Astronoid – “Air” (Stereogum Premiere)
I have a tendency sometimes, when writing about a song or album or band that I’m really excited about, to take a big windup — to get really macro and/or metaphorical — before delivering the pitch and actually talking about the music in question. (No, no, it’s true.) But I want to make sure I don’t bury the lede on this one, so before I say anything else: Air — the debut LP (following two EPs) from Boston five-piece Astronoid — is one of my favorite albums of 2016. It’s a delight, a triumph, a fucking revelation. If you’ll forgive me, I’m gonna get real reductive for just a second, as much as it bothers me to do so: It’s an album for people who would love Deafheaven if only that band sang instead of screamed; an album for people who would be really into Mew if that band just kicked ass instead of being super goddamn weird so much of the time. And if you — like me — already love Deafheaven and Mew, then it’s definitely an album for you, too.
I wanted to clear up all that right away, because there’s some stuff here that might otherwise prove to be a superficial deterrent. The band’s name, for example — Astronoid — sounds a little bit like that of Los Angeles prog-stoners Intronaut. The title of Astronoid’s debut album — Air — immediately brings to mind the French synth-lounge duo Air, and coupled with that cover art, it might make one think of a ’90s ambient compilation CD.
Now, Astronoid sound like a lot of things — a lot of things at once, in fact — but they don’t sound like any of those things. If Air had been recorded on a four-track, it would resemble Australian depressive black metal band Woods Of Desolation, for instance … BUT it was recorded by two guys with sound recording degrees — singer/guitarist Brett Boland and bassist Dan Schwartz — and it sounds like a million bucks. If its vocals were delivered as a ghostly howl, you might compare it to the music made by Pacific Northwest progressive metal titans Agalloch … BUT Astronoid deal exclusively in clear, textured clean vocals, high in the mix and rich with harmonies. If the band’s instrumentation were less aggressive, if it were a purely ethereal drift, Air might sound like Sigur Rós or Slowdive … BUT this music is powered by a dynamic three-guitar assault and some pummeling double kick drum. This is metal.
Or is it? Air is coming out on the excellent Finnish metal label Blood Music (Lychgate, Negur? Bunget), and Astronoid have some connection with the face-stomping New Hampshire post-metal band Vattnet Viskar (Boland was behind the boards for that band’s 2011 demo, its 2012 EP, and its 2013 debut LP, Sky Swallower; also, Astronoid drummer Matt St. Jean played with Vattnet for a little while). Furthermore, Astronoid name-check influences like Devin Towsend and Cynic — metal for metal nerds, to be sure — and all that combined with the soaring, solo-heavy, super-anthemic music adds up to metal, no question about it … BUT you could just as easily slot this music in with post-rock or shoegaze or even Smashing Pumpkins-style alt-bombast and it would make sense. If you dig that stuff, there’s a good shot you’ll dig this, too.
I’m inclined to claim this one for my team, but I don’t care how you categorize it: This album is fucking incredible and you need to hear it. We’re premiering the album’s title track today, and while it’s a great introduction to the LP, every other one of its nine songs is equally awesome. Listen.
Air is out 6/10 via Blood Music. Pre-order it here.