Here I am returning for my second career Post-Rock Post, yet the album of the day doesn’t quite fit the bill. Before I shakeup Eden and Nick’s stomping grounds too drastically, just hear me out for a bit. Over its history, post-rock has become increasingly reliant on the qualities and strengths of ambient music; anyone who’s listened to even a small sample size of the genre should recognize that. Obviously, we can point to the shared commonalities of reverb and melody, or bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor who’ve made actual ambient drone a staple of their sound. But on a more impactful level, bands in both genres almost universally strive to dominate space with their music. Though post-rock is more direct and…well, rock-oriented, it still strives to capture a sense of rich, emotive vastness. In each case, listeners can lose themselves in the music’s atmosphere or parse out each subtle detail.
This being the case, it made perfect sense to me for my recommendation of Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea to come from the Post Rock Post platform. Not only do the reasons stated above ring true here, but the duo behind the project (Marc Ertel and Zach Frizzell) comprise one-half of Indi post-rock band Pillars. The group is a worthwhile listen in their own right, drawing from bands like Pelican to produce punchy yet emotionally potent post-rock. Yet, Ertel and Frizzell’s self-titled debut as DCIS has snagged my attention since I first discovered it in September. The duo’s foray into the world of ambient music incorporates field recordings with post-rock sensibilities, coming together to offer something for fans of both genres.
In the vein of Trevor de Brauw, Peals and Planning for Burial, the duo approach ambient soundscapes from the perspective of traditional musicians (for lack of a better term). Whereas artists like William Basinski craft ambient music with tape loops and other indirectly instrumental means, Ertel and Frizzell extract ambiance from musical echoes in addition to traditional means such as field recordings. “Espérer” sounds like echoes of blissful post-rock daydreams, with plucked, shimmering guitar notes reverberating out along with the scratches and crackles of a sound bite taken from nature. Similarly, “Mer à L’aube” employs what sounds like guitar glissando to span the entirety of the open sonic space with a somber but hopeful melody.
Still, the duo clearly have a firm grasp of the core strengths of ambient music, as is apparent on the enormous walls of sound that open the album throughout “Alpha” and “Rappelles Toi.” Yet, perhaps the most complete, grandiose moment on the album arrives with “Lumière Déclinante.” The track masters one of my favorite ambient techniques, being the use of a methodical, rise-and-fall song structure to craft a sense of weightlessness. A subdued but glistening refrain dips and ascends throughout a pristinely beautiful sonic journey. Finally, “Choeur du Matin” provides an appropriately beautiful conclusion to the album, with sweeping, choral and orchestral elements saturating the proceedings in the best way possible.
Which brings me to the final point I’d like to ruminate on. Genres that rely on sonic space benefit from having equally sublime imagery. Just take a look at the album artwork from Gas‘s discography – as I listen to his music, I envision a specter floating through a wooded, spectral world. In the same way, having a landscape shot of awing snowy mountains adds to the expansive mood that Ertel and Frizzell aim for on Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea. They craft a gorgeous collection of songs that transforms that frigid backdrop into the embodiment of a cool, tranquil flight over majestic peaks. It’s a small accent on elegant musical poetry that’s worth a cursory listen from post-rock fans and a full-on embrace from those with an affinity for ambient music.
Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea is available now and can be purchased via the Bandcamp link above. Be sure to check out Ertel and Frizzell’s post-rock group Pillars, who will be playing at Post. Festival in Indianapolis, IN on Friday, Oct. 19.