Those of you who follow VoS closely have heard my words a few days ago during our interview with Aaron Turner that we like to “go in with a bang” and what would be better for starting my review year of 2024 with a review of a Post-Rock record that really occupied my player for many weeks at the end of last year? Right, nothing probably. Thus this review of Being Human by Shipwreck Karpathos is one hell of a start for me. And for those who still have some catching up to do – this is also a great start for you!
Midwestern Emo-infused Post-Rock. Never heard of it? Well, maybe because it’s not really a genre based on soundscapes but more of a description of a certain dynamic. What made Midwest-Emo always very interesting to me was that bands like Sunny Day Real Estate or Cursive were able to give a very dynamic soundscape with well-versed and well-compartmentalized breakouts or descends into near-silence. They gave you eruptions not meant to crush you but to underline the point they were trying to get across.
When listening to Shipwreck Karpathos and their new full-length Being Human will very quickly find out what I mean. The record is crunchy but not devastating, it has taken a lot from the emo-core bands of the early “Aughties” (a term I learnt today, so I gotta make direct use of it) – and as bandleader David mentioned in an interview that was one of his intentions, to make somewhat of an angry record. Oh, maybe you want to keep an eye out on VoS the next few days ;-) Nevertheless, this record might be much more direct than its predecessor and much more “in your face” - it is not a tour de force but still holds a lot of minute details – many of them directly connected to the trumpet parts by new (full) band member Hank Wooton, who is only getting into Post-Rock at the moment, so that freshness that you hear in his intonation and play might also stem from that “newbie-ness” he brings along. It might also come from the fact that he has a much more classical music education.
Many of the tracks on Being Human could be called standout-tracks - ”Scene VIII: Don’t Panic”, “Scene IX: Almost Colossus”, “Scene XI: Life as War”, “Scene XIV: Lightworker” or also the title track ”Scene XII: Being Human”. Thus it is probably easier to call the whole thing a standout album. If you are now because of these song titles wondering whether this is a concept album, be assured “Yes, it is!” Not only that it is part of a trilogy with each song being one segment, one scene of the whole story of Virgil and the pilot, who are survivors of an apocalypse and who have to come to terms with being more or less alone in their own day and age – and their place as the story is also set in a dystopian fictional environment. Again – if you want to know more, stay tuned to the VoS YouTube channel these upcoming days.
What makes this album such a great achievement is the way it was conceptualized (see its story), laid out musically (its dynamic character), its soundscape (see the more inclusive trumpet) and also its recording – for Jason from Coastlands recorded the band in an as-live-as-possible set up and also contributed a few parts himself. Thus one can also see the larger picture here - Being Human is a part of a larger scene, stands for that American Post-Rock scene and embodies its many variants, including the Midwestern Emo- infused kind. And for everyone – if you need ONE American Post-Rock record from 2023, Shipwreck Karpathos’ full-length would be my selection. What a way to enter 2024, with Being Human on your earphones!