Richmond, VA's cinematic instrumentalists SOUVENIR'S YOUNG AMERICA present their second full length, "An Ocean Without Water," which will be released through Crucial Blast on both CD (on July 24th) and LP (shortly thereafter). The album was recorded with John Morand (Labradford, Sparklehorse, 4 Walls Falling) at Sound of Music. "An Ocean Without Water" comes in a 6-panel digipack designed by Sasha Barr.
Lush, shimmering guitar ambience and hypnotic, propulsive instrumental heaviness wind through the dusty highways and burnt twilight skies of "An Ocean Without Water," the sophomore album from Richmond's Souvenir's Young America. Divided into six flowing movements, "An Ocean Without Water" is filled with intensely beautiful melodies that drift on lonesome harmonica strains and sparkling, celestial electronics, shot through with mystic, western slide guitar, passages of crushing angular riffage, rolling tribal drumming, and transcendent blues. Through their intricate song arrangements and moody textures, Souvenir's Young America has created an epic, emotional narrative. The sound draws from the collected DNA of forebears like Popul Vuh, Earth, Labradford, and Neurosis, yet they form a powerfully evocative instrumental language all of their own. Features collaborations with Aughra (Magic Bullet Records) and Nick Forte (Sublight Records, ex Rorschach / Beautiful Skin).
The band has developed their sound even further with this new album, and we couldn't be more stoked over the epic, moody sounds that onfold over "An Ocean Without Water's" 40 minute running time.
REVIEW FROM METALREVIEW.COM:
"Sort of like if Godspeed You Black Emperor! scored an epic western."
When I was trying to explain the sound of Souvenir's Young America that statement came out of my mouth without much thought, but I stand by it completely. After several listens and quite a bit of thought, that is still the best brief description I can come up with. An Ocean Without Water is apparently the sophomore release for Richmond's Souvenir's Young America, but the band is completely new to me and I must say they've left quite an impression on me.
These Virginia boys play epic instrumental rock with stark, lonesome arrangements full of emotive guitar ambience anchored by strong songwriting that is actually quite deliberate. By that I mean the movements in the songs and the repetition always feel purposeful without sacrificing their abstract textures. The tones used are generally warm and expressive and the band does an excellent job at balancing subtleties with blatant force. For instance, in "Blood Alone Does Not A Father Make" the band builds from layered organs, harmonica, slide guitars, and strings, and tinkers with a melodic theme before shifting gears with a heavy, yet tuneful distorted riff.
While not metal per se, the band is heavy sonically as well as emotionally and when they utilize heavy distortion and pounding rhythms they give off a vague Neurosis vibe. Along with the Godspeed reference, the band's songwriting style and abstract textural ventures have a lot in common with Grails, though SYA paint with very different shades. At times they can be quite melancholy and at other times their melodies take on a much more uplifting tone, making for an interesting listen.
At just a shade over 40 minutes, An Ocean Without Water isn't terribly long and certainly doesn't overstay its welcome. It's a complex listen that reveals more details each spin, but is also a great album to put on and just drift away. I know this style is becoming increasingly crowded, but as long as unique, quality efforts like this still come out, it's okay by me.
REVIEW FROM ROCK-A-ROLLA MAGAZINE:
With their sophmore effort Souvenir's Young America have honed their craft and sculpted something far more reserved, replacing the capering glee of last year's self titled debut with a deftness of touch that ensures An Ocean Without Water is a far more graceful experience. Alongside a ragbag group od conspirators, the band's core trio have carefully developed their post-GY!BE sprawl, allowing them safe passage through swells of warm eectronics, bombastic guitar swooshes, and no small amount of proggish noodling. From the lingering wash of slide guitars echoing across their reinterpretation of Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was The Ground" through to "Invocation In The Caldera"s climactic shows of strength, Souvenir's Young America guide their listeners with gentle hands, taking tips from the heavier end of the post-metal spectrum yet never choosing to punish, thus ensuring that even at their most booming, all rough edges have been softened - much like glass buffed smooth by the sea - and allowing for complete and utter immersion in a release that is cinematic in scope and masterful in its execution.
