It’s already that time of year. The John Lewis Christmas advert is doing the rounds on TV (or so I’m told, I’ve not owned one in years).1 The Christmas market is open on Trafalgar Square. Mariah fucking Carey had the nerve to invade my personal space when I recently made the error of visiting a bricks and mortar clothes store. But most importantly, it’s list season, and with lists come Things You Might Have Missed. Today’s Thing is a Thing called Visions by Catalan quartet We Are Impala. It’s very good and I advise that you spend some time with this Thing.
Beyond the short, synth-laden intro track called “Epicur,” “Rituals” is an immediate demonstrator that We Are Impala does something a little different to everyone else. The jangling guitars and spacey keyboards, evocative of post rock, are quickly layered with a stoner-infused lead riff. It’s a surprisingly fresh combination of psychedelic atmosphere and proper riffs, nestled between the post rock and stoner rock genres. These composite genres are often anything but fresh, comprising musicians who are unable to write riffs and musicians who smoke too much weed respectively, but Visions nails its singular fusion. There is a flowing, ocean-like effect which is often sought in post rock, but songs don’t take seven years and actually feature good riffs. All this, and it’s executed without any vocals. Instrumental music virtually necessitates a fast, visceral response in its listeners and so it is here: the guitars and keyboards are so expressive and dynamic that I honestly did not notice the absence of the vocal layer on my first listen or two.
The song-writing, too, demonstrates a clear sense of focus which We Are Impala have commendably achieved in their core sound. There are three elements in play here: first, the subtle use of an underlying melody or rhythm which permeates most of a track; second, the excellent use of crescendos; and third, the riffs. The first of these is evident across a number of tracks but I will highlight “Alpha Centauri” for its keyboard melody beginning at 2:40, which is winding and annoyingly addicting before underpinning the next three minutes as guitars zing and synths cascade overhead. The second element is exemplified by “Valleys of Entropy,” which ramps up to the album’s conclusion from the transition around 2:50 as its rollicking drum rhythm commences, the saxophone jazzes everywhere and the weird and wonderful guitars and synths all culminate in a grand finale which approaches a wall of noise. All instruments get louder, weirder and more heavy together but in a time frame which is much shorter than most post rock. The layering is deceptively subtle for a band that doesn’t take much time to develop. Finally, and as already noted, the riffs are uniformly strong. I would describe them as nifty; they don’t feature huge, deep grooves but they have snappy hooks which sink in rapidly. Just tell me that you don’t immediately love “The Golden Face” with its introductory lead.
Visions is a pulsating, lively, vital record which reminds me that life is, on the whole, good. It marches briskly forwards at all moments: I love its brief 30-minute run-time, simple but memorable riffcraft, and overarching tone of breeziness. I’m excited for the future of We Are Impala, especially if they expand their scope to include a longer, progressive track or two which I think could fit their sound. If only Visions had a brightly colored, spacey, natural, grand piece of album art to match the music. Oh wait.
Track to Check Out: “Rituals,” “Alpha Centauri,” “The Golden Face”