Despite being on the go since 2013, this effort is the debut album from entertainingly monikered Three Days From Retirement. It’s an album that takes the listener on an instrumental post-rock odyssey with many sounds that will be familiar to fans of the likes of Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky or The Russian Circles.
The record opens with a statement of intent in opener Mandy, a swooningly beautiful and heart-breaking number, which is only made all the more poignant when you know the song was sadly inspired by the suicide of a friend of the band. There is little doubt it is the standout of the album.
Not that the follow-up, title track Empty Chinese Cities, is far behind it, though. Over the course of its eight minutes, it goes from being a stark, melancholic number to rocketing into a massive swell of reverb and then hitting out with a guitar solo that can only be described as euphoric before calming back down, only to whoosh off again for a triumphant finale.
Throughout the record, there is a deeply cinematic feel. You can see that the group clearly wants to paint a picture with their instrumentals, and you could easily imagine each of the five cuts here scoring an anime, an offbeat indie, or an epic sci-fi. Further demonstrating this, there is a moment halfway through Energy Always Lives Forever that is very reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception.
Over the duration of the LP’s 35 minutes, there is little dip in musical quality. If there is an issue here, it is a sense of sameness that builds as you are hit once again by another wash of reverb-heavy guitar. This can be an issue in post-rock generally; it’s one of rock’s most expansive sub-genres but can also be limiting in a way. Another thing is there is an air of predictability as to when the songs are going to shift gears from quiet to loud, melancholic to euphoric.
Despite some minor criticisms, Empty Chinese Cities is a decent effort with some brilliant moments and demonstrates that Three Day From Retirement are a more than capable post-rock outfit. It will certainly be interesting to see where they go from here.