REVIEW FROM THE NEW SCHEME:
The glut of slow, guitar-heavy instrumental bands these days is hard to ignore. I'm sure that fact isn't lost on Richmond's Souvenir's Young America. They are a fairly new
band, though An Ocean Without Water is already their second full length. Comprised of six loosely connected songs, three members manage to harness and expand on almost every convention of instrumental rock music. Drums, keyboards and guitar make up the basis for each of these songs. The record has its share of guest instrumentation, including well- placed harmonica, cello and even a little tambourine.
"Blood Alone Does Not a Father Make," is a challenging and haunting summation of the best things about the record. It pairs many of the slowest, heaviest rhythms and guitar
work anywhere here. But it opens with a slow buildup that is hardly heavy, though isn't exactly melodic either. Using intermittent but strong harmonica lines lends a strange and uncomfortable Spaghetti Western feel. The resulting mix of sounds isn't conventional, but they in a tight package that's obviously been carefully put together. Just as I start to really figure out the formula, "Dark was the Night, Cold was the
Ground" arrives. It's a slow, more conventional drone piece with Brent Eyestone (Aughra/Forensics) lending a hand with electronics. The crushing, pulsating five-plus minutes make a perfect intermission.
The much faster "Invocation in the Caldera" is probably the most urgent and heaviest song here. It kneels the most directly at the alter of Neurosis, though everything
here has moments of it. Even here slow, clear harmonica lines add a strange element to the song that are melody line and ambient soundscape all in one. By the time the hissing and glitchy electronics that anchor "Coragyps Atratus..." close the record a few things are clear. First, there may be a glut of bands tackling this style right now. Souvenir's Young America have found a way to incorporate the best conventions of the genre with more than enough new ideas to expand on it. Second, that SYA may be in a large pack of similar bands, but they are far enough in front of most of them that it hardly matters.
REVIEW FROM DIGITAL METAL:
While no instrumental metal expert or aficionado, I really enjoyed my first exposure to Virginia's oddly named Souvenir's Young America. Though superficially they play an expected form of lush, instrumental post rock a la Tides or Pelican, the very subtle injections of an almost Ennio Morricone-like Old Western undercurrent make the affair sound like a group of Cowboys out under the stars telling tales around a campfire while listening to Isis or Neurosis-and it's pretty captivating stuff.
Amid the mid range length throes of shimmering, interpretive and rather laid back, introspective hues of layered instrumental tides, deft injections of harmonica's, cellos and almost drawling acoustics give the album a deeper sense of emotion on top of the expected ebbs and peaks of the genre. The songs, while long, never veer over the 8 minute mark and perfectly deliver a sense of ebb, build, peak and come down in succinct, never overdrawn fashion.
Arguably the most relaxing and smoothly atmospheric and low key of the instrumental metal records I've heard, the subtle above additions make for a dreamy, expansive listen with hardly any aggressive and urgent bursts. Tracks like "Mars Ascendant", "Blood Does Not a Father Make", "Invocation in the Caldera", and just flow with a almost care free, escapist sense of dreamy, ambience that imbues dusky, multi hued sunsets rather than crescendos of mountainous riffs.
An Ocean Without Water is a pleasure to listen to, and the ultimate relaxation album when I want to listen to artfully crafted metal that doesn't get my blood pressure up.
REVIEW FROM BOOMKAT:
There's always room for some smoky slowed-down heavy rock around these
parts, and ever since Earth unleashed their mighty 'Hex' on us all, we have
been hypnotized into a permanently doomed state, lying in wait for the next
slice of windswept metallic Americana. It seems then that the unusually
moniker's Souvenir's Young America are here to help, and like Grails before
them they take the framework of instrumental rock and give it a kick up the
ass as they show they ain't afraid to turn those amps up to eleven. Fusing
the chunky sound of Ash Ra Tempel and Amon Duul II with the heavy rock of
Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin there might not be anything intensely
'current' about what the American band are attempting to produce, but what
they lack in originality they make up for in attention to detail and sheer
conviction. These are great tracks, and it's that simple - these are tracks
you can turn up loud and simply let wash through you like all good
instrumental rock should do. Slow burning and deeper than Loch Ness there
should be plenty in here to get involved with and 'An Ocean Without Water'
is one of those records that you find yourself getting more and more
involved with the more you delve into its murky depths. Nice to see some of
the old post rock crowd aren't afraid to take things into more experimental
realms - lets hope there's more where this came from!
