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All Structures Align
Cut The Engines Alex Deller , November 24th, 2023 10:15

Uk quintet offer up a slowcore-flavoured post-rock record that nevertheless brims over with art, purpose and meaning, finds Alex Deller

“Shh, quietly does it” mightn’t seem the most promising premise for one of the year’s best rock records, but All Structures Align have got excellent form. After all, they released two soft-spoken masterpieces upon emerging in 2022.

Now a five-piece, the band have wasted no time in getting a third album out into the world, and Cut The Engines is every bit as striking as its predecessors. The band tap into a thoughtful, introspective brand of post-rock that was largely swept aside when the drab, ubiquitous grandiosity of Explosions In The Sky became the genre’s flagbearers. But while their music does not shy away from depth or drama, they owe their debt to Slint and the bands they sired or inspired: Rodan, The For Carnation, The Shipping News, June of 44 and the like.

Each song here has been painstakingly crafted with a watchmaker’s attention to fine detail. Pieces move gracefully toward a shared greater goal, clicking satisfyingly into place and whirring in soft harmony. For all the craft and intrigue, though, there’s an organic effortlessness at play: nothing is forced, or tricksy, or trying, pushily, to rise above its station. The songs are beautiful and brilliant, ornate in their own way but not at all showy – like a feat of classic design you take for granted until, one day, you’re suddenly dumbfounded by its understated genius.

Vocals are matter-of-fact and softly spoken, unobtrusive but somehow insistent. Melodies creep in, here and there. The music spiders this way and that, by turns fretting to undo its own complications and knitting itself back together. ‘Six Falcon’ goes from chime and slink to something more forcible and persistent, while ‘Holds A Fall’ begins with the weary glumness of The American Analog Set before blossoming into assured stateliness. ‘Everything Loose Tied Down’, meanwhile, goes so far as to deploy some tremolo-picking, albeit as a means of conjuring subtle, cross-hatched intensity rather than any sort of rote, end-of-the-world crescendo. 

For all its quiet understatement, Cut The Engines is propelled by a desperate sort of urgency. And while it might be surprisingly succinct for a slowcore-flavoured post-rock record, it nevertheless brims over with art, purpose and meaning. It has, in short, got ‘cult classic’ writ large all over it, but for it to go unobserved now and be rediscovered in ten years’ time would be to do the band a deep disservice: they are making very special music right here and right now, and it deserves to be heard.