Masterful Post-Rock from... California?

Sharing the same naming convention as Mortal Kombat, Khloe Kardashian informs us that people have a lot of misconceptions about the Golden State, as she thumbs through a book on Quantum Physics (Physiks?). A whole host of A-Listers then go through those stereotypes with the aim of getting people like me to visit. It's a laugh riot. Honest.

It's difficult to see where, if anywhere, California post-rockers Early and Often would fit into that advert. Especially on this EP, the follow up to last year's 'Phenomenally Yours'. The four of them are from Sacramento, which is famous for having a basketball team that doesn't want to be there anymore and... erm... that's it.

That desolation and the feeling of loneliness in a city of nearly half a million might explain the themes of emptiness, religious conversion and everything in between. Opener 'Under the Phase' has an Australian preacher competing with a crowd and sound effects before drifting into silence and a lament. That's not all, with deliberate ugly bass at 8:12 before the big finish. It works well with vocalist Jeff Wright coming into his own with what sounds like an authentically miserable existence; I actually ended up feeling sorry for how sad the guy was feeling.

Interestingly, the EP features two short interludes, short fragments of songs and ideas that are deconstructed and smashed by extreme distortion and confusion. It reminded me of the scattergun approach taken by 65 Days of Static on their Unreleased/Unreleaseable LP's and works quite well as it shows that they don't take themselves too seriously, which is always the downfall of many a post-rock act. Cliff Mattis' programming and drumming throughout this is some of the best I've heard on this sort of music. It's subtle when it needs to be and when it's in your face, like at the end, you definitely know about it.

'The Feast' has a piercing glockenspiel on a loop which is joined by guitars, pianos and drums and just like the opener, there's a great change up three minutes in. It's a false dawn as the slow piano and melancholy vocals return. It's not a bad thing, and it's easy to see why they list their influences as Godspeed, Mogwai and their ilk, although the more thoughtful aspects of Trail of Dead would also be fitting.

The final track is split into two. I'm never sure why bands do that but I assume this was to emphasise the disparity between the two parts. The twitchy 'False Victories' segues into 'No Fiction', which, perhaps rarely for the genre, builds into a message of hope, getting more chaotic with unrelenting walls of sound being put up in front of you before finally, it suddenly stops and leaves you wanting more. And that's not a bad thing, either.

If you're one of those people that doesn't want detail, that looks at the rating and the bottom line, then simply put, this is masterful and worthy of the top mark. They're not given out often, but this is more than deserved.