One of the main reasons why I continue to review music so regularly and put so much effort into it is that not only do I get to hear a ton of great music, but occasionally I get sent something that is almost transcendent in its awesomeness. Let me tell you about one of those things! When I first got sent this album, I liked what I heard — a lot, but listening to it got put on the backburner. I knew I’d put it into a roundup, at least, but as it dwelled in my iTunes for months my appreciation deepened and deepened; this is one of the best ambient/post-rock albums I’ve heard since I started this site — period.
Waterplea is made of up two young Russian fellows from the ancient city of Nizhny Novgorod. Russia may mean a lot of things to a lot of people, both good and bad, but one thing that’s certain is there’s a lot of great music coming out of that country right now.
Waterplea’s music is appealing for what it is not: definable. What we have here is a blend of classic ambient, post-rock, IDM, sound art and even progressive rock, all on the same very lengthy album. But not a moment is wasted here. Waterplea shows a breathtaking mastery of each form they try out, from ethereal pad-based pieces to inspirational guitar soloing to expert use of spoken word samples. Frankly, there’s so much samey, stale stuff out on the market right now in each of those genres that it’s good to have a reminder that they can be done very well and beautifully.
This album contains eleven tracks, but one of those tracks is a linked 32-minute suite that is worth being called an album on its own!
The intro track, “Fall-a-Sleep” mixes ambient traffic noise and a vocal sample before deep ambient synth pads take over in a classic heavenly blend. After that, Waterplea gets right down to business with the mysteriously titled “DD”. The reason why it took me so bloody long to review this album was I couldn’t quite my head around the fact that there was an album within an album; “DD” is a complex half-hour track that utilizes elements of IDM, post-rock and neo-prog in a cosmic suite. It begins with some lovely melodic guitar soloing and choir synth before transitioning to a sound art piece reminiscent of Biosphere. Then there’s another section of beautiful guitar leads and big chords and pads — sort of a mixture between the latter-day sounds of Mike Oldfield (Songs of Distant Earth) and Marillion (the Rothery-esque soloing). Then there’s an inspirational IDM section or two that bring to mind the best of the Ultimae catalogue (Carbon Based Lifeforms or Solar Fields, say), before the piece concludes with an ethereal section of space-prog-ambient that sounds like a sci-fi film soundtrack. Basically, this entire suite is incredible and worth the purchase price on its own.
“Wake-Up Dream” is a piece of droney post-rock rooted in delayed acoustic guitar (reminds me a touch of Flying Saucer Attack’s Further, if any of you remember that album), some cool beats in the Helios vein (though this might be better!), backwards-tape sounds and swirling pads.
The post-rock continues on the two-part “Yeartides”. The first part is again based on acoustic guitar, this time gently fingerpicked and accompanied by subtle electric guitar before being joined by a heavy beat and a full-on shoegaze vibe, including buried lead vocals. The second piece is elegant, dramatic IDM.
“Strays” is beautiful piano ambient. “Satellite”, which contains a really effective use of spoken-word vocal samples (some cool Russian stuff there!), and the murky “Bathyscape” drop the post-rock in favour of super-hip and current sound art, being closer to the works of the likes of Taylor Deupree. “Bathyscape” also has a hint of the aquatic vibe of Loscil’s work. “Zeppelin” contains a cosmic pad sound similar to Carbon Based Lifeforms’ Twentythree album and some really interesting vocal samples from the age of the airship, while “Scaphandre” continues the vibe in that vein.
The album wraps up with a beautiful short post-rock guitar instrumental, “Departure”.
The amazing thing about this particular recording is not that it’s original; there’s no new ground being broken here. My amazement stems from the absolute understanding these guys display of the best elements of several different musical genres and subgenres and how to mix them together into a truly emotionally inspiring journey of an album. This is one of the best post-rock submissions I’ve had in my year and a half of writing this site. And I’ve gotten a lot of them!
That alone should be reason enough for you to click on the link below, yes? The album’s a total steal at five bucks!