Norway’s The Billion Trillions are, ironically, a fairly understated band – although I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not. Playing loosely within the post-rock genre, the band’s interpretation of the style is more akin to extended alt-rock jams with a slightly spaced out feel. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just strange. They’re hardly reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, or Slint, or Tortoise, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor or any other giants of the genre. If anything, I was actually reminded of obscure Melbourne trio TV Telepath, a similarly alt-rocky band who played a spacey and post-punky kind of Tool worship for about 3 months back in 2015. And after googling other Norwegian post-rock bands, I’m reminded of the existence of a band by the rather twee name of Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson. They were pretty great. Maybe if I had to describe The Billion Trillions’ style by referencing other bands I could say that they’re a blockier, more minimal version of Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson – plus TV Telepath. For the three people who’ve heard of both bands, I hope that’s helpful.
For everyone else – The Billion Trillions play a style of post-rock that is jammy, song-oriented and just bassy enough to avoid being twinkly. The songs on their self-titled debut EP are all mid-pace alt-rock jams with extended instrumental sections, and there’s a lot of personality in each musical motif. The band wonderfully makes the most of their trio set-up through some pretty great bass/guitar interplay, and a lot of the best parts of the album are parts in which the bass and the guitar are interweaving with each other almost as if they were the same instrument. There are vocals – making The Billion Trillions somewhat unique in the pantheon of post-rock – which function not as a way to build atmosphere but more in the usual way in that they are meant to be the focal point of the music when they do pop up. The Billion Trillions is no Oceansize and the lyrics and singing are nothing to write home about, but the presence of vocals is still welcome because they help keep the songs anchored down and prevent them from getting too meandering – plus they’re fairly catchy, Consumerism and Bullies Get Cursed getting stuck in my head pretty quickly. At a brief 25 minutes, the album goes down nice and easy as well. If that description has them sound like something you’d like I’d stop reading here, go give it a listen, and make up your own mind about the album. Then come back.
Because if there was just one album that demonstrated the importance of your production choices, it’s this one. Sadly, the production on the album doesn’t really do the music justice, and actively makes the album an unpleasant experience at points. The main detractor here is the fact that the music sounds clean to the point of being sterile, and in a genre like post-rock that is something that I found hard to swallow. Each instrument sounds produced to the point where they barely seem to interact with each other anymore and although the recording quality does make it clear how talented the band are as musicians (with nary a bum note to be found anywhere on the EP), post-rock is still a genre that thrives on sonic variety, so the lack of any real grit to the sound is regrettable. The guitar tones, even when distorted, sound like they’ve been scrubbed clean and it prevents the music from sounding heavy at all. The same can be said of the drums (and the bass, but it’s much less noticeable there), which sound almost like they’re being played on a machine with how the bass and snare overpower the cymbals, of which any wash has been thoroughly contained. Thankfully, the compression on the drums isn’t quite as bad as the guitar, and you can hear the drums bringing some different dynamics to tracks like Disco Heroes – but that doesn’t help much. There’s little to separate the quiet bits from the soft bits on a sonic level, and that prevents the band from creating the tension of release; everything sounds exactly levelled out and the songs don’t seem to really progress anywhere from beginning to end. Which is a shame, because I think if the songs were allowed some room to breathe, this would have been a very good album.
Still, there’s potential in this band. I think if they could try getting a more natural sound next time (or even getting this album remixed) they could present some quality post-rock. As it is now – it’s a little bland.
CHECK OUT THE BILLION TRILLIONS SELF-TITLED EP ON SPOTIFY HERE!