[Review] Midas Fall – Eleven. Return and Revert

Midas Fall – Eleven. Return and Revert
Monotreme Records (4/20/10)
Alternative / Progressive rock / Post-rock

When a band’s debut garners comparisons with Portishead and Radiohead, you’d expect certain musical parallels between the acts besides having a female lead vocal and hailing from the UK. Unfortunately, besides those two obvious shared facts, these hype comparisons are way off target.

Combining the ambient, guitar-driven qualities of post-rock, the stripped down yet ambitious, lush melodies and harmonies of anti-folk and the alt-rock influence of A Perfect Circle, Midas Falls confidently take it all in their stride, adding their own fresh spin to the end result and coming out the other side with a polished and well executed album in hand.

“Moviescenes”, the first of the ten tracks on offer from the Scottish quintet, quickly builds into a worthy, atmospheric opener, tapping into the very able vocal talents of lead singer Elizabeth Heaton and the glassy, clinical guitars that continue throughout the album, forming the core skeleton of their sound. The guitar ebbs and flows from the haunting and spectral to the grittier, punchier distortion relied upon to add some power when the need arises.

Throughout the album the band make use of their guitars and pedal boards to great effect, creating a heady sense of delicate, fragile space that takes your breath away like an impressive view that’s sprung your eyes to the edges of their sockets. They also aren’t afraid of their subversive, alt-rock side, either, with tracks such as “Century”, “Nautical Song”, “My Radio Star” and “Half Horizon” all making great use of any influence Maynard James Keenan may have on them, knowingly or not.

The loud/quiet, two contrasts dynamic has been done to death, of course, but Midas Fall show they are far from two-dimensional with tracks ranging from the vocal and piano-led “War Pigeon” with its sparse yet engrossing four minutes that never threaten to fall flat, “Fog Sky Nun” and its out-of-nowhere sucker-punch of electronic-saturated, spiky swagger to the isolating post-rock of “Bright Lights Will Harm No-One”. There is little in the way of derivative or stilted, recycled ideas, and the band keep things fresh and interesting from start to finish.

If the guitars and effects are the main centerpiece that most of the tracks are built around, it’s the supporting cast of the acoustic guitar, piano, rhythm section and the occasional synth that really makes the album pop and push it to its highest peaks, filling out the tracks when necessary or adding those small touches to the twinkling sparsity that help create a sense of place and energy without coloring the overall brittle, atmospheric feel.

The vocal work is consistently good and captures the emotion of every track effortlessly with some nice harmonies thrown in for good measure that really bring the songs to life. At no point does it seem that one track is filler or far weaker than any of the others and the band manage to create a coherent sound throughout whilst maintaining variety and a good spread of ideas.

As a debut album, Eleven. Return and Revert is a great piece of work and starting point for a band with obvious talent and ambition: an accessible, interesting and thoughtful collection of tracks from a band we may well be hearing more of in the future.