The Last Surrealist – Post Life Music – Album Review
In a rare journalistic opportunity, I get to take the recent interview we did with recently with Chris Romans of The Last Surrealist and take it a little further by dissecting his latest album, Post Life Music, here in review today. If you’ve read the interview already – you know full well that Chris and I more than likely could have gone on to fill another ten internet pages at least, so believe me when I tell you there’s still a LOT to say about this truly groundbreaking album.
Shit. That’s a classic indie-journalism softball if I don’t elaborate…what the hell defines groundbreaking?
If you were to ask me – groundbreaking in music equates to a truly different approach to music-making, seemingly endless amounts of creativity and the extreme amount of courage to blaze your own trail. For hit or for miss – artists and bands that can somehow achieve this status have the proven ability to take chances in their art, leading ultimately to some of the greatest creations & worst disasters we’ve heard in music. For better or worse, I truly believe there is always reward in the risk.
As Post Life Music begins its nine song journey based in emotional pain and questioning, it opens with “In The Morning Our Bodies Will Be Nothing;” a track that, for the average person listening…is going to smack them hard in the face. With a heavily distorted synth basis and growly vocals – the first instinct for many would be to assume there’s something off altogether in the production. It’s dank, it’s dark…built almost to push away those that won’t be able to stomach the emotional toll it took to create this album.
Dealing largely with the personal struggle Chris has been through surrounding his sister’s sudden and tragic death – it’s impossible to ignore the pain and emotion put into this album through the opening track and certainly through “The Gun Is Perched Between My Teeth,” the track to follow. Lyrically – Chris has put it down all on the page and through the music here in both of these examples.
And you know what? These ARE hard to listen to. I mean…if you’ve got a soul in there somewhere, capable of empathy…Post Life Music is a harrowing experience for anyone truly listening.
Production-wise, you realize very quickly into the album that it’s simply another tool in the Romans-arsenal; he has an ability to create thick, rich atmospheres that allow you to tap into the emotional thought-process that must take place during creation. They attack your senses…maybe make you feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable at times…but you FEEL something. What makes Post Life Music the experience that it has become, is that the weight of uncontrollable & pure emotion from Chris Romans has come out here on record without apologies; in-depth listening will take you into a world that has certainly had these messages coming to it.
“Eyes Wide Open (Suffocate Until The Fire’s Annihilation)” reveals the full scope of the tragedy that shapes the scope of this album. Interesting to me…is that I find a lot of musical-references in sound that remind me of The Cure – but I feel inclined to remind you all – this isn’t simply sad lyricism – Chris has LIVED through this and continues to carry the weight. As far as the track as a whole is concerned – this is absolutely one of the most profound tracks on the album with several changes and an absolutely beyond-intense mid-point that is as powerful as you can reach for in sound.
The music matches the emotion throughout. I had asked about what I felt was a sudden-switch in gears through the track “Rebirth In A Nebula,” and Chris was able to confirm that this was indeed a moment of musical separation…a beautifully hollow and isolated guitar-track, reminiscent nearly of some of the early Mogwai tracks I know and love so much.
“To Kiss My Beloved With Eyes Wide Shut,” a perfect follow-up to the track before, comes up slow and brooding from below the surface with low tones and dark themes…reminding me of the feeling that I took from listening to The Cure’s song “The Same Deep Water As You.” The writing is poetic, it’s harsh, and like anything truly authentic in life…you can tell these are real feelings and thoughts being spilled onto the page. Part of that comes from courage, and part of that comes from survival instinct and necessity – but the fact remains that this type of personalization in an album is truly rare. Romans talks, yells, screams…all with sorrowful conviction; when he projects a melancholy and calm demeanor you can clearly hear what he wants you to hear in the lyrics…when he’s screaming at you, there’s no other option…
That being said…are people going to latch onto “With Stretched Out Nihilistic Hands We Embrace Suicide,” as their new number one go to throughout the day…it not too likely – but this is an angle Romans’ would have long have to have considered in making this entire album. The juxtaposition of harsh, often distorted sounds are going to throw people without rounded-out musical palettes right overboard…the heavy themes and dramatic-explosiveness of the music is not going to be for everyone…
You know what? Sometimes music’s not always about that. Chris and I have exchanged brief messages about the creation of both of our last albums…music we felt we NEEDED to make, at the very least to be able to make MORE of it in the future, if not simply for survival itself. Suppose for a second…that this album, is perhaps made more for him than anyone else…
What a privilege that honestly makes it to listen to, when hearing it from that perspective…the brutal honesty and ability to share and communicate real thoughts & emotion like this rarely comes along this clearly, no matter how much distortion Chris finds himself mixing in. In moments like the darkly-beautiful “Love Is Subserviant To Death” – you get a chance to hear The Last Surrealist in a different light. There is a commitment and clarity that comes radiating from this track…it’s like the world around stops completely for me when this track plays, especially towards the end as the tempo is ground to a complete halt. Lyrically it’s one of the hardest to catch through the veil of production, but through vocal-tone alone is one of the most emotional performances on this entire album.
“When A Ghost Embraced The Dust” is a track I also brought up in the interview. As this is NOT the interview…I encourage you to read about the thought process and backstory on this song from this link here, once you’re done reading this review of course… On a musical-level – this one almost sounds ‘easy’ for The Last Surrealist by comparison – but the intense use of samples to express Chris Romans’ perspective on how life has become for him…is both horrific and triumphant all at the same damn time. This is yet ANOTHER example of taking a chance in the music, as it goes beyond the simple use of samples. Chances are MANY of you have used samples in your own work…but how relevant and pointed these insertions into the music are in this cut, in context of the album and Romans’ state of mind, is what sets this track apart from those out there simply adding another layer. If you’re listening – he hasn’t simply added one layer here…he’s added TEN. You dig?
I’ve been meaning to get this review out for a while now…and I can’t thank you enough for putting up with all of these words when really the music of The Last Surrealist says it all best. While it might be personal…while it might be sad…while it might be enraging at times even…there’s undeniable proof out there that songs of this nature go on to help OTHER people in situations like Chris has been through. When you hear the final song “Her Morning Breath” – you’ll hear a stunning and sad acceptance in this track…audibly coming through clearly in the music…the color has run out…the world has become the worst version of itself and entirely too black & white….it’s desolate…it’s sad…and for many…that’s the life we have in front of us for the rest of time, in our worst moments…
But there’s something about the way this track is played…something about that extra care and fragility that comes into the atmosphere of this song…much in the same way that Explosions In The Sky have managed to do it for years – this song truly sums up the entire album’s worth of feelings…without saying a single thing.
You couldn’t honor the memory of a loved one in a more honorable way than this; Post Life Music is one of those rare albums that come along and truly make you question how on earth the artist or band in question could EVER achieve something better on record.
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