I guess we’ve hit the doldrums of summer for new music, though you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell that by a look at our most recent Editors’ Picks and Death’s Door columns, which were positively overflowing with good new material. So I’ll revise that: I guess we’ve hit the doldrums of summer for new post-rock. I’m not sure what it is, but July proved to be a struggle to find many releases of note, though what did manage to rise to the top was pretty exceptional. Slower times like these though offer a perfect opportunity to take a look back at some of the bands making waves in the scene in the past year or so and remember why they’re so great, as well as catch up on some things you missed the first time around. And there’s no better vehicle for that than the compilation, which is what makes the timing of the latest edition of one of the best post-rock/metal compilations around from our friends and merch partners at A Thousand Arms impeccable!
Eden has already talked at length about A1KA’s comps before, which are divided into two titles for post-rock: Hemispheres – which divides bands by, you guessed it, northern and southern hemisphere – and Open Language – which focuses on US bands for one half and international for the other. I honestly cannot recommend to you strongly enough that you go through their Bandcamp page and simply familiarize yourself with all the bands featured. But for now, let’s talk about Open Language Vol. III, which honestly might as well be called Heavy Blog’s Approved Post-Rock and Metal Playlist with the sheer number of groups we’ve highlighted here in this column and on the site in general over time. On Side A, you’ve got bands like Tides of Man, Zaius, Pray For Sound, Whale Fall, Coastlands, Man Mountain, and Seeress pulling strong for Team USA. I also recommend checking out several of these bands I wasn’t already familiar with like Dawnlit and The World Has Bees. On the international side you’ve got even more recent PRP stars like Sunset Wrecks, Spurv, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, Aesthesys, Astodan, and Degree of Arc. I’ve already added Planisphere, Balkonur, and Indignu [lat.] to my to-listen list based on this comp, and I guarantee you’ll find just as many to add to your own. If you find yourself starting to doubt whether there’s any new interesting post-rock and metal being made out there, Open Language Vol. III should do wonders to restore your confidence.
As I mentioned at the top, we don’t have a ton of releases to talk about for this month’s column (and due to a Bandcamp date listing error, we wound up talking about Talons‘ most recent effort last month instead of this one, so that’s not helping), and the most significant one I already wrote a lengthy piece about in this month’s Editors’ Picks. Thankfully I’m not the only one who writes this, so you’ll get a different perspective from Eden on that album directly below, as well as a couple of other albums that managed to stick out for us!
Post-Topper: Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – No Tether
No Tether is one of the most aptly named albums I’ve seen in recently years but it might have just as well been named Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here. While Tangled Thoughts of Leaving have always been known for the crushingly depressive nature of some of their tracks (like “Downbeat” from their previous release which is….fuck) never before has a release of theirs been as systematically targeted psychological breakdown as this one. No Tether accomplishes this by appealing to the imagery evoked by the album’s name; the compositions on it feel more influenced by improvisation, chaos and emotional catharsis than ever before. From the first track, with its ending punctuated by hectic drums amidst burning static, through the impossibly loaded intonations of guitars and piano notes of “Signal Erosion” and the heart wrenching rebirth of that piano, drenched in the aquatic freeze of “Inner Dissonance”, all the way to the chaotic triumph of “Binary Collapse”, No Tether is exactly that; an album unhinged.
While it does have moments of the crushing heaviness that is expected of all post metal bands in this day and age, No Tether is way more concerned with dexterity amidst the noise than with pummeling strength. The aforementioned “Binary Collapse” is a great example of that; listen as a second track of piano works with the drums on the downstrokes alongside the main, agile piano lines which functions more as a lead instrument. The guitars, with their feedback and robust size, serve as the meat of the track, the medium upon which the more intricate groove section and pianos operate. This is all a set up however, for the more extravagant and fully fleshed out interactions of the middle of the track. Here, the piano takes flight while the backing band flirt more and more with chaos, before everything plunges back into it again for the feedback laden, synth heavy, crazy outro which feeds into the quiet which opens the last, eponymous track.
It would be impossible for me to encompass everything else that’s good on this album because my fingers would break before I would write all the words I’d want to write. No Tether, beyond everything already said, is rich in ways even the band’s own impressive discography never was, not to say of the many other bands operating within this genre. It’s filled with a wealth of ideas, compositions, sounds, improvisations, intros, outros, crescendos, moments of joy and terrible sadness, moments of triumph and defeat. It’s a ride and a half is what I’m saying and you’ll do yourself an incredible injustice if you don’t give it at least a few listens. For all its richness and variety, it’s also one of the more arresting and immediately destructive albums Tangled Thoughts of Leaving have released. It further cements them as being in the forefront of where post metal is going and what it can do when it becomes untethered. Yeah, I went there.
Listen to this album. Do it. Now.
The Endless Shimmering (aka Best of the Rest)
Erupter – Erupter
The debut from NYC’s Erupter is a great example of an album cover that will tell you a whole lot about the music despite also being a bit of a red herring. The colorfully psychedelic illustration is one that would not look at all out of place on a stoner or progressive metal album, though not exactly what one would expect for instrumental post-metal. The artwork piqued my interest enough to give it a shot in my routine Bandcamp searching, and man am I glad I did. Erupter is very much born of similar musical cloth from stoner and classic prog, featuring big riffs, some old-school tones and sounds, and occasionally bumping up right against the boundary into cheese. What keeps it from turning into simple pastiche or yet another attempt at classic prog revivalism is both the restraint of the band to keep from tilting FULL PROG and the fact that the music is all filtered through a post-metal prism, presenting familiar sounds from a somewhat different perspective. Where opener “Resumption” leans particularly hard on those stoner and prog tropes to good effect, it’s “Days of Grace” that really hooked me in, with its hard-driving classic post-metal groove and lack of fear in inserting the kind of heroic guitar riffs and slick technique that so many other bands in the genre shy away from. Meanwhile, tracks like “Ilčić” and closer “The Dread Accusation” excel by infusing the excitement and epic scope of classic prog and proto-metal with a modern sensibility while still throwing in a genuinely great solo in the middle. Then you have other little surprises like the acoustic and bordering on jazzy touches of “Malva.” It is a diverse album with a bag of tricks that somehow manages to not grow stale at any point, which is honestly about the best thing you can say for a post-metal album in this day and age. The band seem to have launched publicly only a few months ago with very little in the way of following, so we should change that. Make sure to follow them on Facebook and Bandcamp and spread the word!
DON PIE PIE – DPP1
I’ve already told you to listen to these guys once before but I’m glad I have the chance to do so again because DPP1 is a grower. On the first few listens, it’s exactly what I’ve already said it is: a cheerful ditty of a post/math rock album and a good one at that. But when you spend some more time with this album, all the more impressive for its short length and low track number, you start to hear more going on the background; you suddenly notice the incredible drum parts on “Peach White White” and how resonant that thick bass is (not to mention what sounds like weird choir parts throughout it). You hear the delicate filigree of intonations as the guitars arrive on “BujiGang” and how these interact later with the truly rich synths tones which are themselves divided into several very different and interesting tracks that draw inspiration from bands like Jaga Jazzist. In short, you find a whole new complexity to an album that’s “just” an EP and then you suddenly notice the number “1” at the end of its name and get all sorts of excited for upcoming music from these guys. If this album is any indication, they are far from satisfied with just checking off the post/math rock checklist and call it a day; DON PIE PIE are all about experimenting with the genres and finding something new and cool underneath.