Labirinto - Anatema

by Andy Brown Rating:9.5 Release Date:2011-08-22

Post-rock is a funny thing. Firstly, there's often confusion as to which bands/artists actually fall into this neat little sub-genre. Secondly, it's often (unfairly) seen as music purpose-made for music snobs, wanna-be-intellectual-types and beardy know-it-alls who just want something to confuse their friends with. A kind of classical music for indie types if you will, where the longer the song titles and the more complex the arrangement the better. All this is painfully unfair and it's always a shame when musical elitism gets in the way of good music.

I have some idea as to what constitutes a post-rock band, I'm thinking: Explosions in the Sky, Gregor Samsa, Red Sparowes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and, the leaders of the pack, Slint. Mogwai and Sigur Ros are perhaps the closest to household names the genre has. Sigur Ros in particular have gone some way to tackling the conceived elitism of the genre with the help of a few rather pretty nature documentaries.

Now, none of these bands really sound alike and if there's anything they have in common it would be a sense of grandness and cinematic scope in their music. I also happen to have a beard but I'm certainly no know-it-all or elitist fool. Labirinto are a Brazilian post-rock band and so far aren't a household name or nature documentary montage staple. Hopefully this will change. This record is far too special to be fawned over by a few music obsessives, sub-genre record collectors and like-minded critics. Anatema is a record worthy of much wider attention.

This is a record which demands to be bought and adored by millions. Now, it probably won't be bought and adored by millions but if you don't get this album because of the post-rock tag then, my friend, the music fascists have truly won. Much like Explosions in the Sky's The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place and Mogwai's The Hawk is Howling, Anatema is a record with impressive scope and vision. Like those albums there's something undeniably affecting, emotional and downright sublime about these recordings. Labirinto are in very good company and have made a record that easily matches the couple of post-rock classics I've just mentioned.

Labirinto make deeply atmospheric music, mixing cello, violins, sitar, synths and banjo alongside the more expected drums, guitar and bass guitar set-up. It's the kind of music you could imagine Guillermo del Toro making if he wasn't busy making films. In fact, listening to Anatema is like walking through a dark, adult fairytale akin to the one portrayed in Pan's Labyrinth. There's a strange, sinister and beautiful magic at play here. The album starts with the 13 minute 'Reverso'. The track veers between orchestral drama, sub-metal riffage and resigned, Mogwai-esque melancholy. It's incredible. Each track has an impressive array of twits and turns; Labirinto certainly keep you on yr toes. Take the wonderful 'Chromo': the track mixes a lone banjo and punch-drunk strings to stunning effect before the drums pick up and epic, post-rock guitars lift you off the ground. Stunning. In fact the overall effect of the album is a hugely uplifting one.

There's six huge tracks spread over 70 minutes and there really isn't a moment wasted. It's a genuinely exciting album with an admirable ambition and cinematic scope. One minute yr lost in a macabre fairytale, the next you're running from the walking dead (like 28 Days Later) and then you're in some windswept western (The Proposition perhaps). The only recent album that comes close to this kind of all-consuming atmosphere would be Grails' Morricone-indebted Deep Politics.

Anatema is clearly the best post-rock album of the year. More importantly, it's one of the finest albums you're likely to hear in any genre this year. Labirinto have made an epic, post-rock classic that everyone should own. Oh, and the artworks really, really nice too.

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