One thing you can never say about And So I Watch You From Afar is that they are predictable.
Their latest release, a pair of songs entitled ‘I Dive Part I’ and ‘II Dive Part II’, requires a close listening ear. They’re not the sort of tunes you’re going to be able to just stick on shuffle in a playlist. They demand your attention.
Sparse piano chords introduce ‘I Dive Part I’ before guitar, thick with reverb, adds depth to the hypnotic chord sequence. A sudden swell of strings from the always-brilliant Arco String Quartet then emerges to bring in the haunting spoken word contribution of Emma Ruth Rundle. For anyone new to ASIWYFA, the band’s music is mostly instrumental, so it’s strange to hear lyrics of any kind on a record of theirs. But it’s maybe that novelty that makes Rundle’s words all the more powerful. The narrator speaks to the object of her affection, looking back to better times that they had enjoyed together in the past, and laments “all those ideas just abandoned, their creaking iron eaten away by the salt, lazy wreckages lying empty”.
It’s hard to know for certain who or what her words are hinting at, and perhaps we’ll need to wait for the full multimedia album, Jettison, to be released on February 18th 2022 before we discover if the images accompanying the music will add further context to these words.
But a sense of hope lingers, as her voice speaks of how “the warm air smelt of thunder again, and I was happy” and the string arrangement starts to soar towards a climax.
The second track, ‘II Dive Part II’ is more typical of the band’s output, albeit a more subdued and restrained version. This isn’t the loud and in-your-face ASIWYFA from old classics like Set Guitars to Kill or Like a Mouse. This is beautiful, orchestral music.
Chris Wee lays down a metronomic, clicking drum beat beneath the measured guitars of Rory Friers and Niall Kennedy. In many ways, the arpeggiated guitar at the start of this track is reminiscent of Thom Yorke’s playing style in the Radiohead song, Reckoner. It’s got that dreamy, otherworldly feel to it. The lush strings sweeping underneath only add to this, before they become more frantic and intense as the piece builds.
Johnny Adger’s subtle yet potent bass line holds all the different strands together, as they press on in perfect harmony. Each element grows louder and bolder and more vibrant and dynamic in tone as the track surges forward, until cymbal crashes and drum fills combine with tuned percussion and violin strains to help the song paint its final serene soundscape.
The composition, and the album as a whole, is a brave concept, with the band saying, “Nothing in our repertoire comes close to the ambition of this latest project.” They describe Jettison as a “memorable experience that transports the listener away from the tumultuous times and into a blissful musical utopia.”
It’s an escape that many of us can’t wait to experience. And as ever with this band, we will all know to expect the unexpected.