Seven Nines and Tens
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums
Vancouver outfit Seven Nines and Tens return with their first release since their 2013 Constants & Axioms EP, and their first full-length album since 2011’s Habitat 67. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums sees the band revamping their sound yet again and ultimately finding the sound that suits them the best. The band started out life as a wholly instrumental act which combined elements of post-rock, post-metal and math rock into a complex sonic chimera. This newest incarnation of the band, however, shows these Canadians scaling back the guitar acrobatics in favor of huge shoegaze-inspired, post-rock walls of sound. Fans of the band’s early works will not see this auditory 180 coming and will be even more surprised by how well the band pulls it off.
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums is comprised of four tracks that collectively clock in at around 33 minutes in length. The shimmering “I Come from Downtown” gets the record off to a positive start with icy, melodic guitar melodies that seem to float among the air. These expressive post-rock sections flow seamlessly into gargantuan riffs that are draped in layers of colorful atmosphere that sound like a mix between 90s alternative and Hydra Head-brand post-metal. For the first time ever, the band employ vocals in their works. Vocalist Dave Cotton’s quiet and calming layered croons seem to hover above the instrumentation, and almost act like an instrument themselves. The track, and the entire record for that matter, sounds like a marriage between Young Mountain-era This Will Destroy You and Downward is Heavenward-era Hum.
The album’s centerpiece is the massive, nearly 14-minute “Metropolis Noir/Rigs”. Melancholic clean guitars strum steadily as guitar-generated waves of serene sound wash over the track. Soon the track becomes a back-and-forth struggle between these clean guitar-driven sections and heavy riff-oriented attacks. Sometimes the clean sections are soft and subdued, other times they are more elaborate. Sometimes the heavier sections feature simplistic and colossal chord progressions, other times they feature more metal adjacent stomps. Though the song becomes a bit repetitive towards its end, its overall hypnotic construction will definitely suck the listener in. The final one-two punch of “Dope Simple” and “Rave Up” conclude the album with walls of glimmering shoegaze. “Dope Simple” comes off as a punchier and more entrancing My Bloody Valentine cut, while “Rave Up” features a gorgeous collision between cascading atmospheres and alternative rock riffage.
Though the longest piece on the record tends to drag in some areas, and the final two tracks do not have the same immediate punch as the first two, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums sees Seven Nines and Tens taking some pretty big risks that pay off in the long run. Though their previous material was more multifaceted and complex, the material on this album seems more focused and genuine. It will be interesting to see what the next step for these guys will be. (Lane Oliver)