Friday, 11 May 2012

The Best Pessimist - Love Is...


Ukrainian-born musician Sergey Lunev has managed to transcend himself into an artist whom despite compiling a vast palette of wondrous sounds for a solo project, in most cases, has the same mass and accumulative wonder you'd most likely find in a four-piece band. But to describe The Best Pessimist (as is his chosen alias here) as post-rock or ambient - heck, even using them in unison with one another - would be to undermine the measure of this individual's extensive venture into sound. The fact is, Lunev's music finds itself trekking across all means of composite structure. And through it, there is an uncanny sense that he has managed to take the strengths of these genres and unify them into a single solitary idealism. 'Love Is...', Lunev's third album under this name, not only demonstrates the peak to this compilation of both organic and inorganic instrumentation, but also shows a tremendous sense of understanding, and through it, appreciation for what Pessimist has been born from.

The titular track - and first on this nine-part recording - makes no hesitation to express this. There's an immediate degree of withdrawal here, and it comes across quite magically in its texture. For those who are fond - or are even aware - of the likes of both Jon Hopkins and Ulrich Schnauss' early work, then this will be a definite reminder of that more relaxed yet journeying aura about said sound. And here, Lunev makes no exception to that idealistic setting, icy keyboards laying atop a fog of distorted guitars and grainy drumbeats that take nothing away from the uplifting investigative nature to the track's progression. 'Closeness' on contrast, demonstrates a more simplistic detailing to Lunev's musical story-telling. Here, a simple strum of atypical post-rock-esque echoey guitar strings nods its way through the delicate percussion and accompanying guitars that, on closer listen, feel a lot more brooding and invasive than your regular bass accompaniment. The track, yes, is a lot more simple in its content, but when the song finally blossoms out into this reflecting overlook, the looming shadow of its sound leaving quite a daunting vibe as a result. And this is expanded upon when the drone of guitar noise and reverberation soon swallows the track completely as if in one fell-swept gulp. And even as the track ends on a softening play of piano keys, there's a reminder of how delicate, on reflection, this album comes across as.

There is something quite daunting yet beautiful to the way the album balances this more softer plush of the more synthetically-stylized drum beats and accompanying ambient chill, alongside its contrasting swirl of guitar distortion and resulting on-edge atmosphere. Even as I listen to the two-part 'Above The Fog', I can't help but feel that for every bit of shyness these electro-organic components display, there will be this quick follow-up of something more open and honest in the fact that the sounds will unearth something quite hefty and billowing in its execution. Part 1 - no doubt there is some homage, and indeed influence, to Explosions In The Sky here - is all about the vibes of which this sound can conjure. If it's not the hollowing withdrawn build of guitar playing and distant ambience that catches the ear - catapulting this sound into something a lot more illustrative and impacting - then it's the resulting flanger of guitars that finally build into this bloom of culminated sound that, for me, leaves a flutter of warmth coursing through both my ears and my veins. Part 2, acts a sort of conclusion of this warmth by a playing of pianos that cool the overall atmosphere down into a state of neutral awareness. It's placement is clever as it leads the following paradox of lonely guitar playing and embossed drone - later, an embossing thrust of overlaying guitars - so that the continuing atmosphere of the track is one of a self-explored analysis.

While the album can be considered mostly post-rock in its deliverance and its execution, there is an argument here that Pessimist... hasn't gone out with the intention of simply experimenting with effect-laiden instrumentation, as is usually the case within this encircling genre. What makes this guy stand out is the balancing act he, somewhat deliberately and knowingly, puts on himself. In one hand, we have a sound that feels more synthetic and hands-on in its control, à la the confines of electronic chillout music. But on the other hand, you can't shrug off Lunev's admiration for string-based instruments, be it acoustic, bass or even electric (all garnished with a touch of wavered distortion here and there). Quite surprising then, even after this string of analysis that we find 'December 2, 1000' while swings back into the inorganic side of music, finds itself lead by a quite upbeat conjuring of drums alongside the more recognizable icy piano playing. But it's the percussion here that really leads the track along, whether it's the synthesis of rhythm in the former parts, or in the latter stages where the crashing and tumbling of cymbals ultimately collide and bombard the booming of guitars and electronics that enshroud the composition. But this is not a worrying or even substantial cause for concern, and this is what's most important here. The sounds here, feel a lot more honest and relatable, rather than merely cluttering the composition or filling it too much with unneeded noise.

This is indeed the case with 'The Most Cold Winter', which initially leads us with this silky briskness of violins, which soon becomes almost like a mere concoction to the salvo of expression that takes charge soon-after. The drums become more meaningful and retaliatory; the guitars feel more extended and striking despite their simplistic usage...and through it all, the main composition lacks nothing in either content or deliverance. 'Autumn Leaves', the album's closer, leaves a lasting chill as the record reaches its climax through its pitch of synthesized drum beats and somewhat childishly melancholic sounds - all of which lies as a foreground to the latter backdrop of a more livelier and provoking backdrop of guitars and hefty piano keys. It's a mixture of emotions and it's not something that can be taken lightly. Rather, it's a perfect closer that leaves somewhat of a vagueness around its true nature, but because of this, it only amplifies the overall sound's interest as a literal composition.

A lot has been spoken, and even detailed - later, argued - about the true intentions and characteristics that define the genre known as 'post-rock'. Is it even a genre in the first place..is usually one that gets the debate going. Is it even relevant in today's age? That's another. If you're interested still in this debate and want a clear-cut record that demonstrates the credentials and credibility that this sound, in rare a time, can sometimes display, then this is the ideal album. 'Love Is...' finely crafts and then details everything there is to the beauty and glorious conceptualization that post-rock has often fell short on in recent years. It's a well-deserved and much-needed reminder as to how this field of music can invoke the most provoking of emotions and states of mind. But beyond that, in its finger-plucking of ambience and chilling of electronics, the album extends far beyond the parameters of guitar music. Encompassing any and all invoking of sound, The Best Pessimist has not only crafted his best work yet, but in my opinion, probably one of the finest post-rock records of the past 10 years.
~Jordan

9.0

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