Maybeshewill - Fair Youth (Superball)

Impressive fourth LP from sample assisted post-rock instrumental quartet

Released Aug 25th, 2014 via Superball / By Jack Sibley
Maybeshewill - Fair Youth (Superball) Bombastically orchestrated post-rock composed in the purest harmonies, a first playing of Maybeshewill's fourth album 'Fair Youth' transports the listener to a transcendental plane sparsely populated by mighty, winged creatures of near-humanity. But how long can this fairytale last?

The opening track '...' (sigh, yes, that's really the name of the track) is a tantalising overture for what is to come. Focussing on two variations of a single-note rhythm, the timbre and texture develop over fifty-four seconds. In many ways it lays out the ethic of the rest of the album and provides a concise and impressively complete statement of the band's mission.

Maybeshewill's most successful exploits find themselves exemplified by '...' and are generally strongest in the fields of form and structure. They are a band with a good feel for the bigger picture and their compositions are undeniably architecturally sound. Take any of the tracks from this album and you will find a baroque cathedral carved from minimal source material endlessly twisted and developed into stunning overlapping ornamentation, all spilling upwards and outwards from a solid foundation.

However, that minimal source material is also often a shot in the foot for the band. This record has the harmonic complexity of a sine wave. Reviewers of Maybeshewill are regularly quick to go on about this 'mind-meltingly clever music', essentially cumming over ambience exploring texture and form, whilst failing to note that fucking ANYTHING will layer up if you're only using the major pentatonic scale. Similarly, the way they play with melody is interesting to an extent, but four-note patterns progressing at a maximum interval of a major third are the entire backbone of this and every other Maybeshewill record.

Another field in which Maybeshewill surprisingly fall short is the technical musicianship involved. Keys and guitars sprawl beautifully over the arrangements but play in minimalistic ways, demanding little more than single-note riffs, picking patterns or sustained chords. The drummer is the obvious exception to this rule and James Collins' playing is the real masterstroke behind the music. The tumble of stuttering freneticism that rampages through each track is fascinating and varied and could even be described as the hook to most tracks (in the absence of melodies serving anything but structure).

For the most part, the band excel in their choice of sounds. Again introducing the album, the track 'In Amber' starts with drums fed through a cramped high-pass filter before breaking into the more typical drum sounds Maybeshewill are drawn to. Keyboards and guitars are varied even further. 'Fair Youth' builds to include trumpets, something distinctly accordion-like, insistent guitars and a plethora of other instruments whilst penultimate track 'In The Blind' introduces us to lush, muted pizzicato bounces, the likes of which haven't been heard until this point.

There is a common juxtaposition between highly traditional and electronic timbres throughout, exemplified in 'All Things Transient' with its focus on the pure tone of the violin, backed by electric guitar and soft synth. This feature goes a long way to helping create the consistency of atmosphere in the work of Maybeshewill.

Yes, a long time has been spent tweaking in the production room post-recording. But for what reason when the mood is so flat throughout? The major flaw with this record is the lack of interest in the dynamic contrast. The protagonist is constantly taking a run-up or soaring over the next canyon, which everyone saw coming from a mile off. In fact, the only complaint to be made about the drummer is his general lack of experimentation with timbre - hi-hat and snare rhythms in 'low' sections, toms for the 'run-up', then cymbals for the 'soar'.

It's very strange how in a few areas Maybeshewill are so willing to test the limits of how to express their mission, whilst in others they stay safely at the centre of the box. Many artists have stated that it is the biggest damage to creativity to simply set oneself the task of 'drawing a picture' and that strict boundaries and frameworks are necessary for true experimentation. However, across the musicians that comprise Maybeshewill, separate characteristics have contradictory parameters and this breaks the unity and even the integrity of the unit. The biggest improvement the band could make would be to set their boundaries more cohesively between constituent parts and then exercise more imagination in their interpretation of those boundaries.

It is eminently clear from Fair Youth that Maybeshewill have fallen prey to the modern music industry's most common pitfall - they are a 'live' band. A band who, when seen in the flesh, would so clearly unite listeners and performers in a sea of spiritual jubilation. However, any record that can be summarised in the first fifty-four seconds is not going to hold up to many repeat listens. In addition to this, the chosen dynamics mean it is severely limited in the environments in which it could be played (stoned stargazing springs to mind). With these two factors in mind, give it a listen then wing it on the 'ambient nouveau-geek' pile and keep a keen eye on when they're coming to your town.