It’s really too bad the “post” tag gets tossed around so indiscriminately in heavy music. The term seems to attach itself to anything and everything with low, fuzzy notes stretched over any sort of atmosphere, especially when there’s tension and release. Is it still “post” when it’s become a trend?
Branding is only too bad, I suppose, in that bands like Long Distance Calling, whose approach happens to check all those boxes, might be hastily dismissed as just another in the deeper and deeper bucket of post-metal and -rock acts, the label taking the better part of the early evaluation. Too bad because LDC doesn’t deserve to be pigeon-holed, their sound being much more than the tag allows. The German quintet is an instrumental band (mostly; more on that later) that enjoys things low(ish) and fuzzy and stretched out, but beyond that, their postiness is outweighed by several other -nesses that draw from krautrock and space-rock, jazz and funk, and plain ol’ heavy rock and metal.
“The Figrin D’an Boogie” is the second and best track featured on this, the band’s third LP, and at just over six minutes, it’s relatively brief in this context. The “…Boogie” features bouncing bass lines and thick riffing infused with spacey atmosphere and leavening ambient passages and a beautiful solo, rendering it the picture of what to expect from the rest of the album, albeit in a tidier package. “Invisible Giants” molds grungey riffing together with a repetitively ringing and rolling riff set that casts itself skyward to soar and curl between the clouds where it meets with its successor, the coolly tripped out “Timebends.” This propensity for the comfy glide is where Long Distance Calling succeeds.
Where the record excels is in its dynamic emotional range. Even as there’s plenty here to create space between its affective baseline and a relative placidity, there’s just enough in the way of energetic highs to make those breezy moments meaningful. All this makes for an album that feels comfortable. Also, though, one that feels occasionally complacent. There are places, especially in the atmospheric bookend tracks, that draw themselves too far out, drifting the listener away from the record’s vital center, defined by engaging guitar play and the nuance within which it’s wrapped, though it’s an example of good stuff that doesn’t quite mesh with the qualitatively other good stuff on the album. It’s a subtle incongruity that only really becomes obvious when some rising melodic wave sweeps the listener back after a few minutes of relatively featureless ambling.
That opposition of ideas is nothing new to Long Distance Calling, their previous two featuring similar dichotomies, and can be best summarized by the inclusion of a single guest-vocal track on each of their records. Whereas earlier efforts have felt out of place (though less so, successively), LDC gets it more right than wrong on the self-titled. John Bush (Armored Saint, Anthrax) is the featured vocalist this time around and the haunting “Middleville” is perfectly suited to his unique style even if it’s necessary simplicity sacrifices some balance with the rest of the record. “Middleville” harbors the album’s highlight, though, in a really sweet Gilmour-inspired lead paired with a powerful Bush bridge near the end of the track.
There’s undoubtedly a lot more here than a cursory consideration of post- music would allow. It just happens that this attribute captures the record’s strengths as well as its relative shortcomings. Long Distance Calling is a good record, the dynamic strengths of which tend to also highlight its less venturesome moments, making for an enjoyable trip that’s just familiar and comfortable enough to sometimes find you nodding off against the passenger-door glass.