Beware Of Safety
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Beware Of Safety

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Beware of Safety has shown up on the scene with an epic full-length debut called Dogs which falls squarely within the dramatic build-and-release brand of post-rock perfected over ten years ago by Mogwai and subsequently rehashed by Explosions in the Sky and subtly expanded on by Mono. It is absolutely free of vocals and filled with crisp production and technically proficient instrumental performances. The effects pedals are set on pensive-yet-aching and there are many dynamic shifts to be had. Unfortunately, Dogs is also a soulless beast, following all the rules but forgetting to fashion any memorable tunes in the process.

Lead track “Nu Metal” fades in mysteriously for a minute before a fairly run of the mill three or four note melody dings in and repeats for three minutes over backgrounded stark lead guitar figures. The track then fades to a whisper for a minute with more weak 3-4 note guitar noodling bubbling up from the ether, which slowly builds and builds into another pause. More soft noodling around the same notes and some Doogie Howser keyboard hold up the next two or three minutes of the song. At the 7:45 mark, there is finally a somewhat memorable little riff that does a little ascending jump high on the neck. At 8 and a half minutes, the song explodes with intensity for a minute and a half, maintaining the memorable little riff amid the noise. The chords then vibrate and drone out for another minute until the song hits the ten and a half minute mark. This happens in different combinations and with mild variations about ten times over the course of this marathon album.

Hardcore fans of this sort of pensive, dramatic post-rock might be able to lap this up better than I can, simply because the band seem to have quickly mastered this particular sound. It just seems like there is no meat to the individual tunes, no focal point to depart from and return to, like an album full of bridges with no verses or choruses to grasp onto. The old two-note high-to-low repeating sequence can’t sustain interest for a whole song, let alone over more than an hour of music.

The key to making a great album in this style is to take the lesson learned from the dynamics of one song and apply it to the album as a whole. The listener pretty much knows that eventually every song in this genre is going to have a slower, quiet part that is going to get really loud and abrasive. Post-rock lovers have come to “expect the unexpected” so to speak. Performing this catharsis routine repeatedly with little variation in production values, instrumentation, or overall pattern simply makes for a boring full-length album. Any style overdone turns into background music. A little depth and variation isn’t that much to ask, especially of people who seem to put as much time and energy into their music a Beware of Safety seem to on Dogs. Change things up with a bass-led number, maybe bang out some commanding piano chords for a few minutes, or simply check in every once in awhile with a slow burner to ask the listener if they R still in 2 it. Yes, you may be a long way from home, but you’ll feel more strongly for it. - Greg Argo

Dogs should come packaged with a training manual. Its metal-ish, heady post-rock is quite the musical hike. Beware Of Safety have created a marathon, but I don’t say that because Dogs runs well over an hour. I say it because the songs are challenging, tiring and completely worthwhile. I’ve never run a marathon, for obvious reasons, but I have a hunch that there’s an urgent adrenaline rush pushing the runner to do it all over again. That exhilaration certainly occurs after “O’Canada” hits its final warbling notes. Sweat is everywhere, the walls are stained with blood, and you’re hitting repeat.

Despite their lack of lyrical themes or mind-melting hooks, the best post-rock releases allow me to paint a coherent picture. There’s certainly similarities entwined throughout each of Dogs’ 10 songs, like the eerie reverb of “Nu Metal” or “The Supposed Common.” However, Beware Of Safety have a knack for lightening their world-destroying drums with intricate guitar picking or classical string compositions (“Raingarden”). It’s a bleak world, sure, but there’s always plenty of melody shining through the heavy-handed chaos. “Hexa” embodies this dichotomy since its middle section is filled with wall-bursting noise and its daintily composed tail section is anchored by piano tinkling. Right when listeners headbang themselves into headache, BoS offer reprieve.

While most songs are epic in length, BoS show an affinity for creating concise pieces without foregoing any of their signature drama. “Circa” and “Light Of Day” need little time to jump from sections of swampy basslines and spastic drumming to instances of psychedelic freak outs. Those songs may squash things together, but that doesn’t mean they are any less dynamic than a long-winded number like “The Laughter Died.” This song’s spacey vibe is definitely melancholic, but the way each despairing moment resolves, to me at least, sounds hopeful. The laughter died, and yet, it lives on.

