Unbeknown to me, since 2006 Maybeshewill have released four full-length albums of towering, cinematic instrumental music. After a decade long career that saw them tour across four continents they bowed out in 2016 with a sold out show at London’s Koko. Having reformed briefly in 2018 at the request of The Cure’s Robert Smith for a show at Meltdown Festival, 2021 sees the band return with their first new material since 2014’s Fair Youth. Having worked on ideas separately in the intervening years, it was the sketches of music that would become No Feeling is Final that pulled the band back together.
Building on the songs that they felt needed to be heard, together, Maybeshewill are James Collins (drums) Matthew Daly (keyboards) John Helps (guitar) Robin Southby (guitar) Jamie Ward (bass). The much admired Leicester-based instrumental quintet developed a characteristic sound from their beginnings, using cyclical piano motifs and programmed samples over more traditional guitars, bass and drums to create a distinctive sound, a rare attribute in instrumental music. As they developed, their music became more cinematic in scope, utilising orchestral elements to elevate their grandiose emotional peaks. Over the four albums, this sound relied less and less on guitars as their confidence in composing and sampling matured. But it’s still a wonderfully rich, varied bag of sound that they produce, and this album is no different!
The band tell us that No Feeling is Final was born “from a place of weary exasperation. From the knowledge that we’re living in a world hurtling towards self-destruction. We watch as forests burn and seas rise. As the worst tendencies of humanity are championed by those in power; rage, fear, greed and apathy. We see every injustice, every conflict, every catastrophe flash up on our screens. We stay complacent and consume to forget our complicity in the structures and systems that sustain that behaviour. As the world teeters on the edge of disaster, we sigh and keep scrolling, the uneasy feeling in our stomachs eating away at us a little more each day.”
“However easy it would be to switch off and pretend all is lost, there’s no choice but to remain engaged. To set that feeling of hopelessness aside and use the fear and frustration as fuel to make something positive.”
The band have set out to make No Feeling is Final a message of hope and solidarity. It’s a story of growing grassroots movements across the world that are rejecting the doomed futures being sold to us, and imagining new realities based on equality and sustainability. It’s a reckoning with the demons in our histories and a promise to right the wrongs of the past. It’s a plea to take action in shaping the world we leave for future generations. It’s a simple gesture of reassurance to anyone else struggling in these troubled times.
And it’s fair to say this is perhaps why Maybeshewill are one of the most beloved-by-fans post-rock instrumental bands of the 21st century, their obvious sense of caring for folk and for the world around us. They have tried to reflect that in their latest offering and to a large extent they’ve succeeded – which can always be difficult for an instrumental album, but these guys are past masters!
The track titles are suggestive of the general sense of desperation but, ultimately, redemption. The overall feel of the album reminds me quite strongly of another Velvet Thunder album review from 2020, Walter Goodman by an American guy working under the (band)name of Cave Dweller – it has that same “escape to the woods” feel to it.
“We’ve Arrived at the Burning Building” kickstarts the show, tribal rhythms punctuating a dark, sombre track that reminds me of brooding The Pineapple Thief and Porcupine Tree compositions blended with more rootsy World stuff like Kimono Drag Queens. It’s a clever arrangement, good use of pace and instruments to paint a soundscape that you’re quickly immersed in – this is definitely an album to either play rather loudly on your own, or more gently through headphones – whatever is most “absorbing” for you!
“Zarah” follows, it’s their most recent single and although it’s an altogether chirpier number in tone, the underlying message is deadly serious. The “lyrics” here are built around an extract of a speech by Labour politician Zarah Sultana on the climate crisis.
The rest of the titles are of a kind, and speak volumes in themselves – Complicity; Invincible Summer; The Weight of Light; Refuturing; Green Unpleasant Land (worth the album price for this title alone!); Even Tide; The Last Hours; and Tomorrow – they all build a sense of dread and doom but also Hope, and Destiny. It’s hard to add much to the description of the music on this album, suffice to say these are five very gifted musicians who have composed a thoroughly absorbing musical soundscape!
Continuing and building on the self-sufficient, do-it-yourself ethos that has been core to their existence, No Feeling is Final was once again recorded and produced by bassist Jamie Ward, and will be released on the bands own Robot Needs Home Collective Label, in collaboration with close friends Wax Bodega (North America), New Noise (Asia) and Birds Robe (Australasia) on 19th November.
So – some might say this is a politically loaded album and be turned off by that. However it’s fair to say this is not an uncommon thing in the world of art/music, and I for one believe it’s going to be more and more commonplace – the environmental debate simply cannot be ignored any more! The band themselves have said: “Conceptually, the album is concerned with the existential dread surrounding the climate crisis, how we understand our complicity in the crisis within the confines of our current morality system and ‘refuturing’ – rejecting existing power structures used to subjugate, and reimagining a future built on entirely new systems that are sustainable and beneficial to all.” Amen to that!