Sanctuary by Infinity Shred (Review)

If you’re expecting subtlety and restraint from a band calling themselves Infinity Shred, then you’ve got another thing coming.

Manhattan’s Infinity Shred share an obvious similarity with chillwavers like Makeup and Vanity Set and the Aphasia Records crew — specifically, a love for vintage cinematic synthesizer sounds that owe as much to John Carpenter as they do Vangelis and Giorgio Moroder. However, as their name implies, there’s an additional musical element that sets Infinity Shred apart from many of their peers: their love of big, overblown, louder-than-loud guitars.

That love has been apparent ever since Infinity Shred’s early post-Starscream days, but it’s undeniable on Sanctuary, the group’s debut full-length. There’s really nothing subtle or restrained about Sanctuary at all; nearly every one of the 7 tracks finds itself eventually exploding in a six-string onslaught. The album’s slower moments — e.g., ​“Shadow Jeweler“ ​‘s contemplative passages, ​“Mapper“ ​‘s slow-burning arpeggios and synth pads — are really there to kill some time until the band’s recharged enough to let loose with another barrage or two (or three).

But then again, do you really want subtlety and restraint from a group calling themselves Infinity Shred? I surely don’t. This isn’t to imply that the trio is a one-trick pony. Yes, the songs all share a similar tone and fondness for spacey, Blade Runner-esque atmospherics, but the mix of arpeggiated synths and post-rock dynamics is never uninteresting, thanks to a certain paradox at work here.

The band’s fascination with vintage synth sounds, which forms chillwave’s DNA, is heavily rooted in nostalgia, but it’s a nostalgia for a (frequently dystopic) vision of the future excavated from previous decades, and as such, a chilly and even apocalyptic detachment often goes along with it. However, the climaxes that fill Infinity Shred’s songs, like those from such post-rock bands as Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, strive for an overwhelming emotional catharsis. For all its faults, post-rock can be an exceedingly sincere genre in which bands wear their hearts on their sleeves via melodramatic musical passages. Infinity Shred places these two impulses side-by-side — or rather, they slam them into each other at escape velocities. And thanks to Infinity Shred’s lack of restraint, the results can often be more than the sum of their parts.

Case in point, the album’s title track, which finds the trio pushing everything in their sonic palette to the nth degree — as if the preceding 6 tracks were merely a dry run. In the song’s final moments, Infinity Shred strive to outdo themselves with each passing measure, piling on more arpeggios, playing their guitars louder and louder, and even bringing in a some triumphant horns and strings for good measure. It’s like the band took every climax from M83’s catalog and condensed them all into a single 3 minute stretch of music — and then promptly set out to annihilate it.

It’s bombastic, exhausting, and over-the-top… and also incredibly exhilirating and stirring. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself pressing ​“Play” to experience the blast all over again.