Review: Waterfall Eyes - "Fighting Losing Battles"

Waterfall Eyes - Fighting Losing Battles
(2017 Self-Released)

There are more than enough snippets of twinkly slowcore haunting Bandcamp and Soundcloud to keep me satisfied -- so many, in fact, that I tend to forget they're there. On the internet, purely atmospheric music's as ubiquitous as air itself. You can breeze through it and even breathe it in without noticing it, focusing on the grittier, more tactile works that live within the atmosphere. Take the Agjijer record I reviewed last week, for example: it borrows occasional cues from Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium on its final cut, stewing in its own reverb juices, but opts to season the pot with math-y accents and a fuzz-faded crescendo. The band realized their need to stand out in a crowd, and went to great lengths to do so. As much as Agjijer's demo was an ambient effort, it was also an emo record, a black metal release, and a jazz-punk endeavor. It's an atmosphere to hack on -- to remind you how important it is to inhale and analyze.

Innovation's cool, but refinement's just as commendable. That's the route taken by Canada's Waterfall Eyes on their sophomore record, Fighting Losing Battles. It's a breath of the fresh stuff, boasting a sparse ambience as lucid and pristine as that of a Robin Guthrie solo effort. Nothing fancy -- just loop-pedal post-rock done better than anybody I've heard since Acid Aura. Guitarist Nathan Chan drips plucked notes like water droplets down a car window. You watch them run laps down the glass pane, colliding and congealing into blobby harmonies on the descent. Melted threads of feedback and slide guitar stretch lengthwise, fading into the distance like roadside cornfields and farms. Tracks are as transient as the farmlands you drive by, passing through and making sonic small talk for about a minute apiece. They're meant to be enjoyed in the moment, evaporating before they can worm comfortably into your cortex.

"Eastern Cities", a collaboration with fellow Canadian solo act Aftertide, lingers the longest, winding its riffs about a rusted maypole that blooms beneath stormy clouds of distortion. The glistening "Gwen" peeks out from behind the overcast veil, buttering its guitar twang with a quivery drone. Each tune spills over into the next, flavoring its successor with residual echo. The tracklist isn't so much a distinction between individual songs as it is a sundial, marking the record's arc from one end of the sky to the other. Fighting Losing Battles is constantly in a slow state of flux, casting sunbeams and shadows on the listener slowly enough to evolve undetected. Even as the album concludes with the jarring release of tech-y energy that is "Ok...", FLB revels in its subtlety. It's best consumed in a meditative state, piped through earbuds but relegated to the subconscious.