and untamed beast—a rather unfortunate blemish on the production’s overall favorability. I listened to the album several times on a few different devices, including a good quality Bose stereo, and it was still very unclear. What’s even more saddening is that the haze of static it produces drowns out some of the nuanced ambient subtleties that would ordinarily be present.
There are vocals on The Calm Blue Sea, although they last for but a moment and are wholly effectual in that moment. Therefore, I elected to leave their rating unmarked. These vocals are very much an acquired taste, even for fans of Moving Mountains, who used a similar background vocal technique in Pneuma. That is not to say they aren’t done well by any means, as they’re packed with emotion that reaches the same level as Pneuma.
In closing, whether or not The Calm Blue Sea will continue nurturing their artistic potential and ingenuity in the genre has yet to be seen. Their release of Siegfried, An Original Score, while very interesting, cannot tap their potential like another album can. This is because in being written around a film, it sacrifices some of its natural versatility in exchange for representing a centralized external theme. Keep watch for their new material, as there should only be good things to come.