Airplanes Over Johannesburg – These Figures In The Shadows, These Friends Of Mine (2011, Self-Released)

I hope everyone has been having a great summer. Even though I am still, as of now, very far behind on this site, I’m still very much in tune to the latest music, and have also been buying some music myself. As I said before, it is hard to respond to every submission. I know every reviewing site, even Pitchfork, claim that they get a lot of submissions, but now, I have a deep respect for each and everyone of them, seeing now how many submissions I have received. I am very grateful that you have chosen The Death of CDs to help promote your latest release, and I promise to get back to as many submissions that I can.

So, what woke me out of the long sleep of reviewing music? A new EP from the post-rock project Airplanes Over Johannesburg, “These Figures In The Shadows, These Friends Of Mine”. Airplanes Over Johannesburg is no stranger to The Death of CDs, as I reviewed his debut EP, and whereas I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped, the ideas on the EP were very strong, and as a whole, it made for a great introduction to his music. This new EP was written around the same period as the last EP, but there is something definitely new about this one. Whereas the last EP focused mainly on hypnotic, minimalist guitar riffs, with some variety in melodies, instrumentation, and harmonies, this EP adds even more instrumentation and layers of riffs, which sound altogether cinematic and emotional. Overall, it’s definitely an improvement to the last EP, even right from the first minute.

The EP begins with “D28K”, a delightfully cinematic and uplifting composition filled with piano, music boxes, synthesized strings, and fantasy-like percussion, also held together by a somewhat off-kilter guitar riff plays underneath. Distorted guitar hits and tremolo-picked, almost tabla-sounding clean guitar riffs enter later on, picking up speed near the end of the track and multiplying in layers, and ending out nicely. “Standoff In A Haunted House” has some of the same instrumentation, with the basic guitar riffs, music box hits, and more synthesized strings, but it also has a much darker tone, filled with ominous drones underneath and, whether or not it was intentional, some of the guitar riffs in the middle of the track sound out-of-tune, but as they are played, they sound more attuned to some exotic microtonal scale from another country than to simply have been bad tuning on the guitarist’s part, which in many ways makes the track a much more interesting listen. “Hello Child, Can You Hear Me?” begins with a haunting music box melody and soft string pads, before a very beautiful guitar melody and ringing chimes open the track up to a whole new sonic plane. Halfway through the track, more guitar riffs and variation occur before right around the end, a deafening screech of feedback gives way to heavily distorted guitar riffs that push the track to yet another sonic plane before segueing into the classically-influenced synth strings and beautiful guitar harmonies on “An End To A Beginning”. Here, the track dies down to minimal guitar riffs and huge reverberated drum hits, which over time with each layer of guitar and synthesized strings build up to become a very beautiful wall of sound, in which it dies down to end out this EP.

Overall, Airplanes Over Johannesburg’s “These Figures In The Shadows, These Friends Of Mine” shows great improvements over their debut EP. Whereas the former included very minimalist and hypnotic clean guitar loops (and some distortion), drums, and some string work here and there, this EP contains more variety in instrumentation, more harmonies, more effects, and a much clearer song structure, which makes much of this EP sound as close to being cinematic as possible. The minimalism is still here, in that the basic ideas for riffs sound great, but the ideas here are fleshed out, and are almost always built up by more melodies and riffs to make that idea sound even more gorgeous, instead of being looped in an hypnotic fashion on the last EP. I chose to follow Airplanes Over Johannesburg to see where it might head in the future, and I’m glad I did, because I am really enjoying this EP. 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Album: These Figures In The Shadows, These Friends Of Mine

Artist: Airplanes Over Johannesburg

Genre: Experimental post-rock

Self-released in 2011

You can download the EP here!: http://www.mediafire.com/?cr3fdc21dfdvmeg

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