You might be wondering why there have been so many of these lately. Some of it has to do with backlog; post rock is a notoriously hard genre to parse, sparse as it is, requiring more time from my ears to translate into words. But some of it is also to do with the sheer amount of interesting post rock that has been released this year. The true beauty of the volume of releases is its quality and variety. There have been great releases from more “classical” post rock bands, like Heron or Ranges, as well as releases doing new and interesting things with the formula, like Afformance or This Patch of Sky. Alongside these younger bands, we’ve also seen the successful return of massively important bands like sleepmakeswaves and Mogwai who have continued to grow their sound and solidify their legacy.
We’ll cover these trends more in depth as we near the year’s end but, for now, it’s safe to say that there’s a spirit of revival running through the oft-beleaguered genre. Adding to this revivification which, if we’re being honest, properly started last year or even a year before that, are Australian Echotide. Echotide, containing Michael Gagen (ex-Arcane) alongside Matthew Martin and Samuel Mead, are in a precarious position. Their first release was five years ago and while they have a host of side projects associated with their name, 2017’s Into the Half Light was a true litmus test for their sticking power. Will this release stand above the crop or, like many post rock releases in the last half decade or so, disappear into the genre’s suffocation tropes?
Gladly, the answer is very much the former. Into the Half Light is an interesting act in alchemy; instead of shying away from the basic post rock ingredients, it transmutes them. By adding interesting structure and more diverse ideas, driven by the prominent piano and synths on the album, the album manages to stir away from the cliche while still echoing the basic appeal of post rock. Let us examine this statement in more detail. The opening two tracks, the title track and “Another Road” are classic post rock affairs. They feature tremolo picking which immediately echoes Mono (especially the second track) and a structure which, while it doesn’t completely conform to the crescendo structure, definitely echoes post rock sensibilities. They set the tone for the album immediately and signify its genre very clearly.
But then “Her Back to the Sun”, my personal favorite track, is suddenly this hopeful, electronically robust track, displaying ideas more akin to the early phases of sleepmakeswaves’s career. The synths are incredibly prominent in the mix and blend with guitar leads to create the title’s namesake, a sort of rising sun sensation that is hard to resist. Further down the album, we find what is almost this track’s polar opposite; while “New Beacons Cast Into Old Horizons” definitely contains a crescendo, the build up to it is quite unique. Instead of slowly building up, it spends most of its initial runtime on the verge of drone or ambient music, with only the hints of music to usher us closer to the middle of the track. Near its culmination, these hints intensify and the music sort of emerges from the starting passages before metamorphosing into the meat of the track.
There are other unique positions along this album’s runtime, but I’ll leave some of the discovery to you. Suffice it to say, for now, that Echotide have successfully made their mark on this year’s post rock landscape with a release very much in control of its own identity and style. There’s plenty here which will appeal to the die hard fan, looking for the common denominators of the genre, but also a lot that is new, refreshing and challenging. Stay tuned for a longer Post Rock Post in which we take a look back at 2017 and what is has brought the genre; it’s safe to say you’ll see Echotide’s name there once again, as their bold effort at a second release makes the annals of this brilliant year for post rock and music in general.