Post Rock Post // June 2019

We’re officially past the halfway mark for 2019, and though there is plenty of time left in the year for music to come and shape our view of it, I think there are certainly a few themes taking shape already that we’ll still be talking about come year’s end. First off and most obviously, it’s just been a ridiculously good year for post-y music. If the year ended with just the slate of releases we’ve had so far we would still call it an incredible year for the genre and various sub-genres.

I think the other big thing that has stood out though has been in this new American post-rock wave that we’ve talked about extensively for a while. When we talk about this we’re largely referring to the universe of bands associated with institutions like A Thousand Arms, Post. Recordings/Post. Festival, as well as all manners of bands only tangentially connected. We’ve been covering these scenes for a while and have sensed that something big and new was coming out of this greater community, and it really feels like 2019 has been the year that all of this promise has translated into amazing results. Month after month we’ve seen bands within these scenes release new albums that represent the best work of their respective careers thus far (including but not limited to Seeress, Old Solar, Minor Movements, Pillars, Long Hallways, and Spotlights), and all indications are that this will only continue throughout the year as we expect new releases from bands like Ranges and Pray for Sound.

On that note, if you haven’t seen it already, I encourage you in the strongest terms to read our latest Deep Dive article specifically about this new American post-rock scene and its many connections to religiosity and how it comes through in their music. Eden (with some help from fellow blog editor Simon) really brings the full weight of his deep knowledge of both the music and religious philosophy to shine a light on an aspect of this music that I personally really hadn’t thought much about before, and it’s beyond fascinating. And if you have even more time, definitely be sure to read David’s recent and typically in-depth recap of this year’s dunk!festival. For those of us who couldn’t be there this felt like the next best thing to understanding the full experience.

And one final bit of housekeeping before we move onto new music. Given that we’re halfway through the year, we figured this would be a good time to do a check-in with our post-crew and offer you all our current top 10 albums within this amorphous musical space. You can see lists from myself, Eden, David, and Trent at the end. But first, let’s get to our top picks from June!

-Nick Cusworth

. . .

Post-Topper: LITE – Multiple

It’s really about time that math-rock got some sub-genres. We’re reaching the point in the genres career where the quantity of releases is reaching critical mass, creating all sorts of spin-offs, sounds, and scenes within the genre. For example, what exactly do bands like standards and Sloth & Turtle really have in common? I mean, sure, they’re both math-rock and they share many common denominators but they’re also clearly approaching the sound from two different very different directions. Fittingly enough, it seems as if a genre known for its light-hearted, jovial approach to music is not that eager to start classifying things and drawing rough lines in the sand.

However, when that day of classification comes, we must make sure that the math-rock albums which border on jazz are given their own pride and place (it is really important, guys). Bands like SEIMS or Lushh or even Snooze., bands which, in their own ways, communicate with jazz, definitely deserve their own space within the coming configuration. When that day comes, LITE will certainly lead the pack when it comes to this kind of math-rock, the kind that has a more solid tone to the drums, who’s compositions range freely and closely to jazz, that has more of a groove than a lilt, more a kick than a hand full of flowers. In that genre, LITE stand almost unparalleled at the height of a six album, sixteen (!) year career.

Multiple, their most recent release, is only the bow tied around that career (though, we hope, it is far from complete). Multiple sees LITE move even further away from the more fantastic trappings of their earlier albums and double down on punch. Everything on the album, from composition on tracks like “Deep Layer” or “One Last Mile”, through the production on the prominent drums, is about penetration and groove. The beats go hard, always groovy and agile, and while there are certainly dreamy tones (like on the synth’s of the above mentioned “One Last Mile”, almost Jaga Jazzist in their quality) they are almost always backed up by monstrous bass and light-fingered guitars.

And then there’s “Ring”. “Ring” shows us that LITE are willing to have some fun with their music. It’s…honestly something I never expected to hear on a LITE album. It has marimbas, a paper-thin guitar track or two that run throughout, thumping drums, and trap/hip hop worthy vocals. It might have belonged on some far-flung BADBADNOTGOOD collaboration but not here. The crazy thing is that it totally works; LITE approach to beat works here as well, even though it’s exercised in a whole different mode. Bottom line, the track, like the rest on the album is just a goddamn banger, an ear-worm through and through.

And thus we have Multiple, an accomplished album from an accomplished band. In the annals of math-rock that shall be written in the After-days, when we are not too busy scavenging for food and water, LITE shall be remembered as a band who always pushed math-rock further without ever forgetting what it is inherently above: intricate music that kicks, that has a groove to it. Of that, Multitude has droves.

