1099 – 1099 (album) (Doognad Records)

1099_album

Epic in duration and in sound, the debut album from Norwegian post-rock act 1099 follows their EPs: 2008’s “Machine! Fire! Ghost!” and 2009’s “Any Day Now”.

Over the 7-track, 75 minute journey the listener is introduced to various cinematic landscapes. Opening track, “Your Future” starts out jazzy with piano, trumpet, and saxophone, yet strangely conjures images of the American desert. At the 3 minute mark, crashing drums and detuned bass are introduced accompanied by flailing horns like a scene from David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’, changing the entire feel of the song. As interesting as the transition may be this is one of only few moments on the album where it feels forced.

“The Grand Design” clocks in at 12 and half minutes showcasing more familiar post-rock sounds of say, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, and Explosions In The Sky. Epic, tremolo-picked guitar lines sound throughout the first section before the song unravels in a less predictable but fluid manner. The song climaxes during the final minute with the emotion reaching peak.

“Machine Fire Ghost” (11:20) is particularly cinematic (and would be at home in say, ‘The Descendants‘), only changing incrementally during the first 5 minutes. The section that follows is equally as fluid that is until the 9 minute when an intensity emerges, due in no small part to the anguished screaming vocal that’s introduced. Interestingly, despite the heaviness of this section both guitarists avoid predictability by never actually stomping on the distortion pedal yet still conveying the intensity.

The beautiful “There Is No Such Constellation” (8:10) comes closest to creating an Explosions In The Sky type atmosphere. In several sections the song is driven by a violin melody in lieu of a vocal and here 1099 show that they’re at their strongest when, ironically, they are at their quietest.

The gorgeous and truly epic “Wake”, which is just shy of 20 minutes in duration, is the album’s pinnacle piece. The first 10 minutes play out like an homage to Pink Floyd with its reverb soaked vocal colouring the track with emotion. The horns that are introduced around 7:30 accentuate the emotion further. This song also features the greatest variation of all the tracks, from melodic guitars gorgeously intertwining with piano to one of the album’s heaviest moments occurring at 16:00 where cascades of cymbals fight with screaming tremolo guitars and low rumbling bass in a metal-like fury.

“Iron Fist (Death Is Here)” (8:45) is unfortunately the blemish on the record. Taking the metal-fury of the final moments of “Wake” one step further, tortured vocals scream over the song’s doom-y and plodding noise. It takes another unexpected turn at 3:30 when the band pick up the pace and move into an almost jazz-y groove led by a distorted bass before introducing muted guitar riffs. “Iron Fist (Death Is Here)” is horribly out of place on the record and you get the feeling that the band felt “obligated” to turn up the volume and flex their metal muscle.

“While The City Sleeps” (9:00) is a jazzy piano and female-vocal led number and as the title suggests  is suitably moon lit. Playing out more like a traditional song, it is perfect closer to the album and yet differs greatly to the material before it.

The album rarely resorts to post-rock band cliché or predictability and for the most part flows naturally. There are few truly “wow” moments and though less engaging and emotional than other high profile post-rock acts (never reaching the highs or lows of Explosions In The Sky), with the exception of the ill-advised “Iron Fist (Death Is Here)” and one or two moments elsewhere on the record, the album works due to its consistency, both sonically and emotionally and is best with the songs are allowed to unravel by themselves without any heavy hand forcing.

The debut self-titled album from 1099 was released digitally on 22 February, 2013 via the 1099 Bandcamp and will be released on 2 LP on 15 March, 2013 (300 units only; 200 on black, 100 on red) via Norway’s Doognad Records.

Listen to the epic “Wake” below:

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