SAXON SHORE – It Doesn’t Matter (2009)

Saxon Shore - It Doesn't Matter I’m sure there are those out there who would probably dismiss Saxon Shore as “just another post-rock band”, and they’d do so purely on the grounds that Saxon Shore are not, in fact, Explosions In The Sky (a band whom I adore, but who are apparently the only acceptable rock-centric instrumental ensemble to listen to in some circles). I’ve got a secret for you – are you ready? Here goes: those people suck. Seriously. Don’t let them date your children. If they happen upon you on the street and ask you for bus fare, run the other way. If they try and tell you that you should be listening to Vivian Girls instead, pelt them with whatever happens to be nearby until they’re just a twitching mass on the floor. Then run. See, the reason these people suck is because they fail to notice the intricacies of this particular genre of music (not that everything that falls into the post-rock category is worth getting excited over – I’m looking at you, From Monuments To Masses). What makes Saxon Shore worth listening to (especially on It Doesn’t Matter) isn’t the fact that they’re mostly vocal-less; it’s that they’re able to move mountains with little more than precise repetition and ambient pads, and drive. Lots and lots of drive.

Much like ambient musicians, Saxon Shore are deft manipulators of texture and timbre. But they’re also quite capable of creating and sustaining a steadily rhythmic rock machine that pushes ever forward until there’s no longer any need for it to do so (it then powers down, and waits…). Often times, the band do both simultaneously, which results in some songs of unyielding power and beauty (Tokyo 4:12am and the awe-inspiring opener, Nothing Changes). Of course, on past albums, Saxon Shore sometimes allowed their reach to exceed their grasp, as is the case with the seventen-plus album closer Secret Fire/Binding Light (a song that spends over ten minutes gradually reducing the resonance and strength of a steady from near-overpowering to almost nothingness). Saxon Shore’s gifts as musicians are best applied in a more structured environment, and in smaller doses – Sunn O))) would probably be able to make such a thing captivating, but Saxon Shore turn it into an endurance test that’s not really worth taking. Fortunately, this is the only time the album falls of the rails. Everything else is magnificent.

While it doesn’t top Mono’s latest gift from the gods, Hymn To The Immortal Wind, it’s close behind it. Anyone interested in (mostly) instrumental music would do well to listen to this. It’s easily Saxon Shore’s most expansive and most rewarding release to date.

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