Recorded by Noah in his basement, Positively Home InVentions. Additional tracking & mixing by Awaas at our home, the Chateau Mirage in Portland, Maine. Mastered by Pat Keane.
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RVA MAGAZINE, DAILY RECORD: Awaas
Posted by: Necci – Jun 04, 2012
Awaas – Awaas (self-released)
A quick perusal of the website containing Awaas' music displays a tag reading “protest songs” – a descriptor that's unfortunately loaded down with decades' worth of baggage, calling to mind every Woodstock-era peace proponent who sold their ideals for a BMW, every folk singer who ever sang to a room full of people with identical ideology, and every punk rocker who shouted hollow slogans of anarchy. But this preconception is a shame – we need people to confront the world's injustices, especially now. Income gaps widen, exploitation of developing nations continues unabated, resources dwindle. This isn't to say a song or two will be any sort of panacea, but it's something. Especially for artists such as Awaas, ones who are willing to engage these concerns in a manner that doesn't fall into long-established preconceptions, instead favoring a more oblique approach, one that comments on the miserable state of the world without being so issue-specific that the material becomes dated.
The band, comprised of former members of Portland, Maine doom metal bands Conifer and Ocean, retains some of the dark, immersive atmosphere of their previous projects but otherwise represents a stylistic one-eighty. It's hard to peg it with any specific comparison, but what they're doing could've fit well in Manchester circa 1980, DC during Revolution Summer, or any place in the past decade and a half that Mogwai has inspired kids to start hoarding delay pedals. At first everything sounds large, with a hypnotic, almost cinematic scope condensed into an EP's brief running time. But each component in and of itself is far more minimal: sparse drums, echoing guitar phrases, monolithic synth textures, and vocals that emerge from the haze of sound with a Dan Higgs-esque yelp, belting out lyrics that are at turns cryptic and confrontational.
It's these lyrical conceits that fortify the band's aesthetic, neither shying away from dissent nor falling into the trap of didcaticism. The imagery is laden with desperation and the sorts of extreme responses that such conditions can breed, a concept reflected in a verse like “Stay with me my brother / Don't you die, I'll cauterize / Stay with me through the cross-hair / They use violence, maybe we should too,” a microcosmic look at what happens worldwide, as force begets force and the effort it takes to crawl out from under ruined cities and shortened lives becomes transmuted into attempts at an equal and opposite reaction. And while there are moments that sound defeatist (“No God / Will save us”), they are counterbalanced with others that are possessed of a more defiant spirit. Similarly, though some of the lyrical conceits are fairly vague (does “They circle / Above us / There's no country” refer to an establishment of a common humanity across national bounds as oppressive forces monitor from above? Does it refer to the manner in which many of these forces recognize no national boundaries? Difficult to say), this ambiguity works to the songs' advantage, by acting as a bridge over the chasms of self-righteousness and pedantry in which so much political songwriting seems immured.
What Awaas does is notable because it doesn't really offer answers, instead clawing through the fog of uncertainty and despair that hangs over so much of the world, occasionally being led by a beacon of defiance towards some clarity. It's striking music, beauty that doesn't deny ugliness, a hope for a better world that doesn't take for granted that one will come about. The politics are neither shoe-horned in nor worn like a merit badge, just as the music refuses to rest solely on its component extremes of acerbic sting and ethereal drift. Theirs is a fertile middle ground that refuses to be middle of the road, and is exactly the sort of work the world needs more of.
– By Graham Scala
released 30 March 2012