he modus operandi for most post rock bands is to not focus on the individual. The music is greater than the sum of its parts, and in a music that is frequently instrumental, who needs rock stars anyway? Gregor Samsa, taking their name from the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, is one of these bands. Stating on their website that “the early history of the group has been lost in a wash of noise, strange beeps, and outright lies” the group does no real favors to the casual website surfer. But perhaps that’s the point of a music that is so hypnotic and trance inducing. Intrigued by the almost otherworldly sounds emanating from the speakers, the listener is driven to find out who has made these sounds. Either giving up at the point of a uninformative website or trekking farther into finding even more information, the mission has been accomplished: the listener has gone to a website that features other releases similar to it- and perhaps purchases are made.
But it’s obvious making this type of music doesn’t get Gregor Samsa twenty inch rims on their dilapidated tour van. In fact, this music almost lends itself to being a labor of love. Long drawn out, atmospheric songs with dreamy almost intelligible vocalizations certainly aren’t the way to TRL. They are however, an independent music fan’s wet dream.
Sounding like a cross between every post rock band that you’ve ever heard (the melodic side, not the jazz influenced side), Gregor Samsa turns in a debut EP that is a brilliant statement of purpose and a sign of great things to come.
The first song on the EP, the songs have titles reflecting their song number so naming them is besides the point, starts with a watery guitar chord that soon devolves into a melody as a male and female vocal begin to sing in unison. Evoking some of the more tuneful portions of Rainer Maria, the vocals soon take a backseat to the music, which feature a long and languid bassline undercut by a driving drum track. A beautiful drum breakdown, complete with production effects, leads the listener into the final epic section of the song. The second song, however, is the obvious highlight, featuring two extended climax portions, which flex the band’s shoegazing muscle. At first, it seems that the abrupt break from the slow moving first movement is forced and a bad mix. On repeated listens, however, it begins to make a bit more sense, as small elements of the previous portions of the song appear in limited capacity. It has the same effect as the first time “Like Herod” by Mogwai is listened to. A shocking jolt that seems out of place and contrived, it is tied together nicely by the end of the song and makes the flow into the sentimental closer all the more sweet. The final song passes by without much comment, except for its “I’ve heard this before somewhere haven’t I?” quality. A sweet lilting song with some minor crescendos and nothing more.
And that’s the rub. While these songs are, face value wise, some of the more beautiful and melodic post rock offerings by a new band to come along in the past year or so, it all seems oddly empty. It’s as though that below the beautiful surface of these songs that there may not be much more below- nothing to really chew on afterwards. This is the same minor complaint that some listeners have had with Sigur Ros’s stunning second album and it holds true here. It is just that, though, a minor complaint. When a listener succumbs to the sweetness of the melody and the glistening texture of the sound on Gregor Samsa’s debut EP it really doesn’t matter what else is going on outside or what is going to be happening later- this is a music for now.