Indie-emo is a style that often gets the light, gentle part of the musical equation right, but doesn’t pack quite enough energy in for it to be of interest to me (or fall within the usual remit of music covered by The Sound Not The Word). Russian band Ensslin‘s brand of indie-emo may recall some of the more relaxing practitioners of the style at points, but the band also have plenty of moments where they up the intensity and volume, all without losing touch with their chosen style. Added to this is an emotional, cathartic edge that makes Thumbsucker a satisfying, rewarding listen that will appeal to fans of bands like Football, etc.
Despite only being eighteen minutes long, Thumbsucker is the kind of record that feels much longer (in a positive sense). The very songs each have their own identity, and whilst Ensslin never stray far from the core sound of indie-emo, there’s enough talent and passion on display for that not to be an issue. Opener ‘Humiliation’ adds a little bit of DC emo in to the mix, with a gentle introduction filled with scratchy guitar sounds giving way to a (relatively, for the style) crashing opening proper, the song moving with energy and drive, especially in the guitars – the frantic riffs as the song comes to its conclusion is one of the highlights of Thumbsucker.
As the record goes on, Ensslin show themselves to be a multi-faceted band. ‘Realm of Fancy’ is a noisy, energetic blast for much of its duration, until the second half moves in to more subdued territories; whilst ‘Intimacy’ has a sense of melancholy to it, most notably in the vocals – it’s this aspect that makes it my favourite track on the record. ‘Lotus-eater’ has an almost Slint-like post-rock feel for its first few minutes, whilst closer ‘Not Your Reflection’ wastes no time, launching straight in to full-blooded guitars and emotional vocal lines right from the start. The track has a dark punk energy throughout, but it’s balanced well against more sedate, gentle movements that give the track a great sense of contrast, and its five minute duration races by.
All of this makes Thumbsucker a record that is both enjoyable and emotional, feeling equally suited for hazy summer afternoons with friends and introspective autumnal evenings alone. It’s an exciting record, relaxing and energetic in equal amounts, and it’s hard not to be won over by its charms.