Review of 1897 [12k1053]

Time Off (AU)

Seaworthy have established themselves in recent years as one of the more accessible acts of Taylor Deupree’s 12k label. The Sydney trio’s lush post-rock has always embodied the kind of rich and layered aesthetic rarely witnessed on the New York label. 1897, however, represents a notable shift in focus for the group – mainman Cameron Webb temporarily embracing a more esoteric and minimal approach for the outfit’s second full-length recording. The record’s unconventional and investigative nature, however, has done nothing to detract from the band’s innate knack for constructing intriguing and intelligent musical compositions.

The product of a lengthy investigation into the sonic realities of an abandoned Sydney naval bunker, 1897 is a solitary record of angular construction, melancholic beauty and intelligent dynamism. Webb has taken full advantage of the unique acoustics of his muse with understated drone numbers like “Ammunition 1” and “Installation 2” alive with a palpable sense of absence and space. Webb’s guitar-led concessions to accessibility, likewise, benefit from a refined sense of expansive construction – the meandering “Ammunition 2” making for a deeply enthralling and hypnotic ten minutes. It is the affecting undercurrent of beauty and melancholia running through 1897, however, that truly distinguishes the record.

A record with a twelve-month gestation period, 1897 could very easily have been reduced to a clinical exercise in intellectual curiosity – particularly given Webb’s background as an environmental scientist and researcher. The album glows, however, with an abstract and unpretentious sadness. This is achieved in no small part by pastoral guitar vignettes like “Ammunition 5”, but the same emotional engagement imbues the record’s more esoteric moments – even field recording pieces like “Installation 1”. It’s this cohesive approach to emotional engagement that saves 1897 from pretension and establishes the record as a gorgeous and rewarding listening experience. – Matt O’Neill

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