Needle Drop: Ex Libras, “Woe” EP

When Ex Libras burst on to the scene in 2009, it felt that there was little that could stop their rise to greatness. They consistently packed out London venues, the UK music press made all of the right noises, and their debut album Suite(s) is still a DIY masterpiece, recorded and produced by the band themselves in a space they only refer to as “The Shed.” They soon followed up the album with their EP “Cut(s),” then promptly disappeared, Willy Wonka style, leaving in their wake a criminally short collection of songs.

Our radar started pinging last year when a little bird told us there was a second album set for a new year’s release. If we’re honest, like our high school love affairs, we’d barely thought about Ex Libras and were more than a little surprised to hear that a) they were still together and b) they were still writing material. 2014 was going to be the year that they came back. Then nothing. The trail went cold.

Sure, there were gigs, but the elusive second album had disappeared and become a whispered rumour passed around music writers desperately trying to find out if somebody had managed to get their hands on a promo.

Finally, the Ex Libras’ newswire sprang into life again and their EP “Woe” was officially announced. We are here to tell you that it is good. Easily three of the best songs the band have recorded.

Opening title track “Woe” slaps the dust of the past half decade off the band’s instruments with a well-balanced, epically produced and distortion laden tune that focuses Amit Sharma’s voice into a razor-sharp sliver of noise that pierces the velvet curtain of Kieran Nagi’s keys and Ross Kenning’s insane drumming. They are most definitely back, and on top form.

“Leap Of Faith” is a puzzling in its positioning on the EP, as it very much sounds like it should be an opener, and feels somewhat out of place as track two. However, track listing aside, if any song displays how the band have evolved during their hiatus, this is it. It blends dizzying euphoric post rock highs with wall of sound lows, each member pushing their instrument to the very limit of what can be reproduced live.

To let you catch your breath, “Drive” dials down the euphoria with a stripped down and chilled vocally driven tune that harks back to Ex Libras’ earlier releases. It adds a much welcome contrast to the first two tracks and would have worked perfectly as the EP’s closer. However, bafflingly, there is still one more track to go—and it’s inclusion on the release is a bit of a puzzler.

Five years should be enough time to gather enough material for a couple of albums, let alone a single EP. So why “Underachiever” as a closing track? We love the new production, and there’s no denying the song sounds better than ever, but surely there had to be something more current that could have made the final cut.

As a whole, the release feels somewhat thrown together with little consideration for pacing and flow. Which, to give Ex Libras’ the benefit of the doubt, isn’t necessarily the band’s fault. For all we know some suit somewhere was desperate to get something out and just decided to throw some songs on to a CD. I really wish we could have got our hands on the album that should have been (if it even exists in any kind of real form), as one can’t help but wonder if this EP is just a teasing taste of something that would have been a lot more substantial.

Discounting our gripes with the track-listing and the inclusion of old material, we whole heartedly recommend you pick this up. Taken on their own, every song included on “Woe” is a powerful reminder of just how talented these three musicians are. So switch off the lights, turn up the stereo, and get ready for something truly spectacular.

“Woe” is out now via Firebird Records.

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