-Eden Kupermintz

The Endless Shimmering (AKA Best of the Rest)

The Appleseed Cast – The Fleeting Light of Impermanence

To preface this, I just want to say I love that it’s 2019 and there’s a new The Appleseed Cast album to write about. The influential post-rock entwined emo/alt rock group have been around for over 20 years now dating back to their 1996 conception and are still putting out top of their class music. I’ve always been really into the blend of emo and post-rock, with Moving Mountains and Athletics being two of my favourite bands in general who have cited TAC as an influence, so to see in a sense the ‘fathers’ of that scene make a triumphant return like this is empowering and gives me optimism for this scene, especially when the latter two have been on extended hiatuses. I feel like emo and post-rock are almost a natural fit together, but there’s been a noticeable lack of bands doing it justice lately. All this is a roundabout way of saying I’m happy and thankful that The Appleseed Cast are back.

It seems increasingly rare that bands who span that sort of timeframe remain consistent not only in quality, but in their sound as well. If you were a fan of their early 2000s material such as their acclaimed Low Level Owl albums, there’s a solid chance The Fleeting Light of Impermanence will retain you as a fan. Singer-guitarist Christopher Crisci’s voice is as strong as ever, with his impassioned melancholic melodies that continue to contextualize the instrumentation perfectly. The biggest progression on this album from their earlier material is definitely the sharp increase in keyboard/synth usage that I find to be an absolute delight. It’s not overtly in your face or taking away from their core sound, but is used to accent moments with starker and thicker textures like in the atmospheric and slightly psychedelic “The Journey” which has some very 65daysofstatic type tones. My favourite use of it is probably in one of the album’s highlights “Time the Destroyer”, which has a stretched out ambient yet rhythmic synth and piano intro that builds into the main verses and is maintained as the foundation of the whole song.

I had the pleasure of seeing this band in 2016 on tour with Caspian, and my biggest takeaway of the whole evening was how incredible TAC’s drumming was, and that feeling still resonates while listening to this album. It’s not that he’s really fast or does anything particularly unusual, it just feels like he gets the most out of every moment. You’ll expect a certain beat somewhere and he goes and makes it way more interesting and peculiar. It’s the kind of drumming that you wish you were watching in person while listening to it.

I’m not sure if this potentially a farewell album for this band, but The Fleeting Light of Impermanence does have a sense of finality to it that’s reflected in its title. But this is also a feeling of accomplishment. It’s a band who’s been around since the 90s and gone six years since their last album saying, hey, we’re still here and while we’re here we’re going to keep doing everything we can to make the best out of the sound that we’re best at. 

-Trent Bos

Catacombe – Scintilla

Portugal’s Catacombe have been around for a bit, having released two albums since 2010. Their previous effort, Quidam, was put out in 2014 though, and the band refer to their newest album, Scintilla, as a debut of sorts. Giving a cursory listen to their older material, calling it a significant break or change for them would be a stretch, but the good thing about that is Catacombe seem to have a really good thing going that isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing. Employing a combination of sounds from emotional cinematic post-rock, intricate and jazzy drumming, and knotty/proggy post-metal, Scintilla is a thoroughly enjoyable and immaculately-executed journey.

For me everything in this album starts with and ends with the gorgeous drumming (a term I, frankly, don’t use too often for the instrument) of Pedro Melo Alves, who brings a generally light touch to his stickwork and yet is able to pack in so much energy through his tight rhythms and expressive use of space and time. Listen to how he really guides the pace, momentum, and feeling of each track, especially on album centerpiece “Reverie,” which starts out simply enough before having drums drop out entirely and then bringing them back in for the last few minutes and just letting Alves rip, filling every nook and cranny with runs. And though drums don’t overwhelm in the mix, they’re clearly set forward enough to act as musical catalyst for the rest of the band. It’s something that I really don’t get to hear enough in more traditional/cinematic post-rock, and it absolutely sets Catacombe apart for it.

The other standout moment of Scintilla is in the other lengthy track in the middle, “Alvor,” and its use of gorgeous and wispy vocals. They don’t last for a particularly long time, but the moment they’re given utterly elevates the mood of everything around them and sets the tone for the rest of the track. But other tracks and moments hold up just as well without the vocal additions, from the dense and thrilling “Esquizo,” the surprisingly light “Sparkle,” and the cathartic climax in closer “Faux Pas.” If you’re new to Catacombe (as I am), this is a great and impressive album to acquaint yourselves with, and if you’ve been following the band for a while, Scintilla is certain to reward you handily for the patience in the long wait since their last album.

