Battlestations – In A Cold Embrace

Coming off as a futuristic combination of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros, Belgian post-rock act Battlestations made an impressive statement with their debut last year. Most importantly- and though one would not think it when I’ve just compared them to two of their genre’s biggest bands- Battlestations had a fresh sound, and that was more than enough to sell me. ‘In A Cold Embrace’ comes not a year since their first spin, and as is usually the case with sophomoric albums, Battlestations have tightened and matured the themes they innovated the first time around. In their case however, these Belgians have managed to shift their music from mere excellence into the realm of mastery. Although this ambient expression still contends with some of the debut’s shortcomings, Battlestations have never sounded so powerful.

Although ‘In A Cold Embrace’ has been broken into five tracks, this seems more for the sake of listening convenience. Much like the self-titled Battlestations, ‘In A Cold Embrace’ flows as were it a single, unabated journey. Perhaps where Battlestations most distinguishes themselves is with their devotion to ambiance, or subtlety-focused expression. There is a delicate touch of melody, but the glory of Battlestations lies in their attention to texture. Even at their most mellowed and relaxed, there is a wealth of sonic layers, each wonderfully mixed upon the other. Despite this depth of arrangement, the composition restrains itself from taking the traditional, ‘explosive climax’ approach with their build ups; even the dramatic pay-offs feel introspective and subtle! Granted, this meticulously moderated approach to songwriting will find some listeners yearning for a busier sound, but it makes the moments when the music does ‘explode’ all the more meaningful and thunderous.

Compared to the debut, Battlestations have sharpened up their compositions. Although the ambient doctrine has been maintained as pure as ever, the music of this band feels more memorable. Each track is a majestic sequence of episodes, taking the listener to a different shade of a vast soundscape. Post-rock in recent years has rarely sounded so fresh. Admittedly, their craft takes a fair investment of one’s time to properly appreciate; ‘In A Cold Embrace’ makes little effort to be accessible to a listener unprepared to sit down and digest the atmosphere. The journey may be quiet, but there’s more depth here than I’ve heard in post-rock in a long time.


1. Prologue : Nature morte // You’re not welcome here (13:17)
2. Comrade // The way we grieve (9:59)
3. Interlude : Time stands still (2:37)
4. Breaking bad news // The faces we remember (6:55)
5. The semblance of fate // Epilogue : Citizen creep // The end (11:48)


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