Much of today’s comprehension in music relies in the familiarity between listener and artist. There is a legitimate reason to believe that like most other forms interaction, our willingness to connect is based on our level of comfort with said medium. In music, popular artists remain popular by repeating familiar processes within the creation of their product; resulting in the sameness that permeates the vast majority of ears. There are of course, many aspects to this sameness – we have many artists adopting the “same” song structures, the “same” on-stage personas, and the “same” lyrical perspectives – a process that essentially feeds itself (only because the vast majority lets it).
Perhaps it is because general audiences are “afraid” to venture from this zone of familiarity that such a process continues to fester (and it will do so for what looks to be eternity). We have created genres and subgenres of music we do not understand or feel comfortable with; all while chastising those who follow blindly into the glare of pocket-lining opportunities and pop culture triviality (it is fun to ridicule the hopeless leading the hopeless). So what happens when a group of musicians comes along and blurs these lines of distinction; a collective creating an indiscernible haze that clouds perceptions of what is merely reproduced tripe and those who long to challenge constantly? The majority of those who encounter This Is A Process Of A Still Life will enunciate that the group is an instrumental outfit, and yes, while accurate the assessment merely augments this trivial understanding of music.
Does the lack of lyrical accompaniment really become the sole distinction of the artist? While the answer to that is a mere click away on music television, we cannot simply dismiss artists who forgo the instrument of voice as “background” music, or music “to do other things to,” or God forbid, elevator music. And while mainstream instrumentalists have seemingly set back their craft a good century or so, it would be unfair to dismiss quality purveyors as uninspired creators; especially considering our current crop of ‘lyrical geniuses’ and the dark, dark clouds suburban America has been responsible for in the past few years.
While the likes of Don Caballero and Man Or Astro-man? paved the way in indie rock circles, they bore one distinct quality that always detracted them from general audiences; they were critically lauded, but their depth ultimately made them difficult to listen to. And it isn’t a criticism per say, their music was profound, but like most of their counterparts, they remain confined to specific audiences. This Is A Process Of A Still Life is at a tangent to these aforementioned groups. Their brand of word-less art takes flight in more cloudless territory; sweeping across blue skies in a majestic blend of dreams and serenades that while capable of enthralling the most general of listeners, is no less profound than those who choose to walk the graceless path.
From the grand lengths of the beautifully mystical “No Memory of the Airshow,” to the more swaying nature of “The Thing We Learned About Neptune,” This Is A Process… captures many stages of mood-driven music. A brief calm-before-the-storm is swiftly swept aside by the aforementioned “No Memory of the Airshow” – a seemingly grandiose gesture of rising tides and a crashing on the rocks; a palette of simplistic instruments (guitar, bass, percussions) constructed in such a way that the song becomes the album’s lone sense of deep tension; an uneasy anxiety that slowly washes away in all its 8+ minutes. Surprisingly, this early peak in apprehension becomes the vocal mood shift of the album. The rest of the material is a far subdued downwards straying (downwards as in an indication of movement, not in describing quality); almost as if the songs have become in tune to the motions of a graceful descent, spiraling elegantly towards stillness in which it has not yet encountered.
In the unlikely situation that This Is A Process Of A Still Life is cast as “headphone music,” the probability that one can simply go about other tasks while the music cheaply softens the atmosphere would be difficult. If anything, their work is vastly absorbing; as if we too have been drawn into this episode of spiralling wonder. The harshest critics may deem this their biggest weakness – that listeners are merely absorbed to hypnotic levels; but when you think of it, is that such a demeaning quality? Considering that most of what is offered borders on insulting, I certainly do not mind being thoroughly mesmerized on occasion. And as the album’s flight drifts into its desired conclusion, we are reminded of the most enchanting part of it all: that this falling seems endless.