cssc – After Tides Record Label: Independent
Release Date: August 17, 2011
Electronic post-rock artist cssc’s sophomore release, The Lonely Robot, established him as a fresh but confident voice in the genre. Though his music is composed over a bed of digital synths and soft electronics, he has gradually shown that he can create soundscapes that are just as refreshing and authentic as those of his peers. Add in dynamic playfulness and beautifully arranged instrumentation, and you have a potent cocktail of ambient, rock, and electronic music that’s easy to get lost in.
Consider After Tides a progression, then: the midpoint between the gentle but subdued pulses of his first work, AM, and The Lonely Robot, which expanded his musical palette but went for sonic power as well, channeling an intensity that bordered on fury at times. It’s a much more relaxed album than its predecessor, but it has plenty simmering just under the surface; the waves swell peacefully, but below them life is bustling.
“Goodbye and Set Sail” is a fitting entry point into this world, beginning with distant, glimmering plinks before the sea comes to life, and the song builds up to a churning, crushing climax that would make Explosions In The Sky tremble with awe. If that’s the appetizer, though, then “Adrift” is the main course: not only is it the longest track on the album, clocking in at nine minutes, but it’s also the most traveled. The track lives up to its name with a frenetic composition that doesn’t ascend so much as it just wanders, hitting a myriad of emotional patches before it reveals that all of those dots were connected all along in a roaring finale. Afterwards, it washes it down with a brief drum-and-piano interlude that provides a lovely counterpart to the driving anger the track reaches at its peak.
Once cssc has you hypnotized, he begins to play with other textures and structures. “Clouds and Calm” doesn’t rely on build-up or sonic volume to pull the heartstrings; the tone of the track does that on its own, washed and faded, layered with dreamy synth melodies, drum rhythms that rise and fall like tides, and guitars wailing from islands shrouded in fog. There’s a sorrow to these voices that’s hard to shake, which carries over into “Night Eyes”, the only track on the album to utilize hushed, restrained vocals. The eyes here have fluttered shut before they open with newfound sight in the second half of the song, building to one of cssc’s heaviest sections to date. Yet he uses those moments of rage to accentuate here, not to impress or to stun; the dynamic control here is leaps and bounds above what he has attempted before.
The final third of the album opens with the warm, rollicking “Storm”, a track that glistens with the colors of hope. When the track inevitably explodes into bits, it’s not a moment of destruction or deflation but of the music going out in a blaze of liberation and exultation. “SOS” closes on a brighter note than the opener, as the journey winds down, yet the drums still sound off subtle, nimble spurts of sound. Slowly, the drums, digitally programmed at the beginning of the song, gain sentience before they become fully real, tangling themselves around the strings of plinking synths that drift woozily around the track; at one point, they briefly break free and pull the track forward, but they lose themselves and fall back into their natural tempo. Then they burst forward, this time for good, in one final go-for-broke moment, before they cut out entirely, leaving only walls of static. The walls crumble, and the lone survivor is the bright, chirpy tone of one last synth that carries us through the album’s final moments.
That’s the beginning and the end, and yet the two are absolutely different; everywhere you went in between has redefined everything. Sorrow has become sunrise, isolation has become transcendence, the past has gave way to the future. But don’t take my word for it—get on this boat and let yourself go because After Tides is cssc’s most compelling, fully realized work to date.
Yup! All of his stuff is on bandcamp. The Lonely Robot's a great album too, definitely check that out if you enjoy this.
He has a new album coming out this summer, also. Supposedly very jazz-influenced. I'm excited.