The local scene’s breed of instrumental rock bands (of ranging styles – with the word ‘ranging’ used loosely), although touted as a dark horse some two, three years ago, was oftentimes regarded as a fad, a trend. And there is a justifiable point to it: its predictability. At one point, the two-trick dramatic swoops of crescendos get tiresome after repeated listening. Therein lies the danger and the understandable dismissal of it. And we’re talking about a genre that has deemed it necessary to fashion a form of its own, one whose ideals is to explore beyond the imposed limitations of rock, but turns out, is not ultimately immune to falling prey to formulaic song structures itself. Adding ‘post-‘ or ‘math’ to rock, it seems, does not always succeed in legitimizing innovation or denouncing pretensions.
On Lightfoot, tide/edit’s sophomore album, it makes use of the foundations of math rock and occasionally elementary styles of post rock with certain caution. For casual listeners, it would not be easy to keep up with rhythmic shifts or to discern a distinct chord pattern or time signature. For long-time listeners, on the other hand, there are parts that are familiar, whether vague or prominent, but have less to do with being expected, and more on being related. First, tide/edit, for the second consecutive time, has a striking opening and closing tracks. Lightfoot’s ‘Eleven’ and ‘Afloat’ are fine examples of record commencement and culmination, respectively, as with Foreign Languages’ ‘Ten’ and ‘Northernmost’ – and listening to both side-by-side yields a feeling of gratification, and quite astute at that. Second, all of the songs, by post rock standard, are short. But tide/edit has never been (so far) a band that capitalized on extravagant arrangements or dramatic buildups. If anything, they are consistent in clocking in at four or five minutes. And time – and timing – is delicate when it comes to momentum, and more importantly, sustenance. Third, the quartet’s discipline as individual musicians bled through the production as a collective sound: brisk and smart (‘Never Forget’, ‘Slush’), warm and personal (‘Aimlessness’, ‘An Alternate Ending’), and skittish and offbeat (‘The Princess Is In Another Castle (Sorry, Mario)’, ‘Afloat’).
Although tight as a whole, the instrumentation is not bereft of genuinely good moments. Bassist Noe Rubio’s graceful depth on ‘Slush’, Nelson Villamayor’s almost combative guitar work on ‘Afloat’, the urgency of Clarence Garcia’s strings in ‘Eleven’, and Jawin Pagaduan exercise of proper balance of instinct and restraint in his tempos, served as a core element in Lightfoot’s most melodic sections. Together, the record is tethered by maximizing their individual strengths and monolithically melodic technique that squashes triteness.
For all of three minutes or so spent staring at Lightfoot’s art direction, it is essential to note that it is worthy of a dissertation of its own, as with 2014’s Foreign Languages and even to a degree, their first EP, 2012’s Ideas. Respectively, a mountain scenery; strong, blue-green waves close to shoreline; and four towels clumsily pinned on a clothesline – whether intentionally or otherwise, has a subtle poetic air to it. In Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, he wrote,
I loafe and invite my Soul;
I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.
For the sake of interpretation, it applies to the breadth tide/edit has reached with Lightfoot. And for the sake of argument, tide/edit’s second outing explores their strengths by playing better with their dynamics. Prior to the release, I’ve mentioned that the band is set to tread new waters with Lightfoot. However, after listening to the record, that may not be the case anymore. There’s only one, vast body of water, but bigger waves and higher tides to master and triumph. And on that, Lightfoot has prevailed.