Doot doot, haha it’s Nick Cusworth here, just like usual, writing the intro to this installment of Post Rock Post! Jazz is good and uuhhhh, other stuff that Nick says. Seriously though folks, Eden here (you fell for my clever ruse, did you not?) writing this intro to what can easily be discerned as one of the heavier Post Rock Post’s in recent memory. A quick look at the list below, including our Post-Topper for this month, will reveal a host of influences like drone, black metal, hardcore, noise, and more. While there are definitely still some delay laden, melancholy tinged, and dream-inducing post-rock releases in there, a lot of our picks this month mix their post-rock with plenty of aggression, chunky tones, and off-kilter ambiance to achieve their goals.
And, after all, why shouldn’t they? I find that the heavier side of things is actually one of the best places to which post-rock can turn to when it seeks to break out of the molds which the genre often dictates. This escape doesn’t always have to be post metal, although the appeal of the genre is understandable since the two share much more than just a prefix. They also rely on drawn out compositions, a sense of sadness tinged with other emotions (be it hope, in the case of post-rock, or anger, in the case of post metal), and a heavy reliance on crescendos. However, other lines of flight are available outside of the striated plains of post-rock, well represented in the list below.
What these other approaches give post-rock is a bit of punch and a more direct approach to different and new emotions. To put it more succinctly, heaviness helps post-rock get to the fucking point and sometimes, that’s all you need. Whether it be furious blast-beats, chunky riffs, hardcore screams or just a good, immediate crescendo, blending post-rock with heavier influences can create more aggressive, high octane compositions, which ca work well with more expansive tracks, interludes, and outros. So, without further ado, scroll down to turn up the distortion, dive into abrasion, and get heavy with February’s Post Rock Post!
Post-Topper: Violet Cold – kOsmik
After releasing an impressive trilogy of near full length instrumental post-rock/ambient albums in 2018, kOsmik sees this one-man Azerbaijan project take a return to his experimental post-black metal sound that has garnered him respect and popularity among this new wave of blackgaze/post-black metal. Over his 5-year career Emin Guliyev aka Violet Cold has released a multitude of EPs and singles, that post-rock trilogy and now four black metal albums. Across those albums we’ve seen a variety of sounds and experimentation within this sub-genre, from a more electronic-blackgaze hybrid, to strong use of local traditional instruments. These albums are all great and refreshing for the genre individually, but over the years I’ve found he’s struggled a little to have a truly distinct identity and sound. With kOsmik we see all his strengths and influences across his discography coming together for one of his strongest and most defining albums to date.
In “Mamihlapinatapai” his talent of combining melody with atmosphere is on full display, as you get these incredibly textural soundscapes layered with genre-staple melodic tremolo riffs and blast beats. The real strength though is his ability to song-write with melancholic, emotional atmospheres being at the forefront.
Fans of his instrumental 2018 Sommermorgan trilogy will appreciate the fittingly named “Space Funeral” that goes back to that more shoegazing atmospheric post-rock sound, recalling some later 65daysofstatic work. As a fan of his black metal albums, Magic Night, Desperate Dreams, and Anomie, I was slightly underwhelmed by this trilogy and change of sound. Solid background music but I struggled to get really invested in it, however having a track using that sound masterfully as a break-in-pace-interlude of sorts in this album’s context works perfectly.
The standout of kOsmik for me is the title track, which incorporates a lot of Emin’s vocals but also some really interesting female backing vocals with almost a modern pop feel towards the end of the track. It’s a very unique sound which shows VC’s propensity for pushing the sub-genre forward in creative and peculiar ways.
The Endless Shimmering (aka Best of the Rest)
Labirinto – Divino Afflante Spiritu
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a band is resist the urge to go bigger and pare down. This is especially true in genres like post-rock and metal that, by nature, tend to take wide scopes and bite off more than bands can chew with bloat and overly long runtimes. These are problems we’ve commented on so many times it’s not worth going into detail on them here, but needless to say, many a band has stumbled putting out hour-long albums filled with tracks flirting with or exceeding the 10-minute mark.
The thing is though that occasionally bands go big and just simply nail it. That was certainly the case with Brazil’s Labirinto and their previous opus Gehenna, which blended the brutal and wide cinematic scope of Russian Circles with emotionally tearjerking and sonically deep use of strings that called to mind the best of GY!BE’s work. It was a massive album filled with many of the kinds of sounds and tropes that could have led to it being an utter slog to get through, but good lord did it work.
