Despite being active for the best of 17 years, Kent post rock outfit UpCDownC (Formally known as UpCDownCLeftCRightCABC+Start, a name which effortlessly rolled off the tongue) are mostly unknown with the extended alternative scene and have only retained a cult following within post-rock circles on our shores. Yet, despite their more modest following in comparison to the length of their carrier, the act have enjoyed the inevitable spoils of such an extensive carrier, from sharing stages with revered acts such as Bossk and 65daystostatic, to performing at festivals such as ArcTanGent, feats that have surely bolstered their following within the post-rock related scenes and circles.
Following a departure in the camp, I, Awake, is their first outing as a three piece. However, whilst line-up changes and shuffles may hinder the writing and recording process for some acts, UpcDownc seem to have handled the transition admirably well. This is an album that excels and revels in creating a looming, disjointed, yet expansive and indulgent ambience. It’s fully to be expected, given the record sonically documents and explores the experiences and phenomena of nightmares, anxiety and the blur between sleep and consciousness.
Even to the untrained ear, there’s a plethora of influences and sounds shining through this record; ranging from sludge tinged riffs, to more complex and subtle melodic structures, to even synth tones and melodies that are reminiscent of classic horror flicks. Evidently, there’s a lot of unique, yet complimenting vibes, tones and contrasting atmospheres for you to sink your teeth into on this record.
Despite this, one of the more curious elements of this record is the fact that the majority of the tracks featured on this record are split into separate parts, with tracks broken down into distinctive segments. It’s certainly a contradistinction to the norms of the genre, where more spiralling track lengths are to be expected and used unapologetic-ally. Whilst this may allow more flexibility to incorporate material from this record into live sets, it ultimately results in an album that must be listened to in full, and in order to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Whilst this matter is to be expected for a post-rock record, it does seem odd to have track introductions and such designated to separate track titles.
Whilst the expansive sound may be loyal to the aforementioned subject matter and album concept matter, the overall structures present are certainly not too experimental or avant-garde to alienate genre newcomers. Yet, one of the more divisive elements of the track may be the rather heavy usage of stereotypical horror inspired sound effects used to emphasize the subject matter at hand.
From the sounds of flatlining heart beats to croaky rasping, it’s all present and at times, proves to break any level of immersion that album conjures, and ultimately, a little cheesy. However, on a similar note is the horror inspired synth and key structures. Whilst they’re clearly inspired by the soundtracks of horror movies of days gone by (The track ‘Black Dracula’ contains a synthline that sounds like it was ripped from the X-Files) it’s an element used subtly and sublimely that adds a level of unprecedented distinctiveness and charm to the record, and proves to be great juxtaposition to the more sludge inspired riffs present.
Whilst some elements of the record may not perfectly align with genre elitists wanting a more sombre experience free of cliched attributes and sound bites in order to create ambience, I, Awake, is a record that blends genre elements together subtly to create an expansive, yet claustrophobic landscape. Hopefully, with any luck, this will be the album that shall create traction for an act that have clearly put the time in and paid their dues to the scene.