Hey, remember that friend you had in school who just couldn’t take anything seriously? The one who spent science class turning bunsen burners into flamethrowers and lunch into target practice? The guy who always had the right quip at the right time in any occasion?
That’s All There the band.
Now. Remember when that friend disappeared for several weeks, before showing up out of the blue one winters day, except his face was grey, and he didn’t talk much, and sometimes he’d stare out of the window at the sleet and snow for hours on end crying silent tears for reasons no-one could know?
That’s All There the album.
There’s a bit of a discrepancy, is what I’m saying.
So. If you missed the hype from the past couple of weeks, All There are a band comprised of four very talented people who made Tumblr their base of operations from which they could promote, ping quips back and forth and generally dick about without ever actually meeting in person. If I’m honest, I got suckered into it quite unexpectedly (I only found the project through infinitefreefall’s mashups), but soon I’d backed the Kickstarter, downloaded the singles,
stalked the members and eagerly sat in to listen to the first album from these happy, jokey, harmless people.
An album which proceeded to suckerpunch me so hard that I’m still reeling a week later.
All There is a concept album about broken people in a broken relationship. It’s a story of complacency, change, and regret, and while I won’t spoil anything - yes, this is an album with spoilers, and yes, that’s far too rare - it’s more affecting than 99% of films released this year.
Sonically, it’s an album where texture is as important as sound. The 17 tracks are divided into four distinct parts, based on the seasons, and each section has its own feel - Spring is warm and rich, Summer is rich and cloying, Autumn is sparse and distorted, and Winter is cold and distant. All of this is accomplished through masterful use of both original and sampled beats and a flair for subtlety - Every song is made up of layers upon layers, many of which are barely audible yet still add to the overall atmosphere.
The instruments used range from the classic piano and guitar (although almost never as a lead - no instrument is given promenance) to choirs, synths, bells, fuzz and haze. The result is frequently ghostly, echoed and foggy, dozens of layers combining to evoke a feeling, whether warmth, emptiness, or whatever the band requires.
With all of these different elements being thrown together, and the album being so divided, you’d think that it would seem like a fractured affair. There are, however, several threads that keep things cohesive. Firstly, the aforementioned narrative, which is the centerpiece the entire album is built around, allowing the near-genre shifts from ambient to techno to god-knows-what to feel like different pages in the same book. Secondly, and relatedly, are the dual vocals (one male, one female), which are, bluntly, staggering. They never overpower the rest of the mix, (and in fact are often incorporated into it as if another instrument) but they show incredible range and skill, able to transform from downtrodden and defeated in one song to total heart-wrenching anguish in the next.
This review has already gone on way longer than it normally would, so I’ll end with a few highlights: The piano on ‘You’ve Changed’, ripped straight from a deserted ballroom. The haunted, madness-induced refrain on ‘Freeze’. The fact that there is a song called ‘All There’, on All There, by All There (Yes, they pulled an Iron Maiden). The entirety of ‘In The Cold’, which is in the running for my song of the year. The Road. Void. Epilogue. The last few seconds, in which a tape reel skips, and dies, and you sit there in stunned silence. Then have to lie down for a bit.
You can find All There on bandcamp and Tumblr.