Dogs is heavy. Dogs is not everyday fare. But I’ll tell you what, Dogs is as tight as instrumental records come. Each song paints a grand scene more ambitious than the last. Beware Of Safety don’t play pansy instrumental music; you won’t be sitting in front of the speakers saying, “Are they even playing anything?” Headphones are encouraged but not necessary. Beware Of Safety successfully meld moments of hard rock with ethereal noodling, and in the process create an album where 10 unique songs become one completely awe-inspiring album. - Blake Solomon

The tracks (on dogs) are orchestrated magnificently, creating a consistently grandiose feel. Songs such as “The Supposed Common” and “Hexa,” among others, have progressions in such a way as to weave a story as the song goes on. Even though I would recommend a quality set of speakers or headphones for any music, it is especially important with these guys. There are plenty of intricacies that make this a very pleasurable listen, many of which might be missed when heard through your usual white, fruit-branded earbuds.
- Ross Solomon

Back in February of last year, I wrote my first proper review for a student-run newsletter I’d been asked to contribute something to. The record I chose was one I had bought after having read James Ould’s review a couple of weeks earlier and had absolutely fallen in love with, by this exciting new band Beware of Safety. My review was filled with all manner of half-hearted humour and facile attempts at witty descriptions, with such gems as “post-rock with more gonads than Auntie Gertrude” inducing particularly painful cringes over a year and a half later.

In that time I like to kid myself that I have become at least slightly more mature and confident as a reviewer and so it feels rather fitting now to have been assigned to review Beware of Safety’s sophomore release (and first full-length). This is not only because one would hope that increased maturity and confidence might be the hallmarks of a band’s second record, but also because it might hopefully give me the chance to do a band for whom I have great expectations a touch more justice than my first pitiful attempt.

It is Curtains is not a record which had ever before struck me as displaying any lack of maturity or confidence, and to be fair I still don’t think that to say as much would be completely true. However, upon first getting dogs and playing it immediately after having listened to the whole of It is Curtains, the change is fairly astounding. There is no overbearing and easy-to-pinpoint way in which BoS have changed – the guitars and FX pedals have not been swapped for ukuleles and penny whistles and their sound remains ostensibly post-rock – but a multitude of small alterations and an apparent change of approach make for an incredible difference.

Unforgettable yet subtle melodies reverberate throughout the entirety of the album, which for me is where many similarly-inclined bands often fall down. With the more derivative of post-rock acts, there seems to be an inclination towards pretty harmonies in the quiet sections and plain loud noises (ie; crashing cymbals, scuzzy guitars and general flailing) in the more climactic sections, which unfortunately comes with a dearth of memorable melodies. No such problem here, where even atop walls of distortion (as in “Step or Stone”), glorious hooks ring forth like you wouldn’t believe. Another example comes in the title track itself, which is an astoundingly beautiful piece of just less than 3 minutes for acoustic guitar, piano and tremolo- and reverb-drenched slide guitar. It sounds straight out of the more tear-jerking side to Ry Cooder’s back catalogue, and the melody played by the slide guitar is one of those incredibly rare ones that will permanently embed itself in your consciousness and consistently drag you back to hear it just one more time. Aural crack, if you will.

Guitarist Steve Molter mentioned in his interview with Mac Nguyen that their drummer Morgan was new at the time of recording It is Curtains, and although it never impeded my enjoyment of the record I do think that this occasionally became noticeable in parts where the drums didn't sound as tight as they could have done. Again, another small but important change with dogs is the way in which the whole band now works together as a particularly cohesive unit. This is as much due to the mixing of the record as it is to the playing and arranging of the band themselves - the harmonies and rhythms work wonderfully on their own, as well as each and every one of them being given the necessary space to shine in what could have turned into a fairly cramped mix (see the latest God Is An Astronaut release for an idea of how hideously over-crowded things can otherwise get!) - Fred Bevan