-NC

CAVALLO – INTERSTICES

I’ve already written a bit about the debut from instrumental trio Cavallo, Interstices, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here. Having listened to the album since though, I think I can better articulate what I appreciate from this kind of music and this band specifically. For whatever reason it seems like instrumental trios tend to actually be more energetic and filled with more raw power than larger groups. When I think about other powerhouse trios like Russian Circles, Town Portal, and Sannhet, what often first comes to mind is just how much sonic space they’re able to fill up within a simple guitar/bass/drums format. It’s almost as if with less ability to build layers of sound with multiple guitars, keys, or anything else, they all use those limitations to their advantage and simply crank what they have all the way up. Bass/low end guitar and drums are often given far more latitude as well to shine, which, in turn, has the effect of making the music more rhythmically-driven and dense.

All of these qualities certainly apply to Cavallo and Interstices, which is an album filled with loud, groovy, and constantly driving slabs of raucous music. “Gravity Knife,” “Engine Down,” “Send Me Into the Dark,” and other tracks simply clutch you, lift you up, and don’t let go. There is always something deeply fascinating or invigorating going on, whether it’s in the frenetic and explosive drumwork of John Hayes, the versatile guitar of Kyle Hussa-Lietz that can turn from mathy plucking to epicly soaring within moments, or the grounded foundation that Jeff Arancherry lays on bass that holds it all together into a dense and exhilarating ride. Existing somewhere in the murky nexus of traditional/cinematic post-rock, groovy math rock, prog, and beyond, Cavallo’s music is deeply creative and original, taking well worn formulas and really putting their own mark on it. Interstices is likely to fly under the radar of many in a year that’s been so jam packed with monster releases in the post/math/instrumental rock space, but I seriously implore you not to sleep on this one. This is the kind of music with longevity and legs that makes it as enjoyable to hear the first time as it is on repeat.

-NC

Deer Park Ranger – Wolf

I’m going to start off by saying that if you’re of the belief that Explosions in the Sky set post-rock down the wrong path, then this album might not be for you. Them and Mogwai are very clearly the major influences here and it’s pretty definitively ‘crescendocore’, but honestly I can’t hate on this style when it’s done well – and Deer Park Ranger‘s new album Wolf has taken that recipe for success and baked it masterfully. The majority of the songs here are essentially two clean guitar tracks, the occasional keyboard and a drum kit, with heavy use of tremolo picking and repeated buildups. The songwriting however does a great job of carrying these tropes to make each song still distinct and memorable. It relies heavily on tension building and releasing but does so with film soundtrack-like execution.

The range of ideas here is a little limited, probably relating to this being a solo project with more limited influences but that doesn’t aggressively hinder the music on a song by song basis. We see some variations on tracks like “Wax Wings” which has a piano and electronic drum kit intro akin to The American Dollar and a real floaty vibe, and the album closer “The World Will Never Find You” which has a much more chilled-out ambient vibe with blissful soft synth pads. The dissonant and contrasting moods keep anything from going stale, and it really excels at finding that shimmering light in the darkness and despair. They do this through more than just song-structure but in the instrumentation. “Slanted on Earth” among other tracks does this neat technique of layering a traditional post-rocky soaring reverb tremolo riff with a muted-plucked riff harmonizing underneath it that creates a very essence-filling energy that one can easily get lost in and forget about whatever drives you to listen to this genre in the first place. 

-TB

Driving Slow Motion – Arda

I’ve had a lot of time to think about post-rock in the last year or so. This, our recurring column, picked up pace with the addition of Trent and David. I wrote a deep dive about post-rock which was posted just yesterday on the blog. We took part in several events which are important to the scene. And, in general, there’s just been an amazing amount of great post-rock released. All of these together have got me not only consuming the music but also thinking about why I consume it in the first place.

To be honest, there are many reasons; I like the aesthetics of post–rock, whether the earthy tones of the recent wave of American bands, the teal and pink aesthetic of the more sci-fi oriented bands in the genre, or the classic, drawn out, hopeful-in-despair style of the first and second wave. This affinity for aesthetic goes beyond the album cover or the shirt. It extends into the music; something about the gentle roll of delayed guitars, of the crashing of crescendos, of expansive soundscapes unfolding away inside my head, just speaks deeply to me.

