Laura / Yndi Halda
Radio Swan Is Down / Enjoy Eternal Bliss
Alone Again / Burnt Toast Vinyl
B- / D-
here’s no shortage of bands shamelessly working towards filling the enormous hole that Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s demise left in the post-rock landscape. Most of them are rank amateurs. (This Will Destroy You, dreamend, the Ascent of Everest, Gifts from Enola, the Workhouse, Souvenir's Young America: pack it up and go home, dudes, Efrim will take the violins at the door.) And most of them will claim to hate the comparisons. But when you make music that so baldly copies the moves of another, you deserve it.
Yndi Halda’s Enjoy Eternal Bliss deserves it. Each of its four songs average fifteen minutes in length and heavily feature a slo-mo soloing violin, yearning guitar screech, and martial drums. Each track starts slowly and builds inexorably towards those inevitable walls of noise, reaching their peaks with a minimum of fuss or celebration. It’s almost like a bad sitcom: the hero gets in a fix (build-up), does something stupid (climax), apologizes and learns his lesson (denouement), roll credits (fade out).
If Yndi Halda are the “Still Standing” of post-rock, Laura is “King of Queens.” It still isn’t great, surely, but there are moments of bliss that shine through the workmanlike compositions. In this case, you can blame the group. When they went into the studio to record Radio Swan Is Down, they emerged with enough material for two records (almost always a bad sign). As you might expect, the group has a few great songs (“Radio Swan Is Down Part 1,” “I Hope,” “It’s Kind of Like…”) and a lot of songs that are completely interchangeable from one another.
It helps that Laura seem to at least pay lip service to the idea of originality. The song lengths vary and the instruments involved do as well (although a violin once again plays a large role). The group even works with incorporating different genres into the mix (“Radio Is Down Part 2” winds itself around a sonar pulse, “I Hope” actually wouldn’t be out of place on a Deftones album, and “Patterns Not People” utilizes the Morr Music catalogue for drum ideas.) The production is great as well—something that very often goes unremarked upon by post-rock enthusiasts. Unlike Enjoy Eternal Bliss, which sounds like it was recorded in a septic tank at times, Radio Swan is clean and professional. If overlong even at sixty minutes, Radio Swan still represents a strong step up from Mapping Your Dreams.
Yndi Halda and Laura are strawmen, to a degree. As mentioned earlier, post-rock is now in a position where bands have digested Godspeed’s innovations and are attempting to map it onto their own original visions. Coming to terms with a mammoth influence is tough, but Laura are getting much better at it. Only time will tell for Yndi Halda.