There are musical moments in your life which change it immediately; you’re thunderstruck as an album which you just know will accompany you for years plays for the first time. This happened to me this week when a good friend recommended what he called “one of the most well kept secrets of post rock”. Now, I’m a simple man: if I see a title based on a science fiction book (The Years of Rice and Salt is an alternate history novel written by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson), I click. And goddamn, am I happy I did. Years of Rice & Salt haven’t released a lot of music but what’s there is simply masterful and none is more masterful than “Nothing Of Cities”, their 2011 release. It’s a moving piece of cinematic post rock which, somehow, manages to be small, moving, grandiose and epic at the same time. It’s crescendo based post rock that still has a heart and direction. It’s simply wonderful.
Your journey begins with “Amongst Your Earthiest Words The Angels Stray” and from around the middle of the track, you already know this is something special. The influences are plenty and are worn on the sleeve, with Mono and yndi halda being the main ones. But something in the guitar tone is different and something in the composition immediately catches your attention. By the time the strings arrive, ushering in the outro of the track, your heart is wider and beating fast as the horns announce the true crescendo of the track. And yes, you’ve heard such crescendos a million times but this one is different. Listen to the choirs, listen to the horns, listen to how the composition ties everything together towards the eventual climax. This is post rock, yes, but the genre executed to such a degree that it transcends your expectations.
And this was the first track (discounting the mostly quiet intro). Ahead of you lie six more and they are all just as brilliant. I couldn’t write this post without talking about the last track which is, honestly, one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Here, the melancholic vibes are transformed into the glory and joy of dawn. Where many post rock albums use the end of the album to leave you forlorn, melancholic and pensive, Years of Rice & Salt leave you better than how they had found you. They leave on the highest of notes, with the force of the complete band charging through until the very last note, even if it is bracketed by a more solitary piano. Something of that impossible to contain quality of jubilance of the ending of it just sticks with you. It’s like a cup spilling over; the water is poured slowly, encroaching on the brim, but once it tips over, it all floods out at once. Or something. Just listen to this album, OK? I think I’ll be writing about it for years to come.