Belfast-based And So I Watch You From Afar are one of Ireland’s biggest instrumental bands, and for good reason; witnessing one of their performances first hand is an absolutely incredible experience, and their energy is the stuff of legend. I first saw them perform at the Roisín Dubh in Galway, on New Year’s Eve, 2011, and that was the gig that made me fall in love with live music. So, you can probably tell I owe these guys quite a bit.
The new album, All Hail Bright Futures, which was released in March, marks a change in the band’s musical direction, moving from the long, epic and sometimes heavy tracks of Gangs towards a much snappier style that seems to be influenced by elements of dance, pop, and what I can only describe as tropical indie (it wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe the album as something of a musical cocktail, for which the key ingredient is pure energy). This album also features more vocal performances than the band’s previous releases, though they remain largely instrumental, and it appears to be much more layer heavy than some of their older material; the album fluidly crosses the lines between emotive chanting and walls built of distorted melodies and bass, backed up with some incredible and relentless drumming (listening to this album so loud that the drums and bass shook the furniture may be one of the high-points of my week).
Having heard Like A Mouse, the first single from the album, a couple of months back, a number of my friends expressed some uncertainty regarding these new developments in the band’s style, but having seen them perform live again recently, I think it’s safe to say that the general consensus among fans of the band is that All Hail Bright Futures is a fantastic addition to their discography. Within moments of playing their first notes, the band had won the entirety of the room over completely, and the space in front of the stage was filled with some incredibly erratic dancers.
I won’t lie, in the final days before the album’s release, I was one of the skeptics; the epic nature of the band’s previous releases were what made them stand out for me. I wasn’t sure how this record was going to go, as I couldn’t entirely imagine the changes. I’d like to say all my doubts were washed away by the opening tracks, Eunoia and Big Thinks Do Remarkable, but in reality, it was a lot more like they took my doubt and crushed it between their massive thighs.
Is this an album worth hearing? Definitely.
You can buy/stream it here.
You can follow the band’s exploits here (probably worth doing, they play so many shows they’re almost guaranteed to find their way towards you at some point):