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Following a three-year hiatus since their last release, The Union Trade‘s upcoming sophomore full-length LP sounds exactly as named. On A Place of Long Years, the local band ditches bassist Nate Munger’s emotive vocals — as heard on Everyday Including (2008) and 2011 EP Why We Need Night — for guest singer Ann Yu’s soft sighs. Combined with the sinusoidal dynamic changes and snare-happy percussion, the nautical journal reflected by the record’s track titles is a slow, peaceful one.

A Place of Long Years evokes beauty without urgency… time flows viscously, uneventfully.

The record contains three strategically dispersed stylistic groupings: “Mineral King,” “Marfa Lights,” and “Dead Sea Transform” — Tracks 1, 5, and 9 — comprise a relatively boring collection of transitional placeholders; “In The Empire of Giants,” “Drakes Passage” [sic], and “Svalbard” — 2, 4, and 8 — the cinematic post-rock tracks; and finally, the highlights coinciding with Tracks 3, 6, and 8 where Yu lends her voice — “Sailing Stones,” “Murmurations,” and “Strangers and Names.”

In particular, the last on this list is a provocative page turner with guest cellist Nate Blaz and tambourine hits on each upbeat. “Strangers and Names” almost directly mirrors “Sailing Stones,” answering the earlier track’s questions, asked by upper register motifs, with conclusive answers, delivered via cello and bass harmonies.

Without Blaz and Yu, the band (Munger, guitarist Don Joslin, guitarist/keyboardist Eric Salk, and drummer Eitan Anzenberg) shines on “In the Empire of Giants,” which, with thematic material considerably closer to the heart of the record and an agreeable disposition, could suitably serve as the album’s opening track for less-dedicated listeners. Outro “Dead Sea Transform” works only only as a reprise of themes from “Murmurations,” but fails to stand on its own — a characteristic shared by that members of that aforementioned transitional placeholder group.

With perhaps the exception of the actual opening track, “Mineral King,” each chapter of Long Years can be recognized as a relative of the others. For a record boasting a three-year incubation period, it is incredibly cohesive, though this cohesiveness is also possibly the record’s greatest drawback. While it is soothing, it is not cohesively ground-breaking in its genre – there is no strong argument in favour of A Place of Long Years against any album by the current giants of instrumental post-rock.

Simply put, eager consumers of the genre won’t be disappointed and casual users won’t be impressed; with A Place of Long Years, The Union Trade succeed in establishing themselves and evoking nautical imagery in a post-rock setting. The record will be available February 3 via Tricycle Records and Rickshaw Stop will be hosting the official album release party on February 4.

Article by Joanna Jiang

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