So when examining the band’s latest album Divino Afflante Spiritu it can be difficult to evaluate just how effective the band are because of that context. The most immediately-striking aspect of the album upon first listen for me was in what it was missing. Gone were the strings, and gone were the passages and whole tracks of more atmospheric and brooding tension in between the stretches of crushing post-metal excellence. Compared to the hour runtime of Gehenna, Divino is a slim 35 minutes. So at first blush it’s understandable to find some fault and disappointment in what could feel like a scaling back in ambition for the group here. Eden noted as much in his review that was overall positive, if a bit qualified in lavishing praise. I would argue though that focusing on what the album is lacking from its predecessor risks missing all the things that it does so right, because on its own, Divino Afflante Spiritu is one hell of a roaring success.
The most obvious place to start in doling out merits is in the opening track “Agnus Dei,” the first Labirinto track to feature vocals. As I wrote previously when we premiered the track, it is an absolute monster of a piece, and guest vocalist Elaine Campos just utterly crushes it. The track strikes the perfect balance of riveting riffs and atmosphere that the band have already proven themselves masters of and providing enough space for Campos’s fiery howls to elevate the music further. It’s honestly so successful that one of the only real disappointments I had when hearing the rest of the album is that they never bring her or another vocalist back. But truthfully it’s only a minimal disappointment because the remainder of the album is a constant thrill ride of big, driving riffs and explosive energy.
Divino essentially takes all of the bigger moments and passages from Gehenna and simply strings them together. Minimal time is wasted, and though it can be easy to miss the more measured pace of some of Gehenna’s more probing tracks, Divino makes it exceedingly easy to simply go on the ride for 35 minutes and be nothing but satiated. The band continue to take inspiration heavily from the dirtier and more crushing work of Russian Circles, but at this point they have more than placed their own mark on this relentless strain of post-metal. Moments like the climax of “Eleh Ha Devan” continue to steal the show, but the band still know how to capture brooding tension perfectly like in the intro to “Demiurge” before simply tearing through that tension in the melee of the rest of the track, especially the positively addictive motif that closes the track.
It would be easy to imagine an alternate universe where Labirinto attempted to create a Gehenna 2.0 and overshot, creating exactly the kind of meandering, bloated, and overwrought album they managed to avoid previously. And perhaps that album or, preferably, a more successful version of that album is still to come in the future. But for now, Divino Afflante Spiritu is a perfect demonstration of how streamlining and paring down can bring out the best aspects of a band.
Seeress – The Dream Passes
People say that Winter drives them into depression but for me, Spring and Autumn are always much more poignant. Maybe it’s because I live in a place where Winter isn’t harsh or maybe it’s just that I like the cold. But the transitional seasons leave me feeling this mix of emotions, birth and death co-mingled in a confusing period of ups and downs where, at any given moment, I can be crying from joy and wonder or feeling despondent and lost. As the days grow long again and Spring begins to make its voice heard, I find myself returning more and more to post-rock to help me channel my emotions, as its melancholy tinged hope and introspection mirrors my mood almost exactly.
No band has been quite as good at this as Seeress, from way back when in 2017 when I first heard their music on A Thousand Arms’ excellent compilation. The Dreams Passes, their 2019 release, sees them return to their highly effective mix of dreamy post-rock and passionate post metal, blending the inventive with the harsh, the ethereal with the tellurian. On this release, Seeress seem to have dug a bit deeper into their darker side, conjuring forth a more robust set of tones and compositions. The opening track, “Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes” is an excellent example of that; the majority of the track, its dominant middle, is made up of resounding guitar notes backed by prominent bass, pummeling away at a sense of pent up energy and its expression.
Which is not to say that the post-rock elements aren’t still there; after the middle mark, the track returns to the ideas introduced in the build up and explores them more fully, during which exploration the drums perform especially well. They have a certain dexterity to them and a clarity of sound that’s rare for the genere at large. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the album was produced none other than Kurt Ballou or perhaps just because of the clever structure of the track, which continues to layer track after guitar track while maintaining the role of the drums in the composition. Regardless, the end result is a very effective outro which sets us up for the rest of the album to have its way with us, taking us on a flight of fancy through the lows and heights of the changing days. Seeress’ The Dream Passes is yet another effective release from a band who have made emotional introspection their staple, delivering powerful tones, evocative lines, and an overall masterful structure.
mountain man – The Flower Moon
There was something about Daughters acclaimed 2018 release You Won’t Get What You Want that invoked almost a sense of slipping into psychosis with it’s cathartic, raging, crazed energy. Wicked riffs and lyricism aside, there was something viscerally authentic about it that really made it stand out for me. The first album of 2019 to come close to replicating that raw honesty for me so far is man mountain’s The Flower Moon. The album begins with a depressing violin line overlapped with a depressing spoken word clip that layers over top of itself. “All day long, day after day after day – looking forward to night – to being alone in my room, where I don’t have to see anybody.” A sentiment I unfortunately can sympathize with, that kind of sets the tone for the depressive and pensive vibe of The Flower Moon. A droning, repeating, doomgaze-y Planning For Burial like riff then takes over which will become a reoccurring instrumental element from which this album is built on.