A serious glut of instrumental, post-metal bands have been appearing more rapidly every year of the new century. It seems obvious that the whole genre is about due to be enter its important herd-thinning period. It usually happens gradually—and sometimes painfully—with plenty of pretension to go around. But this process is an important one for any sub-genre hoping to gain long-term survival. Every sixteen year-old kid can thank an earlier generation for undertaking this collective process. It’s the reason that they don’t have to sit through Anti-Flag before getting to London Calling. No more dry humping with with all the hangers-on, before honing in on the strongest specimens. LA’s Beware of Safety have stamped their ticket well into the later rounds of any genre purging with dogs; their massive second record. But, they seem totally exempt from the whole charade anyway. First, their music is more heavily-rooted in Pink Floyd’s precise grandeur than any post-Neurosis bong/riff session. They have the dynamic, instrumental part of it going, though any influence from metal is incidental; three or four degrees of separation away. Secondly, while only one member grew up there, Beware of Safety is based in Los Angeles. This grants them a geographical exemption from much of the sub-genre as well. They couldn’t really be further from any of the stronger scenes for instrumental rock music. Right in the middle of the land of two or three million aspiring front-men, and they never went looking for one. All members of Beware of Safety’s three-guitar core originally met in and around Boston. At the tail end of the 1990s, Steve Molter and Adam Kay filled the guitar contingent in a band called Chambers. The band, according to Molter, “sounded kind of like Tool or Pearl Jam...” Both were generally not feeling it and quit the band after a handful of shows. After all this, with college finished and no band, both Molter and Kay relocated to Los Angeles. By the Fall of 2003, they had begun piecing together a new project from the opposite corner of the country. While the two were trying out people to form this new band, mutual friend Jeff Zemina also ended up in LA. Zemina, was a guitarist as well, so Beware Of Safety was born as a trio. Of guitars. By 2005, they had added drummer Morgan Hendry,—also from the Northeast—though they connected in LA through Craigslist.This configuration wrote and recorded their debut EP, It Is Curtains an then dogs, before the eventual addition of bassist Tad Piecka earlier this year. The addition of Piecka will alter Beware of Safety’s sound, though the lack of bass did not hurt their approach on dogs. There are hints of Pink Floyd’s atmospheric rock, with Explosions in the Sky’s, no-nonsense, melodic-but-never-poppy guitar lines in everything BofS does. But they manage, even without a bass player, to present an imposing wave of sound as well. Any era of Mogwai will come to mind, though in form more than function. This is, at its core, what Beware of Safety is all about. It’s heavy, but never metal. Ambitious and cinematic, but never theatrical or over-the top. There are huge dynamic and tempo shifts in almost every song, but they rarely happen suddenly or arbitrarily. A careful attention to detail is obvious, though the more than an hour of dogs took even longer to construct than you might guess: “... over the course of all of 2008, basically. We recorded the drums in one weekend at the end of 2007, which seemed insane but Morgan pulled it off. And then we recorded guitars and everything else off and on from January until June of 2008. Then we were mixing and mastering from June until October. We have realized over the last three and a half years that when we give ourselves an unlimited amount of time to do something, we will take up that unlimited amount of time. We spent a lot of time on our first record, but we still recorded it very shotgun. We didn’t use click tracks, we just sort of jammed it. But on dogs we really wanted to get serious about it. We did a lot of pre-production and ended up basically recording the whole record twice– first on our own and then with our engineer. We didn’t really want it to take a year, but it did and we realized it was taking a long time about halfway through but decided we didn’t want to rush it.”For better and worse, at least 90% of similar bands to Beware Of Safety can be traced directly back to one of two things; either a real ambient, Godspeed-style thing, or right back to Neurosis. Sometimes it’s some combination of the two, but it’s rarely neither. BofS certainly have elements of both, but you don’t fall into either camp in a meaningful way...“That’s a good observation, we really don’t have any metal elements, at least not to my knowledge. There are a couple times where we get pretty heavy, but it’s more like a slow-rolling heavy. I wanted to write instrumental music from the time I left Chambers in Boston. Dealing with singers just became a bit too mu - Anderson

Beware of Safety’s brand of instrumental rock
collects influences from a number of places, none of
which seem to include their native Los Angeles. Their
winding, slow-developing epics will earn them equally
quick, apt and incomplete comparisons to Explosions In
The Sky or Red Sparowes. They also use big, but glacially
paced dynamic swings that nod toward Mogwai or
Yume Bitsu. But there is more to it than that. Some of
the guitar riffs have a feel and tone that are obviously
informed by Built To Spill and Dinosaur Jr more than
recent peers.
The pieces that Beware of Safety constructs these six
songs with are pretty easy to nail down. But the way they put those pieces together is smooth, while being
subtly unpredictable. This is partly because the length
of each part varies from song to song and section to
section. The resulting songs seem sort of oddly shaped
and uncomfortable on the first listen. After a few more
listens, this variation adds another layer to all of the
songs here. Without even a subconscious idea of when
the next riff might arrive–let alone what it will be–each
song takes on a life of its own. In a crowded subgenre,
that’s the most a new band can hope for. - Anderson

Who: Beware of Safety
What: "Step or Stone"
Where: Dogs, out Jan. 19 (The Mylene Sheath)
Sounds like: Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky
Spiel: Although it only formed as 2005 expired, this Los Angeles-based instrumental riff factory has had an inspired career so far. Its self-released 2006 EP, It Is Curtains, took college radio by storm, and this fine debut’s anthem "The Supposed Common" has showed up in Jonathan Dillon’s film Fight Night. Extensive tour dates for 2009 are being hammered out as you read, so check them out if you’re looking for a band to clean out the cobwebs in your head. -


dogs (CD / LP)
The Mylene Sheath
January 2009

It is Curtains (LP)
The Mylene Sheath
October 2007

It Is Curtains (CD)
Self Released
January 2007

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Beware of Safety made the conscious choice to create instrumental music.

To create sounds that words could not express.

To leave out the vocal monologue that is without interpretation or insight, but instead, create music which traverses emotional and textural hollows that teeter between concealment and proclamation; between rapture and affliction; between conviction and deprivation; between opulence and destitution; between choice and coercion; between boldness and apathy.

Beware of Safety calls the unspeakable from it's hiding place and imparts it to their listeners with gentle tact and deliberate action.

The inexpressible has found it's voice.