January 17, 2003

Midsummer/Coastal "This Ageless Night"

This is another impressive split release, and darn it, once again I'm more impressed with the unknown band than I am with the one I initally bought this for! Not that I mind, really; because both bands are worthy. On This Ageless Night symmetry seems to be the key, as both bands offer up five songs each.

Midsummer are first, and though the product description proclaimed them to be beautiful dreampop (darn liars!), I'm hearing Britpop, though, to be more specific, I'd call this stuff Thompop. (Or maybe Thomcore? Yorkepop? Yorkecore?) Anyway, Midsummer seem to pick up on that popular, creative question of "What Would Radiohead have sounded like had they not gone all-retro Warp records on us and had stuck to the OK Computer mold?" It's a good question to ask. All of Midsummer's songs shimmer quite nicely, with a brooding pop sound (a la Radiohead) that they do really well. "Silent Blue" is a song you'll swear you've heard somewhere, which tells you just how great Midsummer's music sounds. Other highlights include the melodic "Tempests" and their final track, the moody "'Til Human Voices Wake Us." The only moment where they fall down slightly is the cutesy, out-of-place instrumental "Japanese Beetle."

Coastal, on the other hand, are a great band who are definitely dream-pop. In fact, I'd say they were more slowcore, but that's more of a personal taste kind of thing. Coastal make long, beautiful, shiveringly cold music, not unlike Low. Their music is very sad, too; "The End of Summer" is one of the most hearbreaking songs I've heard in a while. "Sunbathers" is also a pretty little piano-based instrumental that hits right at the heart. Unfortunatly for Coastal, they've followed a really great, impressive group, and their songs suffer because of it.

Why, then, do I not care much for Coastal's selections? It's simple, really. Whereas the split vinyl releases of yesteryear would provide a pause between bands, and you wouldn't necessarily think of the record as a continuous whole. Compact Discs don't allow you that luxury. As such, after Midsummer's mind-blowing experience, Coastal's slow-core style is utterly anticlimactic. That doesn't mean their music is bad; in fact, it's quite beautiful, and both bands' selections would serve as fine, excellent EP's.

Normally, such a minor, technical detail wouldn't warrant comment, but because it affects the listening process so greatly, I felt it necessary to warn you. Despite this aesthetic flaw, This Ageless Night is a beautiful, beautiful record. My advice is to not listen to it as a whole; take a little time between bands. Go get you some coffee. Go let the cat in. Have a smoke. Wash your hands. Do something constructive with your time before you listen to the second set.

--Joseph Kyle

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