There is something inherent within 65Daysofstatic that suggests a profound sense of self-flagellating masochism. Not just within their intense, post-industrial ear assaults but in their astonishing level of workaholic creativity. This, remember; is a band who once stated their 'disappointment' at having played under 100 gigs in a year. The new Heavy Sky EP is no less than their seventh release in six years (including live albums and EPs). Collated from a series of culled tracks from this year's We Were Exploding Anyway album, it again illustrates the mind-boggling array of productivity emanating from this band. When most people release an EP, it contains four to five tracks and lasts about 20 minutes. Heavy Sky, on the other hand, runs to seven tracks and lasts nearly 34 minutes. From this, it is safe to deduce two things. Firstly, 65dos have a laudable desire to negate cutting corners, providing their fans with value for their coin. And secondly, they probably don’t sleep that much.
The problem with outtakes albums is that… well, they ARE tracks previously left lying on the cutting room floor. And most of the time, there is a good reason (I’ve never quite bought the 'it didn’t sound right on the album- explanation - if it’s good, it’s good). There are precious few examples of an off-cuts album surpassing the parent body (The Final Cut is the only one that springs to mind and I think 75 per cent of Pink Floyd would happily disagree with me on that point). And thus it proves with Heavy Sky. It isn’t bad, there isn’t a single poor track and there are two or three moments of intense, sublime beauty. But in comparison to the excellent We Were Exploding Anyway, there are several times that you find yourself nodding and thinking 'Yep, I can see why this didn’t make the grade'.
In contrast to the general tendency of releases, you unearth the true seam of beauty within the central strata of Heavy Sky: the record has a tendency to drags at its welcome and goodbye. The opening edit of ‘Tiger Girl’ retains the same wonderful break-in-the-stormcloud beats and guitar enormity of the original but this seems a shame to confine into such a small period of time. ‘Sawtooth Rising’ is much better: growing through a thicket of darkened Underworld beats and breaths into a clearing realisation of searing beauty. One of the key aspects to 65Daysofstatic’s sound has always been their eternal precipice-teetering: you’re never too sure where they’re about to move next. The problem with the likes of ‘The Wrong Shape’ and especially the baffling closer, ‘Guitar Cascades’ (more to follow) is that it’s a little too obvious, as if they’re painting by numbers. It still retains the same intrigue, but the structure is entirely predictable.
When they get it right, they still shine beautifully. ‘Pacify’ is a gorgeous piece of delicate, romantic, ambient-with-muscles electro-sonic texturing; simply beautiful to behold. And ‘PX3’ can be cherished in very much the same vein, building beyond earth and sky to something wonderfully stratospheric. Those two tracks serve as the standouts and though it doesn’t particularly move heaven and earth, ‘Beats Like a Helix’ is a pleasingly truncated and demented romp through drum‘n’bass/dubstep territory, as if the band have just decided to go all-out f**king mental for two minutes. Which leads onto the aforementioned ‘Guitar Cascades’, which sadly just seems out of place and unnecessarily drawn out. You listen to the entirety of its 10-minute lifespan waiting for something to happen but it never quite does. It isn’t broad and belligerent enough to be something truly epic; it isn’t soft enough to be a cushion of ambience. It simply sits there in the middle lane for ten minutes. Which is impotently frustrating, as you are patently aware that 65daysofstatic are far, far better than this.
Heavy Sky is a mostly fine release and a welcome, intriguing addition to the 65dos oeuvre: we didn’t expect it and now we have it. But in all honestly, in direct comparison to the almost unanimous excellence of their back catalogue, it does come across as a slight stoop in stature. That said, a modest release by 65daysofstatic still effortlessly surpasses the majority of their peers. In taking the decision to clear out their vaults, the release of this EP suggests that 65daysofstatic are flicking over a clean page for another elaborate, sky-touching project. First however, they are apparently preparing to live-soundtrack 1972's eco sci-fi classic Silent Running. Do they ever rest? What do they put on their cornflakes? Who knows. The important thing is that we have them as part of our world.
7David Edwards's Score