North Via by North Via (Review)

North Via manages to separate themselves from many of the post-rock/instrumental bands that would normally be considered their peers.

During the first third or so of their self-titled EP, North Via manages to separate themselves from many of the post-rock/instrumental bands that would normally be considered their peers. Rather than focus solely on seeing how many effects and ear-rending squalls of sound they can pile on top of each other before the inevitable apocalyptic climax, North Via focuses first and foremost on writing songs. Songs where you could actually — surprise, surprise — imagine a vocalist chiming in with real lyrics (and none of that Hopelandic gibberish). In North Via’s case, that vocalist would most likely be Thom Yorke.

“Rebirth, Part 1” starts off slowly, with vibrating tones and drumming that takes its time gaining speed and structure. By the time the song hits its stride, it’s morphed into something vaguely reminiscent of an OK Computer studio jam, with silvery guitar tones underscored by choppier playing like something cribbed from Jonny Greenwood’s notes. When the song reaches the climax, with a searing guitar erupting into the foreground before cresting high overhead, you almost expect to hear Yorke’s anguished wail.

“Rebirth, Part 2” picks up where “Part 1” left off, this time underscored by a brooding synth and more propulsive drumming. This time, however, the guitars take on a more Middle-Eastern air, and end in tightly-wound neck and neck and finish.

After these two, the disc becomes a bit more predictable and inline with what you’d expect from North Via’s post-rock/instrumental peers and influences. The guitars (which come in both “shimmering” and “delicately picked” varieties) and the strong drumming of “Maya” race along at a nice clip, but you know exactly where they’re heading. Sure enough, it’s not long before the song explodes with guitars a‑blaze and triumphant — only to find that other instrumental bands have conquered the exact same territory many times over. The build-up is too short and obvious, and the climax too underwhelming for the song to retain much of an impact past the initial listen (even though the process is repeated a second time just to be safe).

“Avidya” and “Ananda” continue to move further away from the more rock-oriented feel of the opening tracks, containing the same sort of textured, atmospheric music one would expect to hear from a Tristeza disc. It’s all pleasant-sounding and competent enough, but even when the band kicks out the jams and tears through “Ananda“ s closing seconds, the EP ends with just a remainder of the rawness and urgency that fueled its earlier moments.


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