Just when the waters of post-rock appear too calm and familiar, Tall Ships appear on the horizon, bringing a storm (and their debut album). Hailing from Falmouth, via Brighton, Tall Ships are Ric Phethean (guitars, vocals, synths), Matt Parker (bass, sampler), and Jamie Bush (drums, bass). Following the release of their single ‘T=0’, Tall Ships toured the UK and Europe with the likes of Los Campesinos!, Dry the River, and Maps & Atlases, and played a string of festival dates including two oversubscribed nights at Great Escape; gathering a huge group of loyal fans along the way.
Everything Touching is the group’s debut album, and features ‘T=0’ and recent single ‘Gallop’, along with reworked and re-recorded versions of EP tracks ‘Books’ and ‘Ode To Ancestors’. Tall Ships worked with Jamie Field in the studio, and the entire album was mastered by Jeff Lipton (who has previously worked with the likes of Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and Battles).
As always, it’s easy to get lost in the hype, but luckily Tall Ships have the songs and heaps of attitude to back it up. Creating intricate math rock tracks in the style of Foals, Tall Ships blend and juggle acoustic and electronic instruments, slipping in and out of different styles and tempo with ease.
‘T=0’ starts relatively quietly with sparse percussion, slowly building to a discordant guitar riff, before erupting into a dizzyingly giddy explosion of post-rock glory. The song continues to build in this way for almost two minutes and then blind-sides the listener by toning down the instruments and introducing vocals for a few fleeting yet memorable refrains of ‘when I’m with you we’re invincible’, then finishing off with the full-on glorious cacophony.
New single ‘Gallop’ starts off with breathlessly frantic drums and guitar, slightly reminiscent of the intro to Adam and the Ants’ ‘Stand and Deliver’. Multiple voices on chorus poignantly sing ‘before you know you’re getting old and losing touch’. Rather than being a typically depressing view on growing up, getting old, and drifting apart; Tall Ships turn things on their head and turn the refrain into a triumphant and upbeat declaration. Here the mid-song tempo change allows for a moment of reflection.
Tall Ships masterfully handle the dizzying tempo changes, constantly surprising without providing a jarring and disparate listening experience. The lyrics and vocals, while often emotional and insightful, aren’t world-shattering, but this doesn’t matter! The real focus here is the intricate interplay between the acoustic and electronic instruments.
Tall Ships are an exciting group to listen to; bringing a bright new day to the genres of post- and math rock.
Everything Touching is out now via Big Scary Monsters and Blood And Biscuits.