I have sympathy for those who say that post-rock is dead; I really do. It’s not an untenable position and I don’t even think that it’s a wrong one. I’m aware this contradicts my efforts on this blog, having written dozens of posts over the last few years in praise of the genre. But hear me out here: what I think that’s happened is that post-rock as it originally existed definitely died. It was smothered in the cool blanket of crescendo-core, choked by the fever of repetition and stock sounds. However, nature never really accepts death as the penultimate end we humans like to make of it; instead, death is often the bed on which life grows. So too with post-rock. As the old giants withered away, the fields of their demise became a fertile ground for the fermentation of something new. Post-rock is dead; long live post-rock!
For those willing to rummage through those fecund fields, there’s plenty to appreciate in this new life, springing to action for a decade now. A good example is Talons, whose experimental take on the genre and unique timbre makes a resplendent return and rebirth on their latest album, We All Know. The first half of the album is a more condensed version of that sound, leaning heavily on noise rock and other, chunkier genres for its punch and impact. Thus, tracks like “On Levels” and “Movements on Seven”, channel a more urgent, industrial sound that reminds us at times of Stateless by way of early Long Distance Calling, a kind of urgent post-rock that’s more abrasive and compact for that urgency, even when it builds up and releases slowly.
However, anyone who has ever heard Talons knows that there’s no way an album of theirs will only do one thing, will only approach their music in one way. Talons have always taken pleasure in changing things mid-stride and We All Know is no exception. In fact, the powerful “Movements on Seven” is a kind of watershed moment for the album. The following track, “Long Reading Room”, brings the strings back to the center and turns up the poignancy a few levels while also expanding the reach of the sound into the upper and lower ranges of the scale. Now we’re on ground more akin to This Patch of Sky but with Talons’ unique approach to how such a style should be constructed. The following “Southern Shade” builds on this mood shift, deepening its exploration of a more seated melancholy, now accompanied by dexterous drums and the rest of the instrumentation.
From there, We All Know will weave back and forth between its first part and the latter. The strings and melancholy weave with the more coiled energy of the early passages to return some of the fierceness to the album (check out “Over and Again”, which contains what is probably Talons’ heaviest and most ponderous guitar lines alongside some of their most beautiful and tear-wrenching string parts). The end result is, once again, a brilliant album by a band who refuse to sit still in the landscape of our post post-rock age but would rather ask themselves hard questions like “why are we still making this kind of music?”, “what do we love about it?” and, most importantly, “what can be changed?”. If you’d like to hear their answer, all you need to do is play this album; you’ll find it’s a verbose one.
We All Know releases on the 27th of July on the mighty Holy Roar Records. Head on over to the Bandcamp link above to pre-order it.