While musically man mountain differs a bit from the aforementioned Daughters – they both can be loosely lumped into a ‘experimental hardcore/noise’ tag- however this album sees that take a much more post-metal/rock direction. Their slow brooding repetitive riffs and dark ambience can gradually hypnotize you into a similar manic trance with its unique heaviness. The vocals don’t bring anything overly special to the table, and if I had to pick would be the weaker aspect of the album, but they do an adequate job of enhancing the emotional weight that the instrumentation brings forward.
I’ll also point out that I just love the drum mix here. “No Roads” really emphasizes that when the guitar comes to a halt and there’s a section of pure drums and vocal samples where the thunderous snare really shines. Reminds me of Admiral Angry’s mix on Buster which I’ve been craving more of. This track though is definitely one of the highlights of the album for me, mostly due to this infectiously catchy head-bang worthy riff throughout that you can get lost in. The Flower Moon is a trip worth taking if you’re looking for something that masterfully bends the lines of what post-rock and hardcore can do together.
Tides of Man – Re:visions
For the 5 year anniversary of Young and Courageous, Tides of Man – now one of the undisputable stars of the modern class of post-boom American post-rock – have chosen to celebrate in a most welcome fashion. Taking an approach similar to that of Minus the Bear on their Acoustics albums, Tides take three choice tracks from their debut as an instrumental outfit and treat them with new, somewhat stripped down arrangements, heavily featuring acoustic guitars and piano, as well as a slightly restrained rhythm section.
This short EP could have easily been fleshed out with a couple more songs without losing steam, but this is certainly an enticing peek into a different side of the band. Tides of Man clearly has a penchant for this kind of thing – the shifts in instrumentation, the subtle dynamic tweaks, the ability to rearrange in a manner that retains the core sensibilities of the originals while offering something uniquely satisfying – it screams out for deeper exploration. Their songs are often exercises in carefully measured release built upon the backs of individual melodies that continue building and layering into something truly moving. In this context those patient, wide open spaces in their compositions are able to fill with new perspective and welcome nuance that serve to build upon each track’s presence in the minds of listeners, rather than existing simply as “acoustic covers” that are cool to listen to once before moving on.
The track selection is also deft, as “Mountain House” gives them a great opportunity to open with a more determined pace and make a strong statement out of the gate, followed by what are probably the two best slow-burners on their debut, “Parallels” and “Young and Courageous,” which allow them to follow up with deep new explorations of their masterful melodic craftsmanship. Ultimately, the greatest feat of Re:visions is that its songs stand up completely on their own, familiar, yes, but entirely valid and welcome within their small slice of Tides of Man’s output.
She Sees – När ingen ser
One of the most interesting and original pieces of post-rock I’ve heard this year comes from the Swedish group She Sees, with their sophomore release När ingen ser which coincidentally translates to “when no one sees”. If you want to break up modern post-rock loosely into categories of ‘bands who were probably inspired by Explosions in the Sky’ and ‘bands who were probably inspired by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this is leaning strong towards the latter. The inspiration whether true or not (or if you couldn’t tell from the 12- and 19-minute song lengths) can easily be heard in the first minute when the droning cello and violin kicks in over a spoken word passage. While the guitar, bass, drumming and occasional vocals are integral to this album, it really is carried by that orchestral side of the stringed family. But these are not happy-running through a field of flowers-strings. These are sobbing-watching everyone die around you strings.
There are some glimpses of optimism and joy in the first track, that could fit on a yndi halda album, but by the second track this takes a sharp turn. And just when you thought you had this band figured out, part way into the 19-minute-long second track they bring out one of the heaviest slow breakdown riffs you’ll hear in the genre, overlapped by those atmospheric strings and her maniacal howling vocals. I wish this heaviness was fleshed out a little more, because it really works well and is a pretty refreshing take at this more string-driven post-rock. The 31 minute run time of the album also leaves a little bit more to be desired, but this more just a reflection of the ingenuity of these two tracks.
This is the kind of post-rock we need. The unrelenting, no holds barred, ode to the apocalypse barrage of sound that cares little for any kind of semblance of modern song structures and genre tropes that screams in the faces of those saying that post-rock is dead.
Flodhast – Unos Dias En La Tierra
Sometimes I feel like my musical tastes – especially in regard to post-rock – are turning back around on themselves, leaving me feeling a deep desire for the things that made me fall in love with music as a kid, while my interest in some of the more well-worn genre tropes have severely waned. I grew up on a healthy diet of metal and heavy alternative as a kid, and last year I found that my favorite post-records were Coastlands’ The Further Still and TRNA’s Earthcult, two releases that were beard-deep in fiery riffs and flannel-igniting rock fury.
