Junius: The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist

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Aidan Williamson

04th December 2009
At 17:46 GMT

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The law of large numbers, also known as Bernoulli's Theorem, states that if you repeat something enough times, the patterns will begin to emerge and soon behaviour will become predictable.

That feeling was beginning to come to us with post-rock music. Sample a few hundred albums of the genre and the traits which at first were charming - the tremolo guitars, the building crescendos, the excessive runtime - soon become stale, with few surprises to offer.

While Junius aren't reinventing the genre, they can certainly make it go in directions which we have not before seen. It all starts so normally too: the shimmering feedback, the sampled speech of a German man discussing the nature of the universe, and just when you solidify your expectations, they are summarily executed.

For starters Junius have a vocalist. Not a words-as-music or a serene hums in the background type, nor even an Envy-style screamer. No, they have made the wise move in deciding to expand the limited palette of the genre. Tracks which reach into the region of eight or nine minutes now seem all-too-short and make us realise how urgently post-rock needs to expand if it seeks to survive.

The big ideas are still prevalent though. The album itself is a concept of sorts, chronicling the life course of psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky, who became increasingly fascinated with the stars as his life passed by. This leaves the album in the unique position of being able to examine from the deepest inner thoughts of humanity right out to the outer limits of space, and the music more than carries across such grandiose scope.

The formidable nature of this new musical beast becomes focused on "A Dramatist Plays Catastrophist" which uses startling vocal pitch changes to throw the song off track, into new regions and managing to enviable feat of causing an extreme psychological dilemma as to whether you should give your primary attention to the vocals or the rapidly swelling orchestra which errs on the edge supernova beneath them.

Surprising key changes, tempo shifts, atonal sections and major-minor transitions all serve to decorate the album with contrast, removing the new for reliance upon quiet-loud crescendos to do so. Any theorems which seek to nail this album down to base patterns will be completely blown apart, for it manages to fulfil, exceed and confound any and all expectations which are laid upon it.

Mono and Jeniferever may have put forward albums of mesmerising brilliance in the same arena, but this one matches their effort and shows a path for genuine progression into the future. It is certainly not one to be missed.

Rating:  9 / 10

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