A perfect statement of intent...
Paper Canyon

It’s worrying, in music (and, perhaps, across the entire spectrum of the arts), just how quickly the inventive and acclaimed can become the stale and hackneyed. There’s no doubt that post-rock – a sub-genre tag invented by a journalist, rather than a direction identified by any musician – has received its share of critical knocks, with many an instrumental band playing up to all-too-familiar patterns in a quest for their own notion of ethereal majesty. But even when the pathways are well trodden, when the right steps are present and, importantly, correct, there’s no denying the power of this particular branch of contemporary rock.

Codes In The Clouds have been bubbling gently in the underground for some time now, their detailed arrangements heard live but rarely seen racked; that, of course, changes with this release, their debut long-player, but presents the five-piece with a new problem: how to stand out from the crowd? How does one instrumental band with influences spanning Explosions In The Sky to Mono separate itself from a similar band, of a similar level of recognition, with similar compositional touchstones? Simple, really: deliver the goods really well. There’s little on ‘Paper Canyon’ that fans of this style of music won’t have heard in recent-years highs by This Will Destroy You, Caspian, Explosions et al; but the execution of the band’s chosen design is so accomplished, so wonderfully precise in its placement of roaring highs and simmering lows, that thoughts never drift to ‘better’ exponents.

Opener ‘Fractures’ is a steady rolling five minutes of tense-and-release dynamics, percussively scattershot beneath whale song guitars, but it’s the following ‘Don’t Go Awash In This Digital Landscape’ that truly sets the hairs on end: a shimmering, crystalline structure of towering chords and brutally hammered out drum beats, it seems to play chicken with itself across its three minutes, a genteel number racing face first at an altogether more savage counterpart piece.

‘Distant Street Lights’ finds the London group taking a temporary breather (although the track explodes into violent life in its final minute, so everything’s relative) before the twin onslaughts of ‘You Are Not What You Think You Are’ and ‘The Distance Between Us’. Both stretch to over nine minutes in length, but neither outstays its welcome; both present beauteous instrumental introspection to the fore prior to layering on the volume and awaiting the inevitable buckling; both are, in fairness, indebted to the work of a handful of sonic parallels, forefathers whose pioneering work has set up the raft of post-rockers currently plying their trade home and abroad. But neither feels like an echo of an already witnessed triumph, both sending jolts from shoulders to fingertips as the songs build, and build, and build.

Expectations can hardly be high, in a commercial sense, for Codes In The Clouds – even the stars of their chosen field rarely play shows to more than a thousand-or-so people, at most, and then only in the metropolises. But in terms of a perfectly presented first statement of their intentions, ‘Paper Canyon’ is a valuable document that warrants significant attention from ears always eager to be taken away from the humdrum by nothing more than amplifiers and passion. They’ll earn peanuts, always, but you feel the souls of these musicians will forever be nourished.


- - -

Codes In The Clouds play the Clash Saturday Social @ RoTa on July 25, at the Notting Hill Arts Club, London, with Tubelord, YGT and Coldstream. Click HERE for details.

Follow Clash: