Fusion music is a style that’s often fraught with risk. The blending of two or more musical styles can either produce something quite extraordinary or crash and burn spectacularly. When one of the base genres is itself a fusion derivative of other genres, then it is clear that a masterful hand is required to make the resulting music a success. One band who has managed to achieve this and carve out for themselves a somewhat unique sound are the instrumental project, Collapse Under The Empire. Their folding of electronica into post-rock is subtle and delicate, intelligent and skilful, and this is truly reflected in their new album, Shoulders & Giants.
Collapse Under The Empire, who chose the name specifically so they could use C.U.T.E. as an acronym, are Martin Grimm (guitars, drums) and Chris Burda (keyboards, synthesiser, drums), hailing from Hamburg, Germany. Formed in 2007, they chose early to focus on instrumental post-rock, wanting their music to give the listener a certain feeling, emotion, and “story” to experience – a trip in which listeners could fully immerse themselves in. In a short period of time, several key international magazines took notice of the duo and proved themselves excited about the intense cinematic sound of their music.
Shoulders & Giants is the first half of a two-part concept work that thematically deals with the human existence, the dream of advancement, a life of absolute freedom, isolation, and death. The album is bleak and severe, but subtly lit from within with touches of hope and beauty. It immerses the listener in the sensation of being alone in the mountains and crevasses of an arctic environment – the harshness of the bitter solace, the joy at the soaring beauty of nature’s splendour.
Considering the average band of the post-rock genre is often comprised of at least four members and is very guitar-heavy, it could be said that this genre is ambitious for a two-man band to keep up with, let alone stand out in. However, Grimm and Burda do an excellent job of delivering the subtle ebbs and flows as well as the “wall of sound” and roaring crescendos – one would easily think they’re listening to a larger band.
[pro-player width='585' type='video']http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNO2A89Tnh4[/pro-player]
As electronica and post-rock have a number of commonalities in their use of the repetition of musical motifs and subtle changes with an extremely wide range of dynamics, it may not be too surprisingly that the elements of this album fit so well together. However, one of Grimm and Burda’s talents is recognising where the more traditional drums and guitars don’t utilise the full sound spectrum, and knowing just the right amount of synthetic melodies to inject, without overloading the music. The electronic aspects are integrated seamlessly, providing just the right touches in either the foreground or behind the guitars, and feel unexpectedly organic.
2011 has been an excellent year for post-rock releases, and Shoulders & Giants is a welcome addition to this plenitude. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of Collapse Under The Empire’s work, and I think that this ambitious project will definitely raise their profile with the post-rock genre. Sounding like the bastard child of Clint Mansell and God Is An Astronaut, this band have created an album that stands out for its uniqueness and embraces the core aspects of the styles it represents, yet is highly accessible for more mainstream listeners. This is easily one of the best albums I have listened to this year and I strongly recommend trying it out.
Shoulders & Giants from Collapse Under The Empire will be released on 21 October 2011 under the label Sister Jack/Cargo Records, and is currently available for pre-order and streaming on the band’s online store. The second album of the two-part concept work, Sacrifice & Isolation, will be released one year later.