Personnel: Amal Evans (cello).
Audio Mixer: Alexander Petersen.
Recording information: Metway Studios; Vale Studios.
It seems only fitting that a group known for quarter-hour post-rock epics would take an entire decade to follow up their rhapsodic debut. Canterbury, England ensemble Yndi Halda earned a devoted fan base following the release of their 2005 debut Enjoy Eternal Bliss (originally a self-released three-song EP, it was expanded and released internationally in 2006), leading to worldwide tours and festival appearances. The band slowly began developing new material, premiering some of it in late 2007, with several unspecified setbacks delaying the album's recording, mixing, and release until March of 2016. While the group still construct elegantly flowing suites with swelling strings and guitars, marked by dramatic pauses and shifts in rhythm and intensity, the main difference here is that vocals play more of a role in the group's sound. Wordless choral vocals briefly surfaced on Enjoy Eternal Bliss, but this album begins with soft, intimate near-whispers painting verbal imagery about hair growing like cactus. After a few shimmering instrumental passages of varying dynamic levels, the music breaks for a calm moment and massed vocals appear before the song builds back up again. Aside from the increased presence of vocals, the album employs more acoustic instruments than before, incorporating banjo and violin as well as guitar. Even when they plug their guitars in, they keep relatively calm, and don't set off full throttle the way Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Mogwai do at their most fervent. The album does have more of a dynamic range overall, going from very sparse, isolated moments to more orchestrated, uptempo segments. "Golden Threads from the Sun" goes from a near-silent middle up to a festive, strangely disco-sounding 4/4 rhythm (with a lone, mournful violin guiding the melody, of course). 18-minute standout "Helena" starts out somewhat bombastic before settling into the album's most straightforward rhythm, finally ending up at a dreamy, drifting conclusion. While notably more accessible, Yndi Halda haven't gone pop, by any means. This is still heady, attention span-requiring music, and it's still an ideal soundtrack for a sad, dramatic coming-of-age film. But the group have grown significantly in the ten years following their debut, and Under Summer is a successful follow-up. ~ Paul Simpson