Out of the musical collectives we’ve already covered, the Northwest Post Rock Collective might be the most elusive. Online searches lead us to a few Facebook events and posters but not a page for the collective as a whole. However, they also show us that the group is alive and well, hosting shows and bands from their geographical area. It also goes to show that even the most ethereal and loose support network holds some worth and power for musicians of the style; its very existence does that. The bands that I was able to gather up for this post are probably not exhaustive of the collective’s works but they’re pretty damn good, so I hope they’re at least indicative. If anyone from the group is reading this, hit me up! I’d love to add more bands to the roster and collaborate more closely in the future.
OK, enough of that. Let’s dive right in. First off, we don’t have a collective release for this one, so we’ll have to work by bands. Sweetening that seemingly complex task is our first band, Lo’ There Do I See My Brother. Their brand of post rock is that which draws on melancholy but tempers it with full bodied riffs, grunge infused vocals and an overall sensation of defiance. Perhaps gates comes to mind or Set and Setting, although these guys take their time a bit more than those bands. The results are contemplative tracks like ‘We’re Not Building Pianos, We’re Making Machines’. Those with sharp hearing will be rewarded by fascinating twinges on the guitar that enrich the general composition and orchestration. The result is a track that feels longer than it really is, stretching out its ideas and allowing them to run a few laps around the musical yard.
A different style utilized on this album can be found on ‘Of the Earth’, with those grunge vocals I mentioned. The track starts off sweet and hopeful but quickly recalls those robust riffs that make the band shine in a darker light, near the end. The vocals return, to play a different role, on ‘Twenty Three’, this time strumming lightly on our heartstrings and prickling our eyes. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’, being the huge Philip K. Dick fan that I am. It’s also a damn good track, incorporating electronics into its intro that really add a whole new depth to the album and the tools its willing to utilize in its pursuit of the touching.
Next up, we have the massive A Collective Subconscious and their brand of much more epic post-rock that flirts with post metal. Carefully arranged to catch you off guard, their Entheogens opens with the firebrand that is “Transcendence”. It lulls you into a false sense of security with its lightly picked intro before the main riffs explodes in your ears. Further along the line, after the initial onslaught has had its way with your ears, the bass lays the foundation for more ambient, groove oriented orchestrations. In general, this balance can be seen throughout the album: guitars to lead the way into crushing passages while the drums and bass usher in more ethereal, traditionally post-rock segments. This balance is handled with expertise, making sure not to repeat itself too much, while still lending most tracks on the album their own unique backbone.
Of course the outro sees us returning the originally laid down building blocks of the track. A quick hop over to the third track, “Nyla”, will reveal the opposite balance. The post-rock elements, including the classic delayed guitar, take the mainline here. The heavier elements are like little sprouts, coming and going with their own rain of melody. The outro once again displays a rather endearing quality: instead of featuring the oft-used crescendo, it relies more on an emotional ending to the track rather than a bombastic one. This is something that A Collective Subconscious accomplish well throughout the album: instead of the instruments crashing together to create the sensation of size and power, their emotional components are simply brought to fruition, emphasizing the morose and melancholic elements contained within them.
Lastly, though again, I’m sure there are more bands to be explored from this collective, we have Another Neighbor Disappeared and their more stripped back brand of post rock. The drums are brought way forward into the mix and together with the bass take control of most of the headspace of the band’s sound. “Coasting in equilibrium” is a fine example of that, with the hi-hat taking dominance in the opening moments of the track. It’s quickly replaced by more metallic cymbals while the toms and kick drum soar over the noisier bridge. Everything relies on a simple and powerful foundation: it’s not exactly groove but more a momentum, a tenacity of reoccurring riffs and guitar touches that provides the fertile ground in which the track grows and lives.
To our great pleasure, the band also have a math-y tinge to some of their other tracks. “Sound Burial” opens with an infections and upbeat riff, while the drums and bass take advantage of their accorded place to propel the energy roof-wards. While still relying on the repetitive element, this track also introduces some more fuzzy elements in its fringes, creating plenty for us to focus on and listen to. All in all, it’s the most tenacious and somewhat upbeat ensemble we’ve handled here so far, relying on the power of riff, coordinated playing and heavy hitting drums to carry itself forward towards completion.
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And that’s it for us this time! We’re starting to branch out soon and look outside of post-rock. If you have a musical collective you know of and would like me to feature, feel free to get in touch! I already have a few in my sights, but they tend to get scarcer as one branches away towards metal. Fear not though, with persistence we shall find them out and make sure the world knows about them. Something tells me this form of making music hasn’t yet reached its full potential. See you next time!
UPDATE: I was done with this post and went searching a bit deeper into Facebook, where I found a public group for the collective! In it, I found some good news: the collective is planning a showcase in Portland (because of course they’re from Portland) on April 28th! Check out the teaser below and if you’re in the neighborhood, consider going over and saying hi from us!