Review: Codices ‘Vivid’

As 2021 is reaching its climax, it would be easy to look toward 2022 now, full of hope, and want to draw a line under yet another insanely ridiculous year. After starting under a national lockdown, and the thought that we may never see the light again. With the prospect of no live shows, or the chances for any bands to come together, and record anything worth listening to, it left things looking very bleak indeed.

Codices 'Vivid'

Now, eleven months later, and it would seem that the world is starting to come to terms with this new regime we find ourselves in. Trying to find some level of what used to be perfectly normal, now sees vaccination passports, and mask-wearing, as part of the norm. Thankfully, if you’re willing to follow the rules in place, it’s possible to start experiencing something of normality once again.

What this meant for me, personally, was that in September, I got to go to the rescheduled Portals Festival, in London. While there, I had the opportunity to meet, and chat with the organisers, of what is possibly the loveliest small festival that’s out there on the planet.

Imagine then, to my surprise, that two of the organisers of Portals, Asher Kenton and Sam Festenstein, are themselves in the band Codices. Now, expand that even further, and learn that they, Codices, have recently released their debut album, Vivid. Finding all this out, I took the plunge and got hold of a copy to see for myself what has been created by these guys who I had recently enjoyed some time with. I was in no way ready for just what I was about to experience.

Vivid is an absolutely mind blowing nine tracks of instrumental wizardry, the likes of which I really was not prepared for, at all. By its nature, the music of Codices is somewhat experimental. It’s not quite exclusively math rock, and by the same token, its not quite post-rock either. What it is, is the result of a massive outpouring of creative ideas, the offspring of unique technical abilities, and the culmination of a lot of well thought out ideas, mixed in with a subtlety in overlaying soundscapes, to create something which is both vivacious and wondrous, in equal measure.

Usually, I’m a big fan of music that has a vocal presence. Everything from warbly indie singers, to guttural screeching, as long as it’s done well, I’m right there. Occasionally I will dive into an instrumental act, both Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky both really set me off, but after a while, I long for more. After seeing Mogwai perform live, it left me cold, and I didn’t think an instrumental act would ever truly keep my attention for a considerable length of time. Until now.

Vivid is an absolutely mind blowing nine tracks of instrumental wizardry…

Over the course of the album, the one thing that I’m missing, yet I’m also not really concerned with, is the absence of a vocal. The exception is during the track Illuminate, a particular highlight for me, where there is a spoken word passage, and actually, that’s when it hits me it’s actually the alien object in the mix, not the absence. Illuminate is the track I go back to several times, as it really is such an incredible piece of art.

Elsewhere tracks such as Machines Driving Machines, and Virtuality really encapsulate just how exciting Codices can be. Somewhat disjointed, the guitars are playful, and at times off in their own little world. At other moments they effortlessly come together and take us on a trip. Throughout both tracks, you can physically feel the pressure build, and with the high-octane guitar work, and impeccable drum patterns, it certainly gets the blood pumping. The pace, and sheer dexterity of the guitar work, is really something to behold.

Desire Path is another standout moment for me personally. A pulsing guitar introduction ushers in this vibrant piece, and alongside the rhythmic drumming, is a joy to behold. Thankfully, this doesn’t take anything away from the remainder of the album. Each track has been lovingly created, and you can both hear, and feel that, as it plays through. There is no weak point throughout the run time, and by the end I found myself restarting it without even thinking twice.

The other thing I noticed that with each play through is the album has just grown and grown on me over the last couple of weeks. The quality of the musicianship is phenomenal, and the body of the work truly shows just how much time, effort, and love, has been invested in creating it.

It isn’t very often I will overly promote an instrumental album, but this album is a little beauty. For a debut it feels like it’s been created by musicians with decades of experience, so to read that they’ve only existed for half a decade was a surprise, but you can’t knock talent. Truly an incredible start, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Label: Beth Shalom Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish