Sithu Aye: Isles
Waves crash against rocks that have defied creation for uncountable millennia. Rain slices my vision into blurry sheets, coating the landscape in a strangely reassuring calm, highlighting the amazing durability of nature and the unique presence of beauty that many experience but few appreciate. Wind tears at my hair, scratches at my skin, draws me to realise that I will only ever be a visitor to this otherworldly domain. These were some of the thoughts that struck me on my expeditions amongst the peaks of Scotland’s island wildernesses. They are also themes explored by Sithu Aye on his upcoming release ‘Isles EP’, themes which are very prevalent in the urbanised sprawl of concrete the earth looks destined to become.
The opening theme of the EP is one of enormous satisfaction, as though you had just awoken from an excellent dream to find yourself alone, surrounded by serene wilderness untouched by man’s clumsiness and ineptitude. The drenching ambience and thick, jazzy chords make you feel as though you are breathing the heavy sea air yourself, and the light piano runs add good dynamic precision: it is already obvious that Sithu has given much thought to the production and programming of this venture. The bass is ridiculously smooth, with gracefully ornamented melody and good textural awareness. You drift on timelessly for a little, admiring the scenery.
Then, rising from nothing, the opening riff of ‘Skye’ kicks you in the teeth, with a fat djenty tone and big chord-driven riffs. It’s as though the sea air has moved on to reveal to a cloudless night sky, and we are standing atop one of the awesome peaks of Skye, perhaps running across rocky plateaus, or gazing in awe at the stars. Sithu’s unique brand of virtuosity begins over the top of the heavy guitar beneath, with flourishes of polyrhythmic intuition added for good measure. Repetition is used to very good compositional initiative on this track: the key theme remains throughout, even suggesting of a continuation from the massive riffs of ‘Cassini’, his previous full-length, but is never identical, always altered and changed: clearly Sithu has been cultivating this for some time, and has added a lot to his composition and arranging pallet. The song slides into a toned-down mid-section around two minutes in, with short bursts of reverberating chord piercing the driving bass groove. Such sections of respite were possibly missing from ‘Cassini’, but here they strengthen the song with their dynamic balance. Another such section raises its head later on, and the glitchy electronic drum parts, polyphonic guitar textures and strong ambient presence heard in the work of Animals As Leaders indicates Sithu has not lost any of his core djent approach.
As a whole, the release is a combination of the Tosinesque riffs and groove displayed on 'Cassini', and a degree of spontaneity which was maybe not present before. This EP is a marked progression by Sithu from the work done on ‘Cassini’, with a much better musical awareness and variation which was possibly lacking in his previous work. Take, for example, the track ‘Mull’: this track displays a great knowledge of how to draw on many different genres and bands simultaneously to create a truly impressive overall package. The playful riffs and relatively simple drumming which makes full use of small areas of the drumkit instead of overexpanding and overcomplicating give me a big indie vibe in the vein of bands like Foals, who draw influence from funk artists as well as the indie scene, and Bloc Party. In parallel with that, the awesome groove and screeching blasts of lead work amidst the riffs which cement Sithu’s popularity within the djent community shine through unblemished. In my mind, this combination of what may seem polar opposites creates far more entertaining listening than was present on ‘Cassini’ and shows that Sithu has decided that he needs to breathe fresh air into a scene which could be argued to lack originality. Another highlight for me was ‘Cuillin’, which could be termed a filler track; I prefer to consider it as an entity of its own. The thick ambient texture and calculated, spacious guitar work, similar to that pioneered by Acle Kahney of TesseracT, convey an age-old wisdom and clarity of mind, similar to the feeling you get when standing atop the mountain range itself on a clear day.
To draw this summary to a close, I think it’s important to say that this release may not have a huge appeal on first listen, as it is not at all orthodox or even that “metal” in its approach. Sithu does not write heavy music: if you like djent because you can bang your head to it, then you may not be able to appreciate this album for what it is. However, if you feel that the internet is becoming saturated with mediocre bedroom creations by deathcore breakdown fanatics, and are searching for something new and refreshing that you can enjoy without being obliged to slam dance around your house, then this EP is just the ticket!
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