Our Friend, Surrender - The Deceiver & the Chariot
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: July 29, 2011
The first full length offering from Virginia-based Instrumental ‘Post-Rock’ duo Our Friend, Surrender certainly contains an essence of contrived ambiguity in its arrival. Early developers could quite easily claim it to be unfortunate with its timing, or in retrospect, and perhaps the more believable theory, many could scrutinise it as a record constructed solely on a basis of contemporary imitation. Whichever way your interpretation flows, ‘The Deceiver & the Chariot’ is an album crammed silly with question marks from beginning to end.
As I was preparing my angle of entry to the type-up, I filtered through various notes only to stumble across the word ‘sensible’ on many occasions. The adjective made familiar appearances in the subject heading, the brief, within 4 of the 7 song analyses, and even scribbled in bold lettering across the foot of the page. On, or nearby every vital summary, the word was nested. I’m hopeful that what this personifies is not in fact some minor valid proof of a lack in my vocabulary, but more a realisation of how definitive and unavoidable a view I was forced to hold on the music in question. (I’d also like to supplement what may seem both an arbitrary and ignorant introduction by stating that whilst making these rough guidelines it did not occur to me even once just how many appearances the word had made until after the plans had been fully recited later on).
Understanding what provoked the transmission of the word from mind to document on these various instances would not take even the most modest or light-hearted listener’s uncountable years to figure out or estimate. To be sensible is to be safe and vapid, and on many circumstances this record shows huge flaws in learning how to adapt beyond its guarded rituals. Repetitive themes and inappropriate shifts in sound amplitude appear all too commonplace for artists trying to disguise a desperate aim to rip off their predecessors. And it’s this kind of genuine attitude to musical and creative forgery that bugs the hell out of me as a critic as well as a loyal fan of both artistic originality and integrity.
In one too many incidents we hear large fragments pirated off closely related artists. By directing strict inspection to the lethargic and down-tempo guitar delays that deduce ‘A Thousand Kings’ and the nervy orchestral attempts of ‘Hope For Who We Are...’, we come away with the idea that this superstitious character, or “friend” they’re hiding isn’t actually all too hidden at all.
It should however be mentioned at some point that this record isn’t by any means utterly futile or valueless as there are indeed few moments where the American duo show occasional surges of charisma within their craft. The astrology-themed ‘After the Dream’, for example, rallies a picturesque landscape into the opening credits of the record with its attractive, multi-layered melodies building effortlessly into a starry whirlpool of noise and atmosphere. A similar hope can be applied to the first 2 minutes of ‘And Our Crowning Glory’ where unsuspected bursts of monstrous distortion and a raucous guitar tap blindingly steer the early stages of the ships ravenous (yet highly metaphorical) voyage. The piece acts as the second instalment of a two-part inner concept (merging the titles: ‘Hope For Who We Are Because of What We Were’ and ‘What We Become’) advocating their future endeavours, but the statement for a more promising future is soon retracted as shortly after they deteriorate once again back into that all-too-familiar ‘sensible’ territory.
‘The Deceiver & the Chariot’ is a record built - much like many of its sister semi-professional releases of recent years – almost entirely on the tattered remains of their ascendant, pioneering forefathers. But what is becoming too vague and perplexing for the emerging outfits to understand is that the psychological existences of these imprints were always very deceptive to begin with. I’m sure many will remember how the resembling icons of yesteryear were always ones pushing extremely hard to escape the vague and obscure “post-rock” tag back in the days when their musical efforts were being continuously affiliated with its critical scrutiny. We only need recall the sports-wearing, sketchy attitude Mogwai embodied in the late 90s to understand some of the desperate efforts artists undertook in order to be revoked of any connection with the flimsy and commercially-uniformed sub-genre. The ideology that the more modern practitioners were putting forward with this approach was that in order to be respected and appreciated as an individual group, one must avoid the possibility of being pigeonholed in less than a single sentence. OFS, however, might just have missed the point with this one.