THE SHAKING SENSATIONS- ‘How Are We to Fight the Blight?’
The Shaking Sensations were over, finished, done. After more than a decade and three records together, the Danish outfit felt they had accomplished what they’d set out to do. They’d gone from covering grunge classics and aping post-rock pioneers to sharing world stages with the genre’s best, and, in 2013’s ‘Start Stop Worrying’, had set a benchmark they themselves felt unlikely to better. That year they went on hiatus.
This year they have returned. And while their reunion was not preceded by much hype or fanfare, ‘How Are We to Fight the Blight?’ is outstanding. That’s the truth too, this isn’t just great, it stands out. It does not demand attention so much as politely request it, but once it has you, it never once lets go. It sounds like the band’s previous work, sure, but it’s marked with fresh clarity, calm, and increased confidence. This isn’t evidence that The Shaking Sensations never should have left, instead it is a testament to the power of change, rest, and recharging. This is growing up.
Opener ‘Twenty Amino Acids’ starts how most post-rock songs finish and works backwards. There is no traditional structure, only a shimmering wave caught at the crest and slowly crashing. It’s five minutes long and a bold and beautiful piece of work on its own but works great as an introduction to the record too… post-rock headed toward transcendence where categories, conventions and rules are in place, but where possible, will be wholly ignored. This is a band in new bloom.
‘Tremendous Efforts’ is the shortest track here but somehow packs the most punch- a heady combination of dramatic rock, indie-pop, proper riffs, and dark power- ‘In Dead Silence, Hang Your Ghost’ is cinematic, orchestral even, and as indication that “growing up” doesn’t have to mean slowing down, ‘Sightings’ starts and finishes with a mesmerizing metallic stomp.
As before, the band’s choice to employ a second drummer doesn’t always make an immediate impact but it adds an off-kilter stereo-filling factor about two minutes into ‘The Frailness of Your Stem’ and the rat-a-tat beats that usher ‘Tremendous Efforts’ into life sound like they’re being played in the room with you. And if ‘Manual Trauma’ deserves more than an abrupt fadeout after seven minutes of dynamic drama, ‘Arcadia’ quite rightly crescendos like a jet engine whirring down from maximum power.
As with any instrumental work, themes aren’t easy to discern and will probably differ from listener to listener. However, from cover art of a person wrapped, maybe trapped, in plastic to that album title, it sure seems like the state of our world and the state of its future might be a source of inspiration. Like Mono, Explosions in the Sky, or whisper it, U2, The Shaking Sensations have a way of making their music sing and although there’s no narrator here, listening closely will inspire sadness, grief, hope and awe.
‘How Are We to Fight the Blight?’ actually sounds great too. Bad production can never really hold back outstanding songwriting but producer Anders Haaning and mixer and erstwhile Cult of Luna-member Magnus Lindberg have done a great job here. A quick mention for Pelagic Records too, working with The Shaking Sensations for the second time here, whose name has become a sure shorthand for quality
‘How Are We to Fight the Blight?’ is superb then. It’s a special record from a special band that have chosen a special time to return- right when we needed them most. We should savour every note they make, lest they ever disappear again.