In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be happening right now. I wouldn’t be at work, trying to write an intro for this post while still pretending to write some corporate nonsense that’s oh so very important. But, here we are and both Nick and I have a lot going on in our lives so I’m forced to write this last minute. In a perfect world, we’d have everything prepared in advance and words would flow from minds into fingers with such ease that actually, no planning would even be necessary. You would just sit down and meaning would appear, without too much conscious thought on your end. But we don’t live in that world; we live in a world where communication is hard and broken, so that even when you’ve put in all the time and planning into it and it’s written down, your words might not even get across to the other party and your meaning will be lost.
But, now that I think about it, isn’t that kind of what a lot of post-rock is about? Isn’t that why a lot of a genre that’s inherently about communicating emotions, mental states and perspectives almost always instrumental? Because it recognizes that words aren’t very good at expressing a lot of our emotional, internal landscape? Isn’t that why we make and listen to music at all, in order to try and bridge in an independent way the gulf between ourselves and the world outside of us? I definitely feel that plenty of classic and contemporary works of post rock have that as their basis; Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s F # A # ∞ is definitely all about that, with its cities falling apart and its weird monologues. But I can also think of Heron‘s You Are Here Now and its striving for home, Overhead, The Albatross and the marvelous, powerful nostalgia of Learning to Growl and many more.
So, in a sense, trying to get my meaning across with these opening paragraphs is more akin to post-rock than I’d thought. And that’s what I’d like to leave you with before we dive into this month’s picks: we don’t make this list just to showcase our taste or highlight great bands (although the latter is a big part of it, for sure). We also do it because we feel like post-rock is an important genre with important things to say, things which relate to the basic human condition, our hopes, dreams, failures and expectations of the world us. So as you go deeper into this post, try asking yourself what emotions, modes of thoughts and perspectives are this mostly instrumental music trying to get across to me? What is being communicated by and underneath the music I am listening to?
Post Topper: Reformat – The Singularity
If you follow this blog at all, you’re probably well aware that I’m in love with 65daysofstatic‘s No Man’s Sky (almost as much as I was disappointed by the game). It’s an expansive, lush and often chilling exploration of music in space, all void and reverberating synths alongside breakneck beats and epic moments. But when 65dos (as the band is sometimes known) departed from their core sound for this album, something was definitely lost. Couple that with the fact that years have already passed since Three Trapped Tigers released their latest album (go revisit that by the way, it’s still fantastic) and you get a sense of how much fans of that style of electronic post-rock have been fiending for something to feel the gap.
Luckily, Reformat is here to rise up to the challenge, having released The Singularity on the 20th of April. It’s an incredibly accomplished and well-realized take on that by-now classic sound, all fanged synth textures, big, big drums and a certain sci-fi sheen that’s very hard to resist. This coalesces into an album that bears the staples of great additions to genres in need of saviors, namely that it manages to flirt and communicate with the basics at the bottom of those same genres but also to deviate from them enough to create its own unique sound. The first few tracks on the album really exemplify this so let’s turn to them.
“System Error” is a mission statement. The second track on it, it continues the album’s opening moments with immediately distinct tones, synths and drums hitting on the same beat to create that huge but funky vibe that 65dos made popular when they pivoted towards their more electronic sounds on We Were Exploding Anyway and Wild Light (please don’t forget about these albums by the way). The result sweeps you immediately into the album’s world, setting the pace and the tone that may be expected from it. But the incredibly titled “The Nevergator” which follows it is a curveball; it has way more synthwave influences than you’d think to hear here. It’s more introspective and dreamy but it still holds on to some elements from the previous track in order to anchor it in place.
This one-two punch really sets you up for the rest of the album and how it manages to blend these two tastes together. And that’s why The Singularity is so powerful; it caters to that part of you that just wants to range and here those massive synths crash all around you. But it also appeals to a side of you that would like to dream, the desire to embrace a magnificent and strange world that is at the basis of most of science fiction. In short, it’s a really unique and complex album, so much so that it not only tops this post but also appeared on our Editors’ Pick for this month. Yeah, it’s that good. Give it a spin and enjoy the ride; you won’t be on Earth for long.
The Endless Shimmering (aka Best of the Rest)
Aesthesys – Achromata
I honestly can’t tell you which aspect of Aesthesys’ Achromata I am most in love with. Could it be their sleek, futuristic shell strewn with electronic flourishes? Could it be the epic, cinematic scope and emotional gravitas that they imbue in their compositions? Or is it the prominent use of violin that forms the tender heart of the entire thing? Achromata is a beautiful melting pot of an album that brings together so many aspects of the post-rock and progressive genres that are great while keeping their compositions tight and immediately impactful.
Degrees of Arc – Raptures
Degree of Arc’s Raptures is an enticing mixture of lighter, more ambient post-rock fare and groove-heavy and driving post-rock that wouldn’t sound at all out of place alongside Caspian’s Dust and Disquiet. That is certainly most evident on burners like “Defilade” and “Precipice,” but elsewhere like in “Parallax,” “612,” and “Terminus” the band get to show off their deft grasp of ambient textures and airy compositions. It’s a nice balance of light and heavy contrasts that keep Raptures more than engaging enough throughout.
Toundra – Vortex
After an album that hit a couple of incredibly high points in the band’s catalog but still left us feeling just a bit let-down overall, the influential Spanish post-rock/metal quartet return with Vortex, an album that doesn’t completely turn the page in their musical career as the non-numeric album name and trippy album art might suggest, but does manage to inject some new life and twists on a formula the band had all but perfected but were running the risk of making a bit stale. In particular, the more desert stoner elements thrown into the back half on “Mojave” are a welcome additional flavor. Elsewhere it is largely business-as-usual for the band, but luckily that business is generally good enough to keep us coming back again.
Wess Meets West – A Light within the Fracture
Wess Meets West create a type of post-rock which we can, by now, dub “New England post-rock”. A part of a wave that’s taking over that community, they produce a groove-laden but still dreamy iteration on the post-rock sound. Delay still rules the delay but there are thick underpinnings to the song structure and a more subtle approach to builds ups and crescendos than you might immediately associate with the post-rock ideology. “Direct Experience” would be a good place to start; listen how the drums maintain a sort of omnipresent buildup during the track and how the guitars, even though they have their own spaced-out moments, work in tandem with the rest of the track to create a larger than life, grandiose feeling. This is a good album to listen to as spring overtakes us and nature calls; it’s filled with that sort of exhilarating, wondrous introspection that screams within you on a good hike or a beautiful day. Get to walking.