Astral Swans — ‘Astral Swans,’ 4/5
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Image provided by Killbeat Music.

Astral Swans’s new LP represents a turning point in the band’s discography to date.

Following the success of its first two records All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson and Strange Prison, the band’s new self-titled album has introduced a more upbeat energy to its instrumentals, resulting in 12 songs that are beautiful and fun as much as they are philosophical.

Simply put, Astral Swans is an excellent record. Comprised of a wonderful blend of mellow guitars, spacey synthesizer, clear vocals and a variety of unique instrumental additions, it presents a fascinating mixture of lightness and darkness with a laidback yet psychedelic sound.

However, this album does require its listener to have a taste for eclecticism, and some aspects of its contradictory nature can be off-putting if you’re not in the right mood — like a choose-your-own-adventure story, you get out of it what you bring to it.

In a pleasant mood, you may focus on Astral Swans’s uplifting vocal melodies, appreciate the emotionality behind sections of screeching guitar and find the thoughtfulness and humour in its surreal and existential lyrics.

However, in a less ideal mindset there are times when the album’s instrumental chaos feels intrusive and haphazard rather than intentional. This flip-flopping of enjoyment is most evident with the song “More Nothing Than Something,” which, depending on the listener’s mood, feels either interesting and conceptual or truly off-putting due to a particularly intense section of screaming guitar near the end of the track.

Although the band Astral Swans consists solely of musician Matthew Swann, many guest collaborators join him on this record, including Julie Doiron, Jim Bryson and more. These musical additions are to the album’s benefit, and some of the most successful tracks on Astral Swans are those which feature more than one vocalist, such as “Spiral,” “Flood” and “March 28/20.”

The addition of a second vocal track fused seamlessly with these songs and heightened their cinematic and psychological aspects. Additionally, the rhythm at which these songs are interspersed throughout the album lent a subconsciously recursive feel to the record, adding yet another layer to Astral Swans’s already complex narratives and sounds.

 

Astral Swans’s self-titled new release will be available Oct. 8. Want us to review your band? Email arts@themanitoban.com today!