To be as straight up as possible, they were the two least-full-of-shit post-rock albums of 2018. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of good albums came out last year, but these are the two that just got to the damn point and stayed there. Now, I also grew up deeply moved by the desperately yearning emo of the late-90s/early 00’s, as well as the third-wave American post-rock boom led by Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You and Caspian. So, it should come as no surprise that my heart, weary of songs that take 7 plodding minutes to reach an awesome but underplayed 50 second climax, leaps further toward the sky each time I listen through the Puebla, Mexico band Flodhast’s newest record Unos Dias En La Tierra.
This record is no-nonsense, stripped down to just what it needs, and brimming with all of the joyous riffs, soaring melodies and jaw-dropping climaxes that inspire us to fall in love with this genre in the first place. And it’s just so upbeat. To be quite honest, it’s been a long, exhausting winter, my life has been kind of a bummer for the past few months, I’m feeling more anxieties creep in to my psyche than I have ever have before in my life, and I just needed this album right now. I need uplift, I need something that can spin melancholy into joyous outpouring, I just need to feel good about something. So maybe it’s my brain in this moment.
But I don’t think so. So many of Flodhast’s compositional strengths share tendencies with those old Caspian records, as well as with one of the more underrated instrumental bands of the 00’s – the Iowa quintet Giants. There’s also more than just a hint in here of a couple one-album wonder bands that everyone should know but few do. There are (surely unintentional) echoes of Signals To Vega’s Into the Arms of Infinity and Iceberg Theory’s I See Land, two albums I can’t recommend looking into enough.
I don’t really even feel compelled to go into a track-by-track thing with Unos Dias En La Tierra. Just know that there’s no song longer than four and a half minutes, its vibrancy and passion is tangible and virtually bottomless, and it’s the kind of record that makes it really hard to zone out – which may in fact be one of the highest compliments one could pay to a post-rock album. It’s got a sense of immediacy and urgency, it’s deeply engaging and emotionally inspiring, and it just… feels good.
While it’s totally different in terms of approach, the feeling I get is not unlike that first day that the warmth creeps back into the world, during which I ritualistically get in my car, drive back roads and listen to All Is Wild, All Is Silent by Balmorhea. Those first piano notes, I just can’t quite describe what they do for me. It’s intangible when your trying to communicate with words, but inside my head and my heart it’s the most tangible thing imaginable. It’s the feeling that things are going to be alright – maybe even great – and that the bad things are behind you. This is the feeling I’ve been getting from this Flodhast record. There’s just something about it that has both quieted my anxieties and ignited my heart. This is so much of why music is so important to me.
Lighteater – Autoscopy
One of the first bands I had the pleasure of writing about and feeling that I was getting at them from the ground level was back in early 2015, and it covered the debut release from Brooklyn’s Lighteater. That album, Antique, really struck me for its blending of cinematic post-metal atmosphere with filthy and discordant riffs and energy. It was enough for me to cite them specifically as a band to look out for in a feature Eden and I would write later that year about the future of post-metal (which, frankly, I’m surprised has held up as well as it has even in spite of the many worthy bands we clearly missed). Given the fairly long period of silence from the band following 2015 though I began to wonder if we would hear any new material from them at all. Thankfully that has not been the case though as the band have finally returned to release another barn-burner of an album in Autoscopy.
Like Antique, Autoscopy is a relatively lean post-metal release at a hair over a half hour, but also like Antique, Autoscopy uses every minute it has to its fullest extent. Opener “Arbiter” is a pristine example in the kind of blending of post-metal’s inherent darkness with a kind of emotional and cinematic light that instantly drew me to them in the first place and had me drawing comparisons between them and another project that has been absent from my life for far too long, Sleeping Bear. What continues to separate Lighteater from other cinematic-leaning groups though is in their ability to draw upon grittier influences and show no fear in getting down and dirty. “Steam” with its piercing jabbed motif really gets at the heart at this by placing maximum emphasis on a tritone bass progression, which is a quick route to producing some deeply uncomfortable sounds.
“Summoner” also succeeds in blending uplift with equally fierce and grounded roughness, while the title track gets off to the races from the start with a measured and driving groove and screaming guitar above it all. “Riven” rounds the whole thing out with all of the above, tying together all the pieces and bits that make Lighteater’s work so immediately engaging and several notches above most other post-metal out there currently. Autoscopy is only further proof that Lighteater are a band to watch, and I can only hope this time they get the attention they deserve and can grace us with more material in a shorter timeframe.