While there’s no questioning the broad scope of Constants’ conceptual epic The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension, it’s a little difficult to access it on any consequential emotional level.
The Boston-based trio is certainly capable of producing textured atmospherics, of course. Rob Motes, Orion Wainer, and Will Benoit have nearly perfected the art of snaking arrangements and long instrumental passages, but something about the final result seems to pack punch and ultimate essence.
The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension is divided into three suites. According to the band’s MySpace page, the concept covers a “being called Damien who exists in one place and is eternally searching for another.”
“Genetics Like Chess Pieces” opens the record and the album’s first suite (“The Foundation”) with a distorted, fuzzy vibe that resembles the spacious Deftones. Benoit’s guitar and programming sets up the mood and Motes’ drums clatter through the fuzz, establishing roomy momentum that doesn’t go anywhere.
As a vocalist, Benoit doesn’t stand out. His vocals melt into the arrangements like yet another sonic layer, providing no entry point for listeners who can’t quite grasp the tale of Damien and his search for “another place.”
The second suite, “The Machine,” is a little more forceful but still lacks impact. A swell of distorted, secluded guitar pipes in from a distant world to begin “The Nameless” and the song flutters like a lost butterfly. Benoit’s vocals resemble afterthoughts, however, and come across a touch redundant.
At times, The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension feels like an exercise rather than a natural extension of art. The Constants come across as pointlessly ostentatious, packing layers and landscapes into spaces to the extent of sounding self-important. While some might applaud this brand of winding post-rock, the intrinsic lack of substance remains a problem.
“The Ascension,” the third suite, picks up the pace a little more. It is the best suite on the record, nearly succeeding at swallowing up the listener with sound on the two-part “Abraxas” and locating urgency on “…passage.”
While the Constants are intelligent, skilled musicians capable of creating open spaces, their lack of emotion and connection to the material creates a sense of distance and disinterest. The music feels like it is being played for the sake of it rather than for the love of it, leading to an experience that, despite being sonically notable at times, is ultimately detached.