The Endeavour by BARSTRelease date: May 18, 2018
Label: Consouling Sounds
BARST have said that they want to break down traditional song structures and in doing so they use a mixture of musical styles. They touch on, in no particular order, electronica, post-rock, drone, industrial metal, shoegaze and prog, and with that kind of mix there’s the danger of a kitchen-sink effort that does nothing well and sounds messy. Not so with BARST. An album of dazzling maturity, poise, complexity and sheer brilliance, The Endeavour starts with those styles of music and makes something totally new and fabulous.
Another feature, perhaps, of wanting to break down traditional song structures is that the album comes as a single track of 42 minute. On streaming services it’s also available as seven shorter tracks with individual titles, and this helped when reviewing it to get a grip on the individual parts. But listening to it in one go with no gaps is an amazing experience. Much ‘progressive’ music is heading in this direction – song titles don’t mean much when it’s ambient electronica or instrumental post-rock, and doing away with them altogether, presenting a body of work as a single entity, is something that makes the listener engage with the music in a different way.
Sure, the mood, sound and energy of The Endeavour all change as it goes along (it’s not like a single, 42-minute ‘song’), but the enjoined nature of this album is very special. Back in the 90s someone told me that Orbital, who has just released The Box, were the “new classical music”. At the time I thought this was rubbish; how can a dance band be classical music? But I came to realise that it wasn’t about the type of music but the way in which it’s structured. Orbital had released a work that played like one single piece in the same way that a classical composer may present a symphony or suite. There are no individual songs, no breaks between the movements: it just flows. The music flows and is heard as a stream of consciousness with changing emotions and moods as befits the story it is telling.
The Endeavour starts with a slow build, like an orchestra warming up. It soon increases in intensity and volume. A bittersweet post-rock melody is played over the top and then a powerful undercurrent of surging power chords breaks in, rising to a crescendo on par with some of the best heavy, progressive music I have ever heard. The guitar then switches in a heartbeat to pulsing electronica (‘Point B’, ‘track’ two). The dalliance with various styles continues, with the fury and Ministry-esque electro-industrial stomp of ‘Death’ and ‘Wandering The Maze’ to the urgent, surging post-rock of ‘Live Long’. Some ‘movements’ (=tracks) in The Endeavour are droning and mesmeric, like the aforementioned ‘Live Long’ and the repetitive drumming, doomy goth vibe and spoken vocals of ‘The Mad’. It ends on a lighter note with the final part, a slow lamenting piano that gradually changes to uplifting and euphoric grandeur, underpinned by glitchy beats.
This is some of the best music I’ve heard this year. Usually, reviewed albums are put to one side once the review is submitted, at least for a while. But I know I will be playing this for a long time to come, just like my 2017 album of the year, Örvény by Hungarians Perihelion. Örvény is a similarly complex, progressive album that gives more on every listen. I just know The Endeavour has just as much to give. An amazing piece of music: a must-buy.