Reviews

Published on March 5th, 2007 | by Hans Fruck

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More of What We’ve Heard Before Than We’ve Ever Heard Before — International Karate

(Sensory Projects)

International Karate’s debut album, Weapons of Mass Protection, is among my favourite albums of all time. My fervent wish would be for IK to repeat that first album ad infinitum. Of course, they can’t, and won’t, do that. Music’s like life: when you stop evolving, you’re dead – or might as well be.

By this standard at least, IK fans can breathe a sigh of relief: there’s no doubt the awkwardly titled More of What We’ve Heard Before Than We’ve Ever Heard Before marks an evolution in the band’s sound. They’ve traded in most of the atmospherics, introspection and melancholy of Weapons for faster tempos and more prominent vocals. (Frequent IK collaborator Dan Brownrigg sings on three tracks, and Laura Jean and guitarist Andrew Polydorou on one each.)

IK’s strengths have always been that, in true post-rock fashion, they’ve avoided the twin straightjackets of verse-chorus-verse rock and mandatory front-and-centre vocals, and that at the same time, they’ve also avoided the rapidly calcifying post-rock cliches of slow-to-fast and soft-to-loud song structures.

The track destined to get the most attention is the collaboration with Laura Jean on Falling Water. This song’s gorgeous opening shows IK haven’t lost their flair for reverb and sparse instrumentation strung across swathes of silence. Laura Jean’s vocals build from a Hope Sandoval-type murmur – poignant because it withholds so much emotion – into more strident but still beautifully modulated delivery. It’s a great showcase of Laura Jean’s singing and the band’s superlative songwriting.

The next track, A Night Without Sleep, boasts cool percussion and chiming guitars, and to these ears anyway, it sounds like older IK, only played a little faster. It’s Alright to Show You Care is perhaps the best track. Despite frequent comparisons, I’ve never seen much resemblance between IK and Mogwai – until this track, which could slot seamlessly onto Mr Beast. After punctuating quiet interludes with bursts of heavy guitar, it builds brilliantly from soft to loud and sparse to dense, along a path often trod by the Glaswegian post-rockers.

When Will You Be Coming Home? satisfyingly brings together Dan Brownrigg’s vocals and great shivers of cymbals. And Movement is a catchy, accomplished pop song that features the kind of vocal hooks not found on either of IK’s previous albums. More than any others, these tracks show how much the band has evolved since its debut. And that evolution is great – though speaking for myself, any time they wanna revisit Weapons of Mass Protection, they’d be most welcome.

–Hans


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