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Long Distance Calling - Long Distance Calling

posted 27 Mar 2011, 14:16 by Tony Gaskin
Review by Jason Guest

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Instrumental bands take mightier risks than most bands dare. Without a sing-along chorus or lyrics that somehow encapsulate the readers experience or capture their imagination, they suffer being accused of being too daring a departure from what is expected of a band, too abstract, or, worse, pretentious. Instrumentals struggle to find a place on many an artist’s album and in most listeners’ collections. One-off instrumental tracks are usually buried somewhere late in an album’s listing and suffer fewer and fewer listens before disappearing from playlists all together. Why do bands form a monster so hideous that even they turn from it in disgust? Such is the fate of the bastard-child whose progenitors care not enough to bestow upon the misbegotten musing a voice with which to defend itself. German Post-rockers Long Distance Calling don’t belong to that ilk. Instead, they choose to yield to the seemingly endless possibilities that only the instrumental can provide and take it ever further on their latest eponymous release.

Opener ‘Into the Black Wide Open’ and track two, 'The Figrin D'an Boogie’, are a journey through the space rock of Hawkwind to the ambience and psychedelic synth-rock of Ozric Tentacles. ‘Invisible Giants’ and ‘Arecibo’ foreground heavy guitar riffs with time signature-changes and layered melancholic phrases, providing the heaviest tracks here. The clean, compressed guitar work on ‘Timebends’ brings a cool, determined feel to the piece, the slap bass middle section shifting the song into understated-yet-twisted diminished chord-jazz territory. Having long eschewed the propensity for band dependency upon a vocalist and “frontman”, Long Distance Calling have called upon Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax vocalist John Bush to contribute vocals for ‘Middleville’. As you’d expect, Bush’s performance is remarkable, singing as if he had been with the band for an eternity. Closing the album is the epic ‘Beyond the Void’, a darkly atmospheric piece that explores and develops moods and melodies that are reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s early 70s meanderings. Tasty.

To write an instrumental brings many challenges. To write an album brings countless more. To be an instrumental band must be a sign of insanity, surely? Long Distance Calling seize the opportunity to evade the kind of labelling and erroneous expectations that an inferior vocalist would bring and ambitiously - and successfully – draw from wherever they choose for their ever-expanding melting pot of sound. This is an album laden with grooves from funky to deep to heavy, with melodies that drift through boundless soundscapes, and atmospheres that both please and punish with exhilarating impunity, all of which sit atop wave after wave of subtleties and nuances that invite further indulgence. Prog rock is hard-wired into the album’s DNA, with drama and emotion sewn into each layer and deep texture. The many challenges of the instrumental, from content to reception, are here greeted with consummate musicianship and taste many times over. Highly recommended.