I feel like perhaps the best place to begin this review is by stating that Moving Mountains is one of my favorite bands ever; I loved each of their releases for entirely different reason, and I was incredibly saddened when they announced their indefinite hiatus. I felt like no other band was going to be able to deliver to me the unique takes on both the post-rock and post-hardcore genres that Moving Mountains explored on Pneuma and Waves, nor the laid-back atmospheric vibes of their final self-titled full length. In short, I felt there was a massive whole in my musical listening habits that no other band could fill.
Then, in stepped Gates with their new record, Bloom and Breathe. I had seen Gates with Moving Mountains a few years back, supporting their first EP The Sun Will Rise and Lead You Home, an EP I enjoyed quite a bit at the time. I remember thinking at the time that the band could develop into a pretty impressive post-rock band with more time under their belt.
Nothing I saw that day, nor anything I heard on that first EP, could have prepared me for just how massive a step forward Bloom and Breathe is for this band. Gates assumes the shoes left vacant for Moving Mountains not because their songs fit into the same mold (though the Thrice-aping “At Last The Loneliest Of Them” certainly sounds like Waves-era MovMou), but because how effortlessly they seem to progress in their songwriting and musicianship. Bloom and Breathe is an album that feels absolutely vital, yet at the same time doesn’t feel forced in any way.
This sense of urgency is immediately apparent from the early moments of the record, as a sweeping crescendo of an opening track leads seamlessly into the pseudo title track “Bloom” . Kevin Dye’s improved vocal performance is worthy of immediate attention, as he belts line after memorable line (“desolation isn’t real if there’s nothing left to feel”) with emotive resonance.
What follows “Bloom” is 45 minutes of the most varied and intricate post-rock to come out of the genre since the early stages of Explosions in the Sky’s career. Gates is a band that isn’t just content with pushing themselves forward, they push the entire genre forward. The powerful blasts of energy that form the middle portion of Bloom and Breathe, “Born Dead” and “At Last The Loneliest of Them,” are some of the most powerful atmospheric post-hardcore since the kings of the genre, Thrice, put out The Artist in the Ambulance.
Several of the songs end with punishingly climactic burst of raw emotion. “Persist in Delusion” ends with Dye repeating the indicting phrase “All we had is a lie / come to find out,” over a swelling of guitar trills (Gates employs the three guitarist strategy of many of their post-rock contemporaries, which allows for massive blasts of sweeping riffs in several different octaves,) and destructive rolls from drummer Daniel Crapanzano.
There are times on Bloom and Breathe step outside of the post-hardcore blended post-rock comfort zone they have built up, however, and those moments stand out even on an album full of incredible tracks. Moments such as the build-up of the swing “The Thing The Would Save You” as Crapanzano plays an intricate and almost dancy drum beat. It’s reminscent of a standout track from one of the other best post-rock albums this year, “Eyes Like Strange Sins” from Tides of Man’s Young and Courageous. While the beat isn’t quite as intricate as in “Eyes,” it certainly fits just as perfectly within the context of the song.
If you don’t find something to fall in love with on Gates debut full-length Bloom and Breathe, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you’re just simply not a fan of their style of music, or maybe you’re not listening closely enough. Whether it’s the uplifting, climactic-type post rock of Explosions in the Sky (album closer “Everything That Always Will Be” fits the mold), or devastating ambient post-hardcore (“Not My Blood” and “At The Loneliest of Them”) or even haunting, introspective acoustic ballads (“Marrow”), Bloom and Breathe is one of the most varied and deeply enriching listens of the year, and it absolutely must be experienced.