[CD – Little Plastic Tapes 05 – May 2003]
Printed on c.d. in a run of 1,000.
Hot Press Magazine – Review By Tanya Sweeney
Along with the likes of Jimmy Behan, Joan of Arse and Damien Frost, Estel are the much undervalued and underexposed anti-christs to the Frames, Mundy and Damien Rice�s hand-minging preachings.
This largely instrumental album, which is cut from the same cloth as the Redneck Manifesto and Godspeed You Black Emperor, is infused with a certain darkness, yet is stripped down, unpretentious, a beacon of lo-fi loveliness. It draws from an array of influences, uses various instruments to wonderous and unusual effect, and even the song titles display a gloriously unorthodox approach – where ‘Bang Bang No More Martini�, �King of Casual Vomit� and �Free Cyanide for the Rock Star Elite� originated from simply boggles the mind.
Their manifesto is, gladly, not to reach out to a mass audience willing to swallow any old record, but to address those who welcome a dash of Trans Am, Slits and Sonic Youth in their music. Needless to say, it�s a small, but perfectly formed audience, and they�ve been well rewarded. (7/10)
RTE ARTS website – Review By Sin�ad Gleeson
‘Post-rock’ is one of those nebulous terms often bandied about to describe instrumental, noisy guitar bands (see Redneck Manifesto). Dublin-based Estel are often tarred with just such a musical brush. Keen to sidestep this generality, the follow-up to their acclaimed debut ‘Angelpie I Think I Ate Your Face’, shows Estel to be supreme genre criss-crossers – and it’s not all instrumental.
Building on their post-punk noise retrospectives, they layer a huge range of instruments and styles to create a sound not much heard (or done so well) in Irish music today. ‘Drive Me To Hell’ kicks off with Andrew Bushe’s pounding drum intro before the grinding guitars roll in. It’s frantic stuff but then the pace switches completely with ‘Angels Pass Over At Twenty Past’.
With more than a nod to the keyboard quirkiness of the B-52s, this is rockabilly chic meets sci-fi kitsch. ‘The Girl Who Was Normal�’ is a fractious epic of twisted pockets of loud and quiet. One notable development from ‘Angelpie�’ is that the band have learned to temper their sound – if the guitars and drums sound like they’re taking over, Sarah Sheil’s sublime keyboards interject with style.
When an instrumental outfit enlists the help of guest vocalists, the results can pique curiosity, not just for the sound but the choice of singer. In this case, the two vocal tracks are very different contributions. The sombre, pensive tones of Adrian Crowley on ‘Electric Eels’ is an unexpected collaboration but it works well. In contrast, Hugh Holmes of The Waltons fronts the full-on aural assault of ‘My Raymond Is Contagious’, a track that grates from the opening screech.
The band themselves are not afraid to cite Krautrock as an influence and this is most obvious on the experimental antics of ‘King Of Casual Vomit’ and the retro keyboards of ‘Nuisance Midget’. Close your eyes and listen to ‘Only Some Are Shepherds’, and you could be listening to early Joy Division.
The excellently titled ‘I Have Drown Eyes’ is probably the best song on the album. Beautifully orchestrated, each instrument stands out and builds to form a perfect whole. There aren’t many bands toeing the instrumental line in Irish music. Too often it’s easier to draft in an average singer, fearing the music alone won’t stand up by itself. Not so with this band. This is an inventive assortment of tracks that wears its diverse influences proudly. Frequent faces on the live scene, Estel already have a dedicated following. If this album doesn’t win them an even bigger fanbase, there should be free cyanide for the non-believers�
Event Guide – Review By Dave Roberts
(Album received “Album of the Fortnight”)
Estel have been popping up on Road Relish, Lazybird, Foggy Notions, Ballroom of Romance and other compilations since the release of their snappily titled “Angelpie, I Think I Ate Your Face” album two and a half years ago. As such they’re stalwarts of an enthusiastic but often stifling underground scene.
This, their second album develop’s their sound considerably whilst still keeping both their feet in a late New Wave German Goth kind of sound, if you get what we mean. Too coherent and muscular to be post rock or lo fi and too dark to be just another jangly indie band, “A Guide in Time Of Great Danger” may not be their masterpiece but there’s certainly enough brave experimentation, fun and even some good tunes to lift it above the pack.
