I first became acquainted with the Bozeman, MT post-rock band RANGES what seems like ages ago, though somehow it was only 2015. They were a virtually unknown band that had just caught the attention of a small collection of blog writers and diligent genre fans with their 24-minute concept single “Night & Day.” Not long after, a promo came to me for their 2016 full-length The Gods Of The Copybook Headings and I was quick to pick it up for review. During the writing process, I began emailing with guitarist CJ Blessum and we formed a fast friendship, moving beyond a simple question and answer about the record into discussions about larger ideas meant to serve the post-rock scene at large. He hatched the idea of developing a series of compilation albums focusing on post-rock, and eventually, we determined that we could work within certain themes, for instance, a two-part comp that featured a “Side A” focusing on American artists and a “Side B” featuring international bands. A few months later we unveiled the first edition of Open Language. This was a watershed moment for both of us – the exact place in time where CJ’s company, A Thousand Arms, began to establish name recognition, and when I started to transition from being a blog writer to someone involved in the music scene in ways I never could have imagined even months before.
When RANGES initiated the process of writing and recording 2017’s The Ascensionist, there came a tidal shift in the way in which the band viewed themselves. No longer was RANGES simply a project, it was a full-fledged, dedicated band with a five-year plan and designs on making their mark in as many avenues possible. The Ascensionist reveals a clear sonic evolution for the band. It became more of a collective creative process, and it shows in the music. Whereas their previous albums presented as the band interpreting what post-rock should sound like, The Ascensionist is the first record where they truly stepped out as a fully formed band with a clearly stated identity. The difference shows in the response to the album – suddenly this band from the middle of nowhere was making waves and possessed a sheer presence in post-rock that not many could have foreseen only two short years prior.
One can imagine that the acceleration of their path to becoming a known and respected quantity in the scene did not come without much effort, but I’m still not sure people recognize exactly how much RANGES has poured into their development, or how integral they have been to the post-rock scene during the past two years. One cannot fully realize the scope of RANGES’ influence without knowing the story of A Thousand Arms. A1KA began as a screen-printing company run by Blessum and former RANGES guitarist/current graphic design/photographer/videographer Wilson Raska. Over the past few years it has grown into, without hyperbole, the single most important entity in modern independent post-rock in the United States, with an ever-growing presence abroad. They have become a fulfillment company, handling production and distribution of merchandise for a number of bands, a distribution company for international labels looking to move their records in the States, a landing spot for Raska’s L U X I N V I C T U S graphic design company, an audio engineering source, and a record label in their own right, and all of these arms primarily serve the post-rock and post-metal genres, providing an outlet where in many cases there weren’t many previously.
RANGES and A Thousand Arms have also been directly involved with bringing fans the only two true post-rock festivals in American history. A1KA acted as the American face of 2017’s dunk!usa in Burlington, VT, and also acted as consultants and created the merch for this year’s Post. Festival in Indianapolis. The company is now also in the process of creating their sixth 2-part comp and has had a hand in bringing bands from all over the world to greater attention, even debuting some songs exclusively over the past three years. They have been closely involved in bringing European post-rock and post-metal releases stateside, with bands like Celestial Wolves, Haester, Astodan, jeffk and even pg.lost on their roster, and have also hosted recent releases by Rosetta, Tides of Man and Arms and Sleepers. It is unlikely that you’ve not crossed paths with RANGES and A Thousand Arms if you’ve had even a modicum of interest or involvement in the post-rock scene over the past two years, even if you haven’t recognized the connections.
Which brings us to the newest releases from RANGES, meant as the final climb regarding content associated with The Ascensionist. It’s truly a fully-loaded package that neatly wraps up this album cycle. These items will drop for pre-order on Black Friday, with a tentative release date of Friday, December 14th, with extra deals available to those who pre-order through A Thousand Arms.
RANGES proudly join the ranks of bands like Russian Circles, Pelican and pg. lost with the release of their Live at dunk!festival vinyl, a 2xLP vinyl of their main stage performance at this year’s festival, engineered, mixed and mastered by dunk!festival’s Jannes Van Rossom and Jonas Everaert from a direct board recording. The album art will be handled by Error! Design’s Xavi Forne, who is responsible for the truly distinct and memorable dunk! festival images from the past few years, as well as artwork for Foo Fighters, Deafheaven, The Ocean, Emma Ruth Rundle and plenty more. Of note: Forne is also a member of the Spanish post-metal band Malammar, whose upcoming 7” will be distributed through A Thousand Arms and dunk!records, just to further illustrate how seemingly everything connects in the world of post-rock.
The second item is the third pressing of The Ascensionist, for which both A1KA and dunk!records will have new variants available. What is possibly the most enticing, and certainly most revealing, of the three items is the debut of The Ascent, a CD/DVD combo pack that features a full multi-camera video recording of Ranges set at dunk!festival, as well as a DVD of the Ranges In Motion concert that features The Ascensionist played in its entirety accompanied by individually choreographed dance performances from the Bozeman company Raison d’etre (which you frankly don’t see many bands outside of Godspeed You! Black Emperor doing, an impressive undertaking indeed). There is also an hour-long behind the scenes documentary covering the entire album cycle for The Ascensionist, from conception to recording to production and merch, through all three tours and two festival performances that the band has embarked on during the past year-plus. For a band whose music presents with such seriousness, this documentary provides some true levity.
It’s underrated how crucial it can be to have the opportunity to see a band in their normal element. Throughout the behind the scenes materials viewers can watch NYC transplant Mark Levy (drums) dispensing from a seemingly endless well of wit and charisma, guitarist Joey Caldwell hamming essentially non-stop, bassist Jared Gabriel exuding his mix of rugged charm and good humor, and “band dad” Blessum’s dry wit that sneaks up on you when you least expect it, all while Raska’s always-surveying camera reflects his role as the fifth member who makes countless pivotal contributions from the periphery. Viewers will also have plenty of cameos to keep their eyes open for – Tides of Man, Man Mountain, Appalaches, Astodan, Cloud Shelter, Will Not Fade blog runner Joseph James, dunk! mastermind Wout Lievens, Celestial Wolves’ Joris de Bolle, Guillame from New Musical Horizons, as well as a number of appearances by me, as I seem to perpetually be on my phone (business, we’ll call it), or sometimes simply shredding to Astronoid with the guys on the Green Room balcony at dunk!usa.
Maybe even more eye-opening is the footage of the production of merchandise peppered throughout the video. It really shows how impressive an operation A Thousand Arms is, and how beneficial it is to a band to have this kind of arsenal of possibility at their disposal. It reveals how true artistry in product design and creation can make a massive difference. From shots of Gabriel hand-crafting clay coffee mugs, to Levy designing and building his drums, to Blessum and Raska putting tireless hours into making everything from the ground up, including belt buckles, booklets with hand-sewn binding, intricate packaging for limited run cassettes, shirts and hats, posters, slipmats, coffee, a music video, IPA, beer glasses and much more, RANGES is an enterprise as much as it is a band. Although they’ve fairly recently begun to build up their status and reputation in the post-rock scene, you could easily argue that RANGES have the highest-quality wealth of merch of any band in the genre. This documentary offers a frankly startling look into the workmanship and meticulous design that goes into every aspect of the process.
Today RANGES will launch a contest through their Facebook page. Anyone who follows the band on Spotify then likes & shares the Facebook post will be eligible to win a free copy of RANGES Live at dunk!festival on vinyl as well as a free copy of The Ascent [CD/DVD]. The contest will run today through the 22nd, with two of these packages up for grabs.