Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There (Ninja Tune)

Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There (Ninja Tune)

With last year’s debut album, For The First Time, Black Country New Road shifted up several gears very quickly. They went from being a hip secret to debuting at no.4 in the album charts, being nominated for the Mercury Prize, and finishing in a number of end of year polls. If it felt like there was hype around them, they certainly convinced the music listening public, with the result that this album, released exactly a year later, has a fair amount of expectation riding on it.

While some acts can take forever to get their second album out, with the result that it feels the world has moved on when it finally does arrive, it seems that BCNR have just continued with making music almost immediately. Their show at last year’s Edinburgh International Festival showed that they were continuing to grow musically, and from the first listen it confirms that they are not simply repeating a winning formula but going new places, too.

…and a rather fantastic ride it is for their listeners. Right from the off, on opener ‘Intro‘ it’s clear that a lot of folk influence has crept in. Not (thankfully) in a ‘hey! nonny no’ sort of way, but the real mccoy, as well as more mellow jazz, but not in a lift muzak stylee. So yes they’re probably still likely to be filed under post-rock, but the record has definitely seen them experimenting with even more influences. Not to put anyone off – on the contrary – this album manages the feat of being more accessible than its predecessor without going bland, whilst still showing what separates them from most other bands out there. There are so many moments on this record that are sublimely wonderful and dreamy, which wasn’t something I found myself thinking about the debut. ‘Haldern‘ would be a prime example of this. There’s less of a tendency to think that they’ve doffed their cap to the likes of Slint and Shellac on this record, and while I never thought the debut lacked confidence, it feels like this is the record on which they are coming into full bloom. The proof that experimental does not need to equal unlistenable or difficult to get into. A number of tracks from this album were released before the full album came out so if you’ve heard the mighty 9-minute epic ‘Snowglobe‘ you may start to have an idea of what to expect.

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that I haven’t yet commented on the fact that frontman and co-founder Isaac Wood has this week announced he is leaving the band on health grounds, which means the upcoming tour has been cancelled. I mention this because it seems wrong not to mention it, though there is cause for some optimism as the other remaining members of the band have pledged to carry on and have indicated that they are already working new music. That should not detract from what is an absolutely fantastic record, streets ahead from what was a very impressive debut and hopefully not the final chapter in one of the UK’s most interesting bands.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.