I think it goes back to my childhood, when I first found the pleasure of books and of internal spaces. Post-rock, with its emphasis on instrumental music, introspection, and rich emotional paletes, just sends me travelling through my mind, whether inside of it to worlds real or imagined. There’s no other genre which comes close to unlocking that place inside of me, making me somber, melancholy, and oddly expectant of the future and what may come of it. I guess my emotional makeup was always ripe for the taking by post-rock, the whisking away.

If you think these few paragraphs aren’t about Driving Slow Motion’s Arda then you simply haven’t heard the album yet. You should fix that; there’s a link below. It is all of those things and more, one of the most arresting and yet oddly freeing post-rock albums I’ve heard in years. It’s an out-stretched hand to realms both wholly intimate and completely distant. Give it a shot.

-EK

Pelican – Nighttime Stories

The concept of change is a fickle and unforgiving beast when it comes to the arts. In the context of post- music, you have bands who are constantly re-designing what they do to nearly universal claim (Caspian), while other bands look to refresh their approach and are met with incredibly divisive feedback (Explosions in the Sky). There are bands who essentially do the same thing every time out to continued acclaim (Russian Circles), and other artists who are ultimately derided for being same-ish (Lights and Motion). Basically, if you’re trying to settle on an approach to writing new material, good luck. You might as well do whatever’s in your heart and let it land where it will. 

Pelican is a band that seems to have lived in that Russian Circles realm as time has worn on. I remain steadfast that their 2005 epic The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw is an indisputable post-metal classic. It was one of my initial introductions to the genre and has never really left me, even as I have strayed away from it in exploration of so many other bands in the genre. I actually feel like the record has been unfairly left behind to some extent; you don’t hear it discussed nearly as much as it deserves to be when people are talking about essential post-metal albums, maybe because the production is somewhat lacking. We did a column a couple of months ago regarding albums that need a re-master, and I would have put this one high near the top of the list. But still, its winding song structures, oppressive riffs, gorgeous melodies and absolute refusal to compromise on its vision cements it as an integral piece of the American instrumental metal puzzle. 

After this record, though, I felt like Pelican entered a period where they released a series of albums that were certainly solid, but lacked the inspiration of The Fire In Our Throats. City of Echoes, What We All Come To Need and Forever Becoming all have some really good songs, but the most accurate thing I can say about them is “they sound very Pelican-y. If you like Pelican, you’ll probably like this.” I’m not sure where that ranks on the ladder of praise. They were doing the exact thing they always did well, but there wasn’t a ton of dynamic exploration. Don’t get me wrong. I like Pelican, and I am constantly rooting for them. There are moments of brilliance throughout everything they’ve done since The Fire In Our Throats. Tracks like “Deny The Absolute,” “City of Echoes,” “Far From Fields,” “Lathe Biosis” and “Strung Up From The Sky” are all certified bangers, but while I would come out of every subsequent Pelican release thinking “that was very good,” I never came out thinking “that was amazing” or “that was exciting and new ground for them.” I realize as I’m writing this that it must be really annoying for a band to hear someone say “well, you’re really good at doing what you do, but what you should do is write something really different and also make sure it’s incredible.” So maybe I’m the asshole here.

However, Pelican have preempted my critiques in a very interesting way that stays true to what they have always been while at the same time providing a listening experience that is fresh and engaging in a way I haven’t experienced from them in a while. They aren’t re-inventing their wheel with Nighttime Stories, but GODDAMN have they refined and focused it. This record has everything that would have made me stand up and applaud their previous efforts. Where some of their other works have featured some stunning individual tracks but sputtered slightly in terms of staying power, this album just cranks it up and never lets down. The intro track is atmospheric and quiet but has these glimmers of attitude and toothsomeness that foreshadow the coming storm effectively. Then the lead single “Midnight and Mescaline” kicks in and the band never looks back. 

It’s the “Deny the Absolute” of this record for sure, that mission-statement song that shows exactly what Pelican is capable of at their best. It’s upbeat and ever-snarling, undoubtedly one of the best songs the band has ever composed. There is a change around the 4-minute mark that has made me exclaim “yeahhhh,” followed by excited cackling not once, but twice. Sorry, make that three times. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this and I just did it again. It couldn’t be helped. Even after knowing it was coming I literally couldn’t contain myself. One thing that’s always been true about this band: when they riff, they riff HARD. This is the kind of riff that can only be carved out of the rock at Mount Olympus. In a world of fake news, this riff is the truth.

