Album review: Summer of Glaciers – Concentric (2010)

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If you were to only listen to the record without reading too much into it, you would probably assume that Summer of Glaciers is a 5-piece band, milking San Francisco’s post-rock fan boys and being the obvious choice to open for God Is An Astronaut when they spring up on tour. You’d probably think they rehearse like crazy in order to pull off this material live without slipping up. With its massive layers of sound and carefully integrated guitar parts, this would be a safe assumption to make.
But you’d be wrong. Summer of Glaciers is a one-man-band. Ryan Wasterlain, who looks like your company’s IT guy, goes on stage with an understated demeanor, adorned with a Gibson guitar and more complex machinery than most guitar players would ever want to keep track of. Using a drum machine, a mixing console, and a heavy amount of computer software, Ryan performs each guitar part, manipulates it after the fact, and then continues layering, all while maintaining a conventional progressive-rock structure to the music without ever sounding like he’s compensating somehow. The slightest mistake could wreck a reasonable portion of the set, and with a metronome in his ear piece, he maintains patience and perseverance throughout the performance.
This brings us back around to Concentric, his latest record released through SF collective Ascender Descender records. The record features a sharp production and sounds impossible to pull off live through the method I just described. The use of drum machine works out nicely as it doesn’t do much impersonation of real drums, but rather relies on it’s own digital personality. The guitars roll in and out with razor sharp hooks at every turn, sometimes kicking 3 of them up at once, then descending into stuttering noise. It also doesn’t hinder to too many of the “post-rock” stereotypes that linger around these days, by maintaining quick paced tempos, rarely staying in place for too long, and bringing a well directed energy that makes it into get-on-the-freeway-and-do-90 music.
 
It’s hard to pick stand out tracks from the album, since most of it is daisy chained together to flow as one dynamic prog-rock epic. Although never meandering, you’re hard pressed to find an obvious end to anything on the record. There is one obvious track however in Touching Down, featuring Emil Rapstine on guest vocals. His performance almost sounds like a more Americanized take on Dead Can Dance, and lends desert imagery and a slight psychedelic feel to the juxtaposing futuristic musical foundation in place by Wasterlain. The production efforts on his voice also have more of a lo-fi sound amidst the ultra-clarity of the instruments, giving his voice a bit of a surreal presence. As it sweeps to its chorus toward the center, it is quite epic.
 
This track is followed by the album’s eerie closer, Ceremonial Ghosts, which carefully moves out of a simple arpeggio into an eerie keyboard percussion piece, then shifts gears all at once to a quiet chugging guitar. It in a way stands as a dark reflection of the album’s first 9 tracks, setting the sun on the journey.

Concentric has been one of my main walkman albums of late. Summer of Glaciers is presently on tour (dates listed below), check them out if you can. Due to Bandcamp’s very liberal sharing policy, you can listen to the player below, and if you so enjoy it, follow it to put money in Mr Wasterlain’s tank by buying a copy.
 
07.07.2010: pa’s lounge. boston, ma. w/ rob byrd, lazar house.
08.07.2010: rebel sound records. pittsfield, ma. w/ cabinet of natural curiosities.
09.07.2010: green line cafe. philly, pa. #
11.07.2010: loft show. toronto, on. w/ valley of the shadow of death.∍
12.07.2010: pat’s in the flats. cleveland, oh. w/ presque vu, two left ears (france).
13.07.2010: no fun house. kalamazoo, mi.
14.07.2010: turf club. st. paul, mn. w/ gerald prokop, telepathos.
16.07.2010: day show – independent records. denver, co.
16.07.2010: night show – astroland. boulder, co.
17.07.2010: sweatfest. grand junction, co. – thepanthernaut.com/sweatfest/
18.07.2010: necropolis. sacramento, ca. w/ (waning), noisepsalm.
19.07.2010: mama buzz. oakland, ca. w/ james & evander, posted.
20.07.2010: johnny v’s. san jose, ca. w/ lady lazarus.
21.07.2010: tba. san francisco, ca. w/ lady lazarus, sarah june.
22.07.2010: tba. oakland, ca. w/ lady lazarus, sarah june

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