Opener “Drive me to Hell” starts with a tinny drum solo before bursting in to life and certainly reminds (as the press release says) of Can and Neu. There are moments where Estel could be mistaken for a New York indie band of the Eighties (Sonic Youth comes to mind more than a few times) but the highlight is Adrian Crowley’s vocal on the lovely “Electric Eels”, a wonderful acoustic song describing a city living in fear of a permanent flood. Closer “Free Cyanide For The Rock Star Elite” may be their best moment to date as the voice coder leans over a muscular workout, a throw back to the Eighties it may be (you can hear the Cure and Durriti Column) seeping through at every turn but Estel are developing a distinct and unique sound.
The sound of the underground… now that’s what we call indie…
Examiner – Leagues O’Toole
Sarah Sheil, Grainne Donohue, Andrew Bushe and Jamie Farrell have created a stylish and abrasive spectrum of art-rock, punk and wiry new wave sounds with an armoury of organs, pianos, guitars, effects, theremin and drums. Their new album, “A Guide in Time of Great Danger”, leaps way beyond anything they’ve done before.
It’s an album that is constantly evolving, changing, never resting in one particular tempo or sound for too long. You almost get the sense that Estel are playing live inside your CD player every time you press play…
…One of my favourites after repeated listens is ‘The Girl Who Was Normal Except When The Moon Was Out’. It starts steady and tentative, building a sense of expectancy and spooky anxiety for some five and a half minutes. Anyone looking for a sci-fi/horror/ thriller soundtrack could do a lot worse.
Collective Zine (UK) – Chris Bress
I never hear anything about Estel, and yet if they were from London or Manchester rather than Ireland I’m sure they�d be massive. They play dark indie rock which is so much more interesting than the current crop of NME bands. They would fit in really well in Nottingham, I can really imagine them playing gigs with Wolves of Greece, Punish the Atom, the Grips, Designer Babies and even Army of Flying Robots and sounding great. To me they sound a bit like Kling Klang as they have some definite Goblin moments but filtered through someone like (the American) Camera Obscura or even a little bit of Stereolab. Most tracks on this are instrumental so the tracks don�t get ruined by some silly indie pleb whining over the top and let their Doctor Who sci-fi indie just rock out in its own spacey way. The vocal tracks that are on this cd do however work, the singer sounds a little like Mark Kozelek (although not as good � but who is?).
Live, they were fucking great, so if you haven�t heard them send off a cheque and get this full length as its pretty fucking awesome!!
STNT (France) – Erwan
This new Irish rock combo (from Dublin) release a second record, more successfully realised than their first which came out 2 years ago… this one seeing a decided move into the realm of post-rock! Long passages approaching the hypnotic effect of 70s groups like Can or NEU with a modern guitar sound, that’s what the tone’s like. The musical vocabulary meanwhile angles towards noisy rock technique, with long tracks balancing psychedelia and “sci fi” atmospheres, where distorted guitar drags its feet between bass and keyboard/synthesiser (generating tones which are not always in the best possible taste… new wave and Tartempion). Pretty much successful tunes, 1 hour of music and therefore a record meant for those who have an ear for the Krautrock years, and who in particular aren’t afraid of instrumental rock (the dominant element here). Amateurs beware…
Eclectic Honey – Review by Michelle Dalton
Where Estel are concerned, post-rock seems far too lazy a tag to hang around their instrumental necks. A Guide in Time of Great Danger offers something much more expansive than that, whether it’s to be found in the unearthly death-rock exterior of opening track Drive Me To Hell or the array of cool electronics, which they lavish upon tracks like The Girl Who Was Normal Except�..When The Moon Was Out or Only Some Are Shepherds.
Songs like Nuisance Midget and King Of Casual Vomit instantly expose the band’s deep attention to detail in creating intricate instrumental pathways and carefully constructed labyrinths of keyboards, bass and guitar, coupled with elaborate and pounding drum beats, which are all fused together perfectly. To say that the closing and stand-out track Free Cyanide For the Rock Star Elite is of epic proportions is an understatement, offering an intense delivery that is consumed with both immense concentration and composure. The frenetic and ferocious My Raymond Is Contagious will already be familiar to some from its appearance on a previous 7″, but on A Guide In Time� the addition of vocals make it an even more vicious proposition.
For those who have already been converted to the realms of instrumental and post-rock workouts, A Guide In Time Of Great Danger is an essential addition, and for those who haven’t been hooked in yet, then this is quite possibly the album that will do so. Constantly changing allegiance between a hard-core post-punk aesthetic and a deep-rooted fragility, Estel effortlessly manage to offer both, with more style and substance than most, and that is ultimately what makes A Guide in Time of Great Danger such a stunning record.