Over the course of four albums, Sydney’s instrumental post-rock titans We Lost The Sea have managed to establish themselves as one of Australia’s premier independent acts with a growing international fanbase. With their gigantic, immersive sound reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky, the band’s signature album – 2015’s Departure Songs – succeeded in earning the band plenty of critical acclaim and fans around the globe, including Brit comedy legend Ricky Gervais who included A Gallant Gentleman on the soundtrack of his Netflix comedy After Life. For a record made in extremely trying circumstances amidst heartbreaking personal tragedy, Departure Songs really did do the business for the band, in both the critical and popularity stakes.
When it came to crafting Departure‘s follow up Triumph and Disaster, We Lost The Sea stated that they felt “the pressure of Departure Songs on our backs the whole time and it was hard to push through that” and felt the writing process turned “into something that, at times, was an unenjoyable slog.” Despite all the trials and tribulations that went into making Triumph and Disaster, the band emerged with a record that was, in their minds, “bolder, more mature and sonically dense than anything we’ve done previously”. Listening to the seven tracks on Triumph, it quickly becomes clear that the band were totally spot on in their assessment.
Described by the band as “a lament for the planet, all the people on it, and the beauty that will be left behind,” Triumph and Disaster is a post-apocalyptic children’s story illustrated through the eyes of a mother and her son as they spend one last day on Earth – the record serving as its atmospheric soundtrack. Through its one hour and four minute playing time, the album tries hard to be its own entity as opposed to Departure Songs part two, and for the most part, it succeeds in establishing its own identity in impressive fashion.
Lead single and grandiose opener Towers is a 15-minute plus sonic juggernaut that takes its time stacking up the guitar riffs – from delay laden to earthquakingly distorted – before spiralling into a ferocious, stretched out beast. An expertly-crafted mood piece which aspires to be representative, according to the band, of “the beginning and the end of everything… giant oppressive forces and feelings, the towering juggernaut of power, failure, history and death,” the track feels like an epic journey into the dark heart of modern society and back again. It is heavier than We Lost The Sea offerings of old, with the band’s tried-and-tested quiet/loud dynamics pushed to the fore, adding to the intensity of the track. At the end of Towers, one is left feeling wrung dry and spent. The album’s stand out moment and we are only at track one!
Follow up single A Beautiful Collapse is another slow builder that surfs the waves of cacophony and tranquillity in an attention-grabbing manner. A tad rote in its structure and execution perhaps, but who cares when the titanic climax sounds this emphatic. Dust, the album’s shortest number, is up next and is an abstract interlude piece adorned by a haunting trumpet line, ghostly piano and mournful guitar feedback hum. It’s a nice lead into the middle section of the album featuring two more super lengthy songs – Parting Ways and The Last Sun.
Parting Ways starts off all calm and contemplative, the band locked into a melodic, almost groovy loop, before descending into one of their trademark titanic guitar crescendos, the one here really of seismic proportions. The Last Sun, the album’s penultimate track, flips the formula by punching the listener in the face with fierce riffing and pummelling drums from the off instead of the usual slow build, before trailing off into a hypnotic, Mogwai-esque section which morphs into a moody, John Carpenter style retro synth outro. Trippy stuff and the sound of the band at the peak of its powers. Best listened to loud this one.
Meanwhile the lovely Distant Shores is a pensive, meditative track with Ry Cooder style slide guitar and emotive church organ that delivers a bit of welcome serenity after the sonic assaults surrounding it. Album closer Mother’s Hymn finds the band back in familiar terrain, a cinematic song comprising three distinctive sections, each section carrying its own sonic weight and segueing into the others seamlessly.
Four years in the making, Triumph and Disaster pleasingly leans more towards hard-earned triumph than an unmitigated disaster, expertly demonstrating that with thought, perseverance and a lot of hard work, good things can and will occur.