REVIEW FROM HELLRIDE:
"You can always count on Crucial Blast to bring something great your way.
Whether or not it is a band you're familiar with or not they always managed
to put out critical releases that should not be missed.
Souvenir's Young America from Richmond, VA is one of their latest signings
and they are nothing short of astonishing. This is their third record and
sadly I've missed out on the other two, so I can't compare this to their
other work but "An Ocean without Water" needs no comparisons as it is a
fantastic release that stands completely on its own two legs.
SYA play an enticing brand of instrumental rock that has a flavor all of its
own. Their sound loosely toys with Neurosis style pounding and bombast,
while touching down gently in the western sounds of Across Tundras and
Earth's "Hex" album, with the instrumental, electronic washes of some of the
German greats (Ash Ra Tempel, Can, etc.) rounding out the mix and increasing
the psychedelic element greatly. Hell, throw in some pure soundtrack moments
too while you are at it.
This is actually quite a difficult record to digest as each track is quite
unique from the rest and the running times are all fairly lengthy giving you
plenty to come back to.
"Mars Ascendent" gets us started off with an oppressive, droning atmosphere
that has intricate tribal drums, layers of distortion and haunting keyboard
swells that give you the vibe that something incredibly heavy is coming but
then the band delves into shimmering, clean chords that are enhanced by some
harmonica playing. The band picks up the pace later in the track led by an
increasingly intense drum performance and they rip into a few country tinged
riffs that are seeped in light distortion, casting a foreboding tone that
leads all the way up to the end of the track.
"Blood Alone does not a Father Make" takes the idea of Earth's "Hex" and
spices it up with even deeper country influences in the guitar work that is
laid upon a foundation of plodding drums, sparse electronics, harmonica and
cello. The track distorts much heavily later and brings a hazy,
country/stoner vibe that is pounding and dark but still full of eerie
melody. The entire mixture flows together perfectly, literally coming alive
out of your speakers with an organic feel that is brooding and captivating.
The slow, droning "Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground" is a minimalist,
drone piece that is nothing but electronics and subtle guitar hysterics that
smolder like the embers of a fire and eventually lead up to the mighty "The
Sheltering Sky" which is probably the heaviest track on the album. It begins
in a fairly subdued, acoustic state but explodes loudly as it moves along
with thundering electronic bursts leveling everything in their path as the
rest of the instrumentation follows suite. The track settles down in a state
of trance-like beauty later on as the subtle arrangements blow by like
tumbleweeds in a deserted western town.
"Invocation of the Caldera" is another excellent track that builds slowly
and really opens up during its second half with powerful keys and a strong
variety in instrumentation. The finale of this track dances nicely between
tones that are heavy, chaotic and beautiful all at once as moods swing and
shift into all sorts of entrancing arrangements.
The final track, "Coragyps Atratus" could very well have been recorded for
some sort of horror soundtrack. It melds their dark, brooding foundation
with all types of noise and damaged technology that brings together
Neurosis, Earth, Ash Ra Tempel and Goblin into a droning psychosis that had
me sucked in from the very first moment.
This is a killer record all around bringing together a vast melting pot of
influences both modern and classic. There are snippets of everything from
doom, drone, country, noise and krautrock. You aren't likely to pick up a
better disc of instrumental soundscapes this whole year. I am going to be
doing everything in my power to check out more material from this excellent
instrumental outfit based on the power of this recording and I'll be damn
sure to catch their live set in Pittsburgh next week. Fans of the
instrumental stuff would be a damn fool to miss out on this one.