Falling Into Hours| Posted August 16, 2013 Falling Up has proven that bands that have "broken up" aren't necessarily gone for good. It's easy to forget that shortly after they released Fangs in 2009 and departed their label home at BEC Records, we officially said goodbye to the experimental rockers. And yet, within a year, they were among the first of what would be many Christian acts to start a Kickstarter to fund a new album. This produced one of their most critically acclaimed bodies of work in the fascinating musical masterpiece that was Your Sparkling Death Cometh.
It wouldn't have been a surprise to fans if that were the last we'd heard of them. But then they came out with a quasi-remix EP of sorts in Mnemos. The band continued to prove that being independent (and semi-sorta inactive) didn't mean squat when it comes to their ability to deliver new music to fans. Late last year, the band announced The Machine De Ella Project, which was essentially a dual-album release that the band would incrementally deliver song by song to those who pre-ordered, with plans for a later physical release.
Several months after all of the songs had been premiered, we finally have the street release. The two albums are Midnight on Earthship and what was said to be a soundtrack to an audiobook, Hours. These titles sound very much like Falling Up's signature brand of mysterious ambient rock, and thus fans were left with much to anticipate.
Given that Falling Up seems to have settled into releasing concept albums in recent years, having an album be a companion to an audiobook seemed a logical direction to go, especially considering the stories in the albums could often be vague and hard to comprehend. Taken by itself, one could probably go through Hours several times without picking up on any story or realizing that it's meant as a soundtrack. The audiobook is not reviewed here, so this review is focused purely on the music.
From the very first notes of "The Contract," this feels exactly like what we've come to expect from Falling Up– a title with seemingly little connection to the lyrics, lyrics that can border on beautiful nonsense to casual listeners but which relay much deeper (and often spiritual) meanings to those who devote the time to dig, and a haunting and somewhat electronic ambient rock sound backing Jessy Ribordy's instantly recognizable vocals.
"The Climb" continues on the eerie feeling and opens with the familiar "float by open windows" line that opened an earlier album, Captiva. Falling Up has always tied the world of their songs together by reusing lyrics, and there are several instances of that trend here. "Finn Hatches A Plan" follows with another solid tune.
"The Rest Will Soon Follow" opens with an almost music-box feel that drives the ballad. It creates a whimsical atmosphere that is easy to get caught up in. The chorus is simple and yet intriguing with the almost heavenly repetition of "it carries us / it guides us to earth." "Aeva and the Waving World" brings back the rock with a fierce beat and electronic backing. Lyrically, the story seems to continue the story and the theme of being strangers on earth. It has both relevance to the sci-fi story and yet still some symbolic meaning as Christians.
"On Growing Things" proves to be a surprisingly epic track, slow-building to a near-screaming finish. Thematically, it's actually one of the more comprehensive cuts on the album. Its chorus has a lot of spiritual lyrical meat to chew on: "Like a light that they've cast far away / We will use what they have thrown / Then they'll finally see / And fall to their knees / We were born to always grow." It's another good examples of how the band's story songs can still provide lots of thought-provoking spiritual themes, even if they require several listens and some deep digging to unearth at times.
The pounding beat of "Intro to the Radio Room" instantly grabs your attention and the song never lets it go. The song ends up being one of the most emotional and memorable entries yet. It's very cinematic in it's approach, with an extended (but fitting and never feeling extraneous) instrumental outro.
Then comes "The Outsider" with a total 180 in its vibe. The foot-tapping beat of the intro feels totally fresh and unexpected. It carries an almost defiant feel fitting of the title. Maybe it's just me, but I also get a tad of a Western mood from it, but in a very subtle way, and all the while remaining unmistakably Falling Up.
"Blue Ruins" opens with an edgy rock riff reminiscent of something we'd have heard from the band in their early albums. This song boasts another beautifully melodic chorus that take Ribordy's vocals to new heights. "Transmission" proves itself a worthy rock track with an insanely catchy rock chorus with lots of surprisingly poppy hooks scattered throughout.
And of course, it all fits in perfectly. One thing that's clear by now is that Falling Up is more than capable of taking just about any musical element a song needs and making it fit in while still keeping their unique experimental sound. "Prillicians" continues with the rock edge, a nice change from the recent trend of Falling Up albums to slow down a bit in the latter quarter. But the rock energy is as strong as ever at this point.
"In Echoes Forever" breaks straight into the vocals and somehow feels very familiar, and yet still very fresh. Perhaps it's because the song's structure is similar to a lot of the songs on their last album. And maybe it's just me, but I keep hearing the song's title in the post-chorus hook. It's almost as if those bars were arranged to shout out that title. The song itself presents a complex man vs. self conflict in its rocking chorus: "So you want deliverance that fourteen years couldn't bring / Or you want to bury all the evidence so far down / Or your dreams are always coming true / Either way you still find you take a life for a life for life." Musically, it's a fine way to close out the album.
Getting back to the fact that this is the soundtrack for an audiobook, it's actually amazingly enjoyable as a standalone. While I am sure a lot of the lyrical ambiguities and abstractions will make a little more sense in the context of the story they go with, they still are great food for thought here. As albums go, Your Sparkling Death Cometh was definitely better at balancing accessibility and musical artistry (this one, like Fangs, seems to be skewed a bit too far towards the latter, although this is a lot closer to accessibility than Fangs was), but this is without a doubt a standout release of this year and a definite musical experience well worth your time. It's one half of what could be one of the most unique projects released this year. Falling Up has done it again, and hopefully, they'll continue to pop out of their retirement to bring us great music every few years.
Bonus tidbit: I ran the text on the front through Google translator (my exposure to some traditional elements of Christianity made me recognize it as Latin right away) and while some of it is a bit nonsensical and incoherent, here is the loose translation I got: But it is not easy to speak unto you I was listening to, because it was already dead years ago. That's when flashlights dim, flicker and die. Ryan, if the idea of getting food, Max goes out to try to hide in the barn clover.They quickly went to the man who greatly delights enemy because there is a place where she has lost more than his bike. Is safe, and we do not say crossed the lagoon, so that it does not attract even more violent with his teeth, the flip over us, thou something. If the medium is the same that it is for the first time that there is no consideration of the second is to the absolute.
Song to Download Now: "On Growing Things" (Get it on iTunes here.)
A Truly Unique Album| Posted March 25, 2013
Falling Up took a unique approach in releasing this album and it's partner album Midnight on Earthship. They released one song from each album every other week (along with a chapter in the audiobook that goes along with this album, also titled Hours.) until the entire album was done. And what a project this turned out to be. I won't be looking at the audiobook portion of this album but know that this album is a concept album that adds more to the overall story that is told through the audiobook. (I also don't want to reveal the big surprise that connects everything together.) Know that this album is mostly rock-driven with big guitar and drum parts and lead singer Jessy Ribordy screaming out lyrics at points. The band does incorporate sonic elements that add more to the sci-fi/space theme that runs throughout the album. Jessy's lyrics are as cryptic, poetic, and more beautiful as ever. I found the back half of the album to be stronger than the first half mostly due to the way the band released the songs. It's actually a pretty good progression to hear as the band gets more and more confident in there ability to craft some genuinely great and memorable songs.
Hours could be considered a return to form for Falling Up. It manages to blend the indie space sounds that were the main focus of the previous 2 albums with the hard rock sound that made the band known to us. Beautiful lyrics and expertly crafted sounds makes this one of the best Falling Up albums yet.
(Also, you really should listen to the audiobook as it tells a great story that may make past Falling Up related things more clearer. I don't want to say anymore than that.)