Artist: Long Distance Calling
Album Title: Trips
Label: Superball Music
Date Of Release: 29 April 2016
Normally I deride press releases for being full of vacuous nonsense, soaring on a thermal created by its own hot air and gushing superlatives. So when the press release to accompany the new album from Long Distance Calling reached me, I instantly rolled my eyes in barely disguised cynicism.
The opening line boldly states that ‘Music is time Travel. And Long Distance Calling are one of its frequent flyers, pioneers in shattering boundaries and building sonic bridges’. It doesn’t end there either: ‘instrumental rock band of wonders’, ‘pushing the envelope’ and ‘shattering expectations’ are all direct quotes.
The only problem with Long Distance Calling though, is that all this hyperbole and fancy rhetoric is absolutely, unequivocally true and deserved. I have lived with ‘Trips’ for a good few weeks now and, despite being instantly likeable, it has blossomed into one hell of an album that I enjoy even more now than I did at the beginning. What’s more, the German band have genuinely made an album that’s almost impossible to define accurately. Genre defying? I’d say so and all power to them for it, I reckon.
Previous album ‘The Flood Inside’ raised a few eyebrows at the time of its release for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the compositions were significantly shorter than ‘normal’ and secondly, the previously pure instrumental post-rock/metal band had recruited a vocalist in the form of Martin Fischer. Well, if you were flummoxed by those changes, prepare for plenty more disorientation with ‘Trips’, the German’s fifth full length album.
Aside from the final epic track, ‘Flux’, all of the compositions weigh in at under seven minutes, with only one even getting near this mark. And Long Distance Calling have also made a change in the vocal department with Martin Fischer departing to be replaced by Norwegian Petter Carlsen. Whilst I liked Fischer’s voice, Carlsen’s is even more suited to the Long Distance Calling sound and he slots in as if he has been a member of the band since the very beginning.
The overall result with ‘Trips’ is an album which is bold, concise and thoroughly compelling. It remains vaguely post-rock at its core but as I said before, Long Distance Calling offer listeners much more than that alone. The textures, the tones, the sounds that they create are fascinating and are thoroughly unique to this talented group of musicians.
Opening track, the instrumental ‘Getaway’ starts things off in really up tempo fashion. With more than a hint of the 80s about it, it is dominated by a driving beat and clever electronics courtesy of Marsen Fischer. It has an upbeat feel to it as well as the overt retro vibe and is complimented a lovely groove as well as vaguely mournful melodies from all corners that get you moving whether or not you want to. I love the cheekiness of the riff around the midway point too, which demonstrates a willing playfulness amongst the group.
‘Reconnect’ is the follow up and has an entirely different approach. The guitars of David Jordan and Florian Füntmann are much more central, delivering a really powerful crunch that I find very satisfying. Again Janosch Rathmer’s drums cannot be ignored but it is the huge chorus and vocal performance from Carlsen that steals this particular show thanks to a delivery dripping in sincerity and emotion.
‘Rewind’ has an altogether darker vibe to it as it builds from a quiet piano and vocal intro into an emotionally-charged composition that ebbs and flows, exploring the dynamics between all-out power and minimalist post-rock soundscapes to great effect. In contrast, the instrumental ‘Trauma’ has one of the best heavy no-nonsense metal riffs I’ve heard this year, full of adrenaline-fuelled groove and intensity, almost akin to a controlled sonic explosion. And yet within the same track, there are huge echoes to the more subtle and wonderfully melodic post-rock and alternative leanings of their previous work to leave you in no doubt that this is Long Distance Calling.
If anything, ‘Lines’ begins with a more mainstream pop/rock sheen but soon opens into a glorious urgent chorus with some of Carlsen’s best vocals to be heard anywhere on the record. It may be less than five minutes long but it contains so much, including another foray into more expansive and atmospheric post-rock places thereby keeping the listener on their toes throughout.
One thing I actually really enjoyed about ‘The Flood Inside’ was the use of spoken word parts and they make a return on ‘Trips’, albeit more sparingly. The far-too-short but oh so beautiful ‘Presence’ is almost heart breaking. The melody is fragile and haunting, played out on the guitars with assistance from subtle synths before a most brief but poignant spoken word section delivers the killer blow.
I’ve used this word before but ‘Momentum’ is carried along by a driving beat where the bass of Jan Hoffmann comes to the fore very nicely indeed. Long Distance Calling have really nailed down the knack of being able to pen a memorable melody and this instrumental number is full of them, be it in the form of a riff, lead guitar line or via the keyboards. The closing guitar solo atop an alternative post-metal crescendo of sorts is fabulous.
More glorious vocals atop subtle atmospheric music usher in ‘Plans’ which develops from its humble beginnings into something altogether more cinematic-sounding, progressive and ultimately more hard-hitting. Long Distance seem to revel in their ability to build compositions up and to gently increase the intensity until the music becomes almost anthemic, all the while introducing a myriad of different ideas and dynamic textures along the way. And ‘Plans’ continues the theme deftly and expertly, with those crunchy guitars gate crashing late on in proceedings.
As if all this wasn’t enough, ‘Trips’ then closes with ‘Flux’, a thirteen minute progressive epic that rounds things out by pulling everything great about this record into one last glorious hurrah. There’s a touch of 60s psychedelia to be heard within this track as it segues effortlessly between musical light and shade. The drums are more subtle in the beginning than arguably at any time during the entire record, but it is the rich bass that again most catches the ear. As the track builds inexorably to its conclusion, it swirls and writhes, allowing itself to open up to more great melodies as it does so, culminating in an almost euphoric moment of bitter-sweet elation. And then, in come the spoken words again, atop a sumptuous cinematic keyboard outro; prophetic words, intelligent, thought-provoking words, delivered perfectly.
It is this emotional connection that I feel so strongly and which draws me in as much as the music itself. Since the last album, the band have collectively lost a number of family members and a baby has been born. It goes someway to explain the frequent mood changes within ‘Trips’, and also acts as context to explain the themes of wanting to go through time to undo regrets and relive more positive times.
I could go on but instead I’ll conclude by saying that ‘Trips’ by Long Distance Calling is easily one of the best albums I have had the pleasure of hearing in 2016. Genres be damned, it is the music that counts and the feelings it invokes. On that score, ‘Trips’ is a resounding success, a masterpiece and easily the best of their career to date.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.75
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Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
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Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
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