First, a small paragraph to their previous album called East the Water. Damn, that one is a Postrock classic, an album you must hear if you like your Postrock. It has the build-ups, the minimalist tunes, some great melodies, but most of all: true emotional connection with the listener. It's an album that makes everything better, songs like Tarka and In event of Moon Disaster truly captivate that melancholic feel that great Postrock can give you. Be sure to listen to this album too.
Onward to newer work, Left Alone! What's different is that this album has vocals in them and more slowcore segments. I must admit that at first, I was a bit disappointed with this album, high expectations and a slight change of style made me a bit uncomfortable. But..... the more you listen, the more this album "clicks" and in there lies greatness! For me, these are turbulent times. Working at home due to Corona, my wife is expecting our second kid and due to this amazing thing, I am reconstructing our attic and bedrooms from the ground-up to make them more habitable :-) A perfect time for demolishing walls, rebuilding them and lots of sanding and painting, while listening to Postrock. All alone in the attic, working my ass off while listening to this album is a great combo and gave me lots of time to really give this album a spin.
Opener "Left Alone" is a stunner. Immediately starting with slowcore elements and added vocals, this track spreads it's hidden (at first!) beauty of this album. Pounding drums, slow but raw guitars, lots of reverb, it has an excellent structure. This track has the best pré-mid- segment of any song for the past five years and Of the Vine reaches this point with just one magnificent stroke of the guitar. After a very slow, thoughtful first 2.5 minutes, meddling vocals and a build-up of tension, the drums start to up their game and then... that single guitar stroke and drumkick... it's ... wow. The rawness of the track increases, the guitar swirls, the quality off the recording... it's just all heavenly done. You feel the darkness, the feeling off being lost and desperate. At the 5 minutes mark, the track shifts to a crawl with some lovely angelic-like chanting while being "escorted" by some great sounding strings. It's the best opener that we could ever wish for on this album and in itself, it's the best new track of the album.
I'm Morrissey, I'm Dead is a track that was released a couple of years ago and, this is a first for me, the added vocals makes this track much better then the instrumental version. The track opens up at the 2 minutes mark with some repeated chanting of the lyrics "You started to love someone". The lyrics are almost a blur, it encompasses you in a dream-like state. At the 5 minutes mark, the song shifts dramatically in style and gives you a sense of urgency. And god, those drums combined with the subtle guitar plucking, do they sound excellent on this album! You can almost sense that this build-up will reach impeccable heights and that's exactly what this track does. It's a 10+ minutes track, but damn it if they made this one a couple of minutes longer. It's a track that takes it's time to open up, perhaps too much time where the apotheose is almost too short, but... it just works, damn, it works!
Third track "Messed it up" hearkens back the most to their previous album East the Water. It shares almost the same notes as the track "In event of Moon Disaster". Messed it up will likely be your first "frown" while listening to this album. At first, during the instrumental start, I got some heavy East the Water vibes and then the vocals kicked in.... but after a couple of listening sessions, this track gives you time to breathe, it can function as an interlude and gives you the clearest sense what the tale and atmosphere os this album is.
Exmoore is a more uptempo track with an instrumental and vocal build-up that has a lovely flow. At the 4:40 mark, there's a tonal shift and this gives you your 4 minutes of mostly instrumental tunes with that typical sounding guitar. It makes you curious to where this track is going to lead you, ..... then it's finished... but.....as a prelude to the next track "Forelorn", it works. Forelorn is a track where the hazy, dream-like state of this album reaches its height. Surrealistic background vocals, slow tunes, literally breathing sounds and after the 2:30 mark, the track evolves into a more sinister but absolutely beautiful track. This is the most up-tempo part of the album, a place where their story reaches a conclusion. At the 4:40 mark, the track is slowly lowering speed for melancholic ending.
Album finisher "Ilfracombe" is heavy on the vocals and, I'm sad to say, the vocals detract from the overall atmosphere. Instead of a dreamy, surrealistic vibes, it get's a bit emo here. Just stick with it after the vocal part and you will be rewarded. The song will develop in a more upbeat vibe, with a grinding guitar. At the 4:20 mark, the track "ends" and what follows is an emotional sounding farewell for this album.
And there we have it. An album that rewards people for frequent and detailed listening sessions. Muck kudos to whoever engineered this album, the sounds is excellent. Of the Vine deserves your attention. Left Alone can't top East the Water, but that's purely because of a slight alteration in style. What this album does is grab you, make you think, remember days of old and contemplate. As with East the Water, Of the Vine has shown the listener their ability to connect music with your emotions. As mentioned in the beginning, these are turbulent times (positive and negative) for me, but I'm glad that for the second time, Of the Vine has created an album that will stay in my memories as the soundtrack for important phases in my life. I can't give those guys a bigger compliment, Left Alone is an essential listening experience.