From Sea to Sky
by Tomas Doyle
Instrumental music is and elusive little beast. Without a vocal focus the entire song writing process shifts and the melodicism of guitars, bass and even drums are thrown, kicking and screaming, into the foreground. Any band attempting to make a purely instrumental record needs to ensure that the wealth of ideas that they and their respective instruments bring to the table are sufficient to retain the interest of the listener throughout the duration of an entire album.
This is especially true if, like Heights, you are just a three piece – put simply, there can be no passengers, each musician has to contribute significantly to the overall feel and all three have to be locked in with one another in order for the overall sound to have any semblance of cohesion or expression.
With this is mind, that From Sea to Sky is such a beautiful album is a real testament to the technical ability of this trio and, moreover, to the thought that has clearly gone into every facet of this record to make its such an ethereal joy. Heights feel but orchestral, such is the tonal variety and delicious intricacy on display and guitarist Al Heslop should be applauded for a performance characterised by lush chordal work, traditional ‘post-rock’ sounds but also nods to jazz runs and the classical cannon. Similarly to describe the other two members of this band as the ‘rhythm section’ would be to grossly undersell their contribution. John Hopkins in particular provides some beautifully constructed bass lines which give an anchoring weight when required, but also demonstrate a lightness of touch that one can’t help but admire.
As alluded to earlier, it is the variety of tone and the depth of musical palette that Heights demonstrate which distinguishes this album from the offerings of many of Heights contemporaries. They eschew the slavish adherence to the “big build up, crashing climax” which so many similar bands labour with, favouring instead an approach which could almost be described as narrative and which certainly feels influenced by classical composition.
Watch a really fucking loud studio performance by Heights:
This is a thoroughly enjoyable album full of intrigue and replete with more musical ideas that most bands come up with in their entire careers. How far Heights can take this formula remains to be seen but with From Sea to Sky they have certainly made a record that resonates with a shimmering quality and beautiful uniqueness.
Sounds Like: Porcupine Tree, And So I Watch You From Afar
Top Tracks: From Sea to Sky, Symphony for the Sky: Movement V
Heights – From Sea to Sky tracklisting:
Of Wind and Air
From Sea to Sky
Symphony for the Sky: Movement i
Symphony for the Sky: Movement ii
Symphony for the Sky: Movement iii
Symphony for the Sky: Movement iv
Symphony for the Sky: Movement v