The trick of Nighttime Stories is that, where previous records would have settled in to a more measured delivery after this song, Pelican jumps right back into the fire with “Abyssal Plain,” one of the most exuberant and vibrant tracks in their catalog. It’s still heavy as one would expect from them, but it has an energy that is infectious. I don’t claim to know the minds of the members of the band, but it just feels like they had a ton of fun making this record, and it serves the listening experience to great lengths. The real test is “Cold Hope,” the first track on the record that features that trademark sludgy Pelican mid-tempo that could go either way in my estimation. It’s familiar but it also never lets down, revealing a determination on the band’s behalf to continually drop the hammer this time out. It’s definitely the most consistently heavy material they’ve released in well over a decade.

After a welcome interlude, Pelican ratchets the intensity back up in the record’s back half. Beginning with the title track, they toss out some of the year’s chunkiest riffs with no regard for your poor eardrums; these songs can only be consumed on full volume. The transitions into the chugging guitar parts hit harder than ever before, the sudden upticks in tempo are fully locked in and precise in both their groove and timing. On the album closer “Full Moon, Black Water” there is also an emotional resonance in the more melodic riffs that has been a missing component for them at times in the past. But this is no outro ballad, the teeth are sharp on this one as well. “Sharp” is a good way to describe the entirety of Nighttime Stories: it feels more alive, keenly focused, determined and thoroughly vicious than almost anything Pelican has done in their lengthy career. Even as The Fire In Our Throats stands as an incredibly thoughtful and artfully composed metal record, it still doesn’t have the immediacy and fury that Nighttime Stories possesses. As such, I would place these two records together in the top tier of the band’s catalog. Yet another spectacular release in a year where that has long been a running theme already.

-David Zeidler

Other Notable Releases

Jambinai – ONDA
Fools and Foes – Fools and Foes
Parallel Colors – Conversations
This Sun No More – In Circles

Our Top 10 Post-y Albums of 2019 So Far

David

If the process of whittling this down is any indication, it’s going to be a very difficult end of the year for all of us. This list doesn’t even include The End of the Ocean, Seeress, Terms x Conditions, Endless Dive, Wander, Dead To A Dying World, Town Portal, or Spotlights. Oof, what a year it’s been. And we still have Caspian to deal with in the back half, amongst so many others.

  1. Her Name Is CallaAnimal Choir
  2. LatitudesPart Island 
  3. PelicanNighttime Stories 
  4. Minor MovementsBloom
  5. OutlanderThe Valium Machine
  6. PILLARSCavum
  7. Old SolarSEE 
  8. We Are Impala Visions
  9. FlodhastUnos Dias En La Tierra 
  10. Lazybones Flame KidsBeyond

Eden

Please be safe and tell the people you love that you love them.

  1. Old SolarSEE
  2. Driving Slow MotionArda
  3. Latitudes Part Island
  4. Goodbye, KingsA Moon Daguerreotype
  5. Long HallwaysClose Your Eyes to Travel
  6. Town Portal Of Violence
  7. We Are ImpalaVisions
  8. LabirintoDivino Afflante Spiritu
  9. Legendary SkiesNavigation
  10. SEIMS3.1

Nick

Let me just reiterate how difficult this is, and please direct all complaints to [email protected]

  1. LatitudesPart Island
  2. Town PortalOf Violence
  3. Violet ColdkOsmik
  4. Long HallwaysClose Your Eyes To Travel
  5. We Are ImpalaVisions
  6. SEIMS3.1
  7. Dead To A Dying WorldElegy
  8. The Physics House BandDeath Sequence
  9. Lost In KievPersona
  10. LabirintoDivino Afflante Spiritu

Trent

My top 10 of the year so far was hard to narrow down, there’s several albums that narrowly missed out here and the second half of this list is fairly interchangeable. If you can’t tell from my choices, I have a tendency these days to be drawn towards bands that incorporate post-rock heavily with other genres, so this is a little more of a post-everything list.

  1. Somn The All Devouring
  2. LITE Multiple
  3. Battle of Britain MemorialWe Crave For Our Holy Insides
  4. The Pirate Ship Quartet Emitter
  5. We Are ImpalaVisions
  6. The Appleseed CastThe Fleeting Light of Impermanence
  7. Violet ColdkOsmik
  8. Land WarsLand Wars
  9. BlankenbergeMore
  10. LatitudesPart Island 


Comments

"We're all fools, all the time. It's just we're a different kind each day. We think, I'm not a fool today. I've learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we're not perfect and live accordingly." - Ray Bradbury