ALBUM NAME: The Ladder
RELEASE DATE: November 06, 2020
COUNTRY: South Africa
GENRE: Post-Rock/Prog Metal/Stoner Rock
Ian Finch (Guitars)
Kalin Pashaliev (Bass)
Garrick Van Der Tuin (Drums/Sound Design)
albinobeach defy pigeonholing like the plague – besides heavy strains of post-rock, psychedelic waves, prog stylings, and a healthy injection of metal vibrancy, they add in whatever exotic aural spices that will simply make the pot taste more exciting. The South African instrumental trio have been quietly building hype and a strong fanbase over the past decade, and their new album, “The Ladder”, is easily their finest work to date.
Every one of the nine songs on offer flow like hot chocolate on a wintery evening, warm and nourishing and exceptionally enjoyable. Each track has a basic motif or sonic skeleton but there is definitely a ‘no rulebook’ policy in place, as exploration seems to be the main drive. Just as the listener gets comfortable in one area, the tables are turned and suddenly the music heads somewhere completely different. In less capable hands, this could very easily turn into a confusing mess, but albinobeach know what they’re doing and are showing us just how well.
The shifting grooves and time signatures notwithstanding, there is an organic evolution that makes sense to the ear as they move from, say, a Pelican-esque drone to a reggae vibe, and then a quiet drive through the Porcupine Tree countryside that lands up at a vacation home in Sigur Ros. The shifts are effortless and smooth and the guys are able to achieve what few other modern artists can – entertaining whilst displaying what well-constructed, complex music sounds like (not an easy task).
With each successive listen, more and more Pandora’s boxes open and we find melodies and intricacies that we might not have before. The band are so tight that the meticulous interplay between them might sound almost simple to the ear, but there’s a hell of a lot going on ALL THE TIME. And yet it’s so damn organic that everything flows seamlessly.
“Hiraeth”, one of the longer songs on the album, is genuine highlight – effervescently gentle and bathed in Floyd-drenched ebbs and flows, it builds ever-so delicately that when the climax arrives, it’s an emotional breakthrough, and the impact is immediate. Elsewhere, we have the ominous “Glassy Glassy” interlude, fuzz-cloaked joy in “Reno”, the heavy bubbling Yes-ness of album opener “Somersault”, and my personal favourite, the infinitely catchy proggy sludge of “Afro Bogart”, all dressed up just fine with swirling synth and grooves for miles. But there’s something for everybody laced throughout and certainly a sound for all seasons, and that’s where the true magic of the record lies – this is a journey that follows every possible path and it’s continuously and consistently exciting.
“The Ladder” is an album that deserves widespread international recognition for its bravery and success in mastering the many, many different forms tackled within, and also for its sheer badass enjoyability. This is music that you can put on no matter what mood you’re in, and it will bond immediately. Very few bands can accomplish such a high feat, but albinobeach have without doubt, and it would be criminal if “The Ladder” doesn’t become everyone’s album of 2020. Yes, it’s that damn good. Essential listening.
Reviewed by: John Morrow
Artwork by: Ian Finch