China’s Wang Wen has been in existence for the past 15 years. As a musical force it has always struggled with its identity and carving out a unique sound, but the music on Eight Horses may just be good enough that we won’t care anymore.
Let’s start things off by stating the obvious: “Welcome to Utopia” is a fantastic post-rock track. It is crafted with the utmost care, progresses through the staples of the genre, and delivers a satisfying conclusion to the album. The track also resides in that nice niche where tracks are long but don’t berate the audience with an onslaught of guitar buffoonery. “Utopia” develops slowly and is opened up mainly through a single insistent trumpet. Slow and steady wins the race.
Elsewhere, Eight Horses does a excellent job of pacing itself. “Northern North” opens in a similarly deliberate manner but climaxes with a more menacing, almost post-metal fury. “Sky of Dalian” piques our interest with a vibraphone before the guitars crush the frail percussive work and open the door for a agitated trumpet climax. “Ten Thousand Buddhas” is mostly about guitar rock and unleashes an interesting wave of hybrid math/post-rock compositions. As you may notice, the trend here is that Wang Wen love rocking out, and post-rock aficionados will find no shortage of crescendos on offer during Eight Horses.
When all is said and done, it’s certainly not difficult to trace the influences of Eight Horses back to their source. Earlier Wang Wen albums either seemed overly concerned with this and attempted to fashion something unique yet modern or were much too happy to genre-bate and copy whichever band was trendiest at the time. These efforts generally proved unsuccessful; Eight Horses, by contrast, walks a middle line where Wang Wen knows what it excels at, sticks to it, and doesn’t appear to worry too much about where on the spectrum this album will land. As usual, this is a winning combination that allows the band to play to its strengths an finally give us a rewarding album, through and through.