And So I Watch You From Afar, Mylets, Blis, Detlef
October 5 @ the Crocodile in Seattle, Washington
By Graham Isaac
Monday nights are a hard sell for showgoers, even industry types. My energy levels were low but expectations were high for And So I Watch You From Afar, Belfast’s space/post rock outfit. They make it through every couple years max, so Monday or no, onset of a cold or no, and general lethargy or no, I was going to be there, dammit.
As folks started showing up the room grew less empty, and local openers Detlef played. Detlef features members of erstwhile Bellingham band Rooftops, and like said band, they play well-structured math rock, alternately beautiful and muscular. Fans of early ‘00s locals like Sharks Keep Moving or Lands Farther East (or current locals Chung Antique) will find a lot to like in Detlef’s tight arrangements and sweeping climaxes.
Touring band Blis was up next, and while they executed their whisper-to-scream rock well, it wasn’t my thing, walking an edge between metal and post rock that, this day and age, I didn’t find compelling. As such I sat much of their set out; perhaps I’d have found more to like if I weren’t already drained, but as it was, it wasn’t Blis’ day for this reviewer.
Things picked up a bit with Mylets, a one-man band. Henry Kohen performs surrounded by loop pedals and pads. His pre-programmed beats provide a bass-driven undertow to his guitar acrobatics, incorporating hints of EDM and other electronic genres without feeling contrived.
After Mylets, And So I Watch You From Afar took the stage to much applause. They started playing, rising from an ambient intro to a surging cacophony and within half a song, guitarist Rory Friers had lost two strings of his guitar. He disappeared from stage as the band kept playing. Two minutes later he reappeared with a re-stringed guitar and played a solo as he walked out into the audience via the Crocodiles side-bar. Friers both clearly relished and recognized the ridiculousness of playing guitar hero; his flawlessly executed parts were accompanied by a sheepish grin.
This, in some ways, exemplifies what works about And So I Watch You From Afar’s highly technical, anthemic and sometimes brutally heavy approach; these guys are having the time of their life and they’re clearly stoked to be here. After the first song finished, Friers intonated into the microphone: “So, we’re too poor to bring multiple guitars on tour with us. But I knew these guys could handle it for a sec without me.”
ASIWYFA leaned heavily on 2015’s excellent release Heirs, as songs like “Run Home” whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and older cuts like the appropriately named “Set Guitars to Kill” further drove the point home: these guys are possibly the best at what they do—being (largely) instrumental post-rock/space-metal, whatever you want to call it; ASIWYFA walk a line on which either side holds pure cheese; a little heavier and you have formless shredding, a little spacier and the ambience and epics sound like the soundtrack to a Michael Bay knockoff. The fact that these guys can hold it down so precisely is impressive. The fact that they can make it triumphant and cathartic is downright inspirational.
While I could have used a couple more of the vocal tracks off Heirs (especially “Redesigned A Million Times Before”) the night as a whole was one of those rare occasions where not only are you glad you came out on a Monday, you question why you ever would consider otherwise. A few steps ahead of me was a very enthusiastic, inebriated man who’d been headbanging all night. At one point he shouted “man am I parched!” The bass player walked to the front of the stage and gave him some water.