As time goes by, post rock is apparently being forced more and more into exploration under the sheer weight of its aesthetic. As a genre which deals with re-configuring and re-hashing rock, this is perhaps a much delayed return to the roots of the genre. We had long cried out for this form of experimantation, warning that stagnation lies in avoiding it. Thankfully, 2015 and 2016 seem to be heading on the right trend, with a host of new(ish) groups tackling the validity and relevance of post rock (Tumbleweed Dealer, Farfetch’d, VASA, Father Figure, Town Portal to name a few). Here’s another name for that list: Overhead, The Albatross.
Active since at least 2011, the band, whose name is inspired by the famous Pink Floyd lyric, create an expansive and moving mix between the rhythmic elements of math rock, the spacious ideas of post rock and forward thinking elements from any other number of genres. Their 2016 release, Learning to Growl, is an insanely rich and varied album which draws on bands like sleepmakeswaves and yndi halda for its post rock elements. This means plenty of piano/strings/drum conversations, like on the last track, “Big River Man”. In other locations the conversation is simply a part of the larger whole, blending with sometimes playful, sometimes drawn out guitar leads. On “Big River Man” a singer is introduced for the build up, making the closing passages of the album some of the most fulfilling.
It’s on the track before that, however, that the full gamut of influences that make up Overhead, The Albatross can be heard. “Bara” first builds up in classic post rock fashion, with plenty of strings and echo-y guitars to get us going. However, the middle passage is all dynamic, with agile drums, wide-eyed electronics and, finally, intensely powerful guitar to close off the mix. Instead of just providing a crescendo, the climax also incorporates more and more ideas into the track, musical notions which are then resolved during the equally powerful outro. The long run-time, often a sign of waste and excess in post rock, is utilized well here to keep the motion going rather than just reiterate and repeat. Look, for example, for the prominent bass suddenly making its appearance near the end of the track, carrying it to its natural ending with a return to earlier themes.
This is true for the entirety of the album. There’s very little of the tendency to trace the same outline over and over again. Overhead, The Albatross instead prefer momentum, a constant looking-forward, a force which pushes their music to explore more and more of its own layouts. This can be seen in many other parts of the album we haven’t touched on; the electronic centred “Daeku” for example, takes what is usually a backing instrument (namely the piano and synth) within this specific sound and thrusts it out to the front. In many other places conventions are eschewed and inverted. The result is a pleasingly fresh post rock album, a well made and self-aware trip in dreamy landscapes and evocative climaxes.