Yeah, so this is still happening, huh? This past month was the time where I moved on from just having the reality of the pandemic sink in to fully accepting that this is going to continue to be our reality for many months, if not years, to come. And…it’s not great. In fact, very few things in general are great. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.
Post-rock is still pretty great even if every single tour and festival continues to be canceled. Post-poned, the livestream series we’ve been sponsoring in collaboration with pretty much all of the major players in modern post-, has been going wonderfully. Since I first mentioned it here last month, there have been a handful of other performances from the likes of TÖRZS, Glacier, Ranges, Wess Meets West, and more. Check them all out here, and if you’re not already subscribed to wherepostrockdwells on Youtube idk what you’re even doing here, honestly.
Another thing that’s great comes courtesy of the beautiful bastards over at dunk!festival. If you feel like you’re in a bit of a musical rut and need some new artists to dig into, or if you just want a wonderfully-curated post-rock playlist that never ends, then the lads have you covered. They are now offering 24-hour post-rock radio called, of course, dunk!radio. This is, also of course, for free, and features all the best and brightest minds in modern post-, as well as some hidden gems. The team has also teased that they’re looking into building it out to feature some programming and other cool things. Frankly, now that it exists it seems like one of those things I can’t believe didn’t already exist, but I am enormously glad that dunk! took it upon themselves to get it up and running. As of the moment it appears to be fully browser-based, but hopefully there will be some sort of mobile/app functionality built in down the road.
And now for some things that aren’t great! The feedback I received for my angry rant shoehorned into last month’s intro about the general state of things was way more positive than I expected. I am beyond gracious and humbled that anyone actually bothered to read all of that as it served as much as necessary catharsis/thought-dumping as anything else. I definitely don’t intend to write humongous missives like that every month, but I hope you don’t mind if I continue to use this space as a little bit of therapeutic musing on a range of not strictly musical topics.
For a few weeks I thought I might talk about the concepts of selfishness and empathy in the time of COVID, namely as they relate to two phenomena: the persistent actions taken by ordinary citizens across the country through anti-lockdown protests and either threats of or actual violence against anyone simply trying to enforce safety through social distancing and wearing masks; and the concurrent lifting of stay at home and business restrictions that is forcing thousands of people back to work against their will (don’t even get me started about the meat-packing plants). But that is just such a huge topic that I don’t think I could do it justice in this space, especially when so many writers I admire have already tackled similar topics far better than I could.
So instead I will recommend two articles. First is from the legendary court/law reporter Dahlia Lithwick, who dives into the usage of words “freedom” and “liberty” in the context of these popular coronavirus acts of protest, namely the crucial difference between “freedom to” and “freedom from” and what they each represent (which is technically a reference to another great article from Ibram X. Kendi over at The Atlantic).
We now find ourselves on the precipice of a moment in which Americans must decide whether the price they are willing to pay for the “freedom” of armed protesters, those determined to block hospitals, and pundits who want to visit the zoo, is their own health and safety. Polls show that the majority of Americans are still deeply devoted to the proposition that their government can protect them from a deadly virus, and that they trust their governors and scientists and data far more than they trust the Mission Accomplished Industrial Complex that would have them valuing free-floating ideas about liberty over the health and indeed lives of essential workers, the elderly, and their own well-being, despite the president’s recent insistence that this is what, all of us, as “warriors” must do. As Jamil Smith points out, this cultish view of “liberty” as demanding mass death in exchange for “liberty,” as in “freedom to” is an assembly-line, AstroTurf version of liberty pushed by those who are already very free. “Their true goal, plutocracy, is the diametrical opposite of freedom,” Smith writes. “It is a life lived to spite other lives, and often take advantage of them.”
The second one comes from Jamelle Bouie over at the Times (really one of the only op-ed writers over there worth expending any energy towards), who argues that the emphasis on “freedom” from mostly white protestors is the latest in a long history of white people seeking to affirm their autonomy over non-white bodies. It should not be seen as a mere coincidence that the pressure from anti-lockdown protestors and government officials to “reopen” the economy started swelling just as we began to learn how COVID-19 disproportionately affects black and poor communities, who, for a number of reasons, face more health issues and environmental issues that contribute to health issues.
If whiteness has meant the right to control and to be free from control, then it is easy to see how racial identity might influence the reaction to the lockdowns among a certain subset of white Americans.
More than just burdensome, the restrictions become an intolerable violation of the social contract as these Americans understand it. They run against the meaning of their racial identity, of the freedom and autonomy it is supposed to signify. And they resolve the violation by asserting the other aspect of white freedom, the right of control.
Plenty to dig in there and unpack. I have some other opinions and feelings to contribute as well, but I’ll leave it here for now. If anyone would like to continue the conversation elsewhere, you can find me in our Facebook community group.
Before we move onto actual music though, I do want to talk briefly about another topic that’s been on my mind frequently of late: depression. For me it’s unfortunately rather unavoidable. I’ve dealt with depression in some form or another for most of my life, though it’s only been within the past couple of years that I’ve fully recognized and accepted it for what it is. For so much of my life I’ve felt like something is fundamentally wrong with me, that I was seeing and experiencing a world that seemingly no one else around me shared. I don’t feel that way nearly as much these days, but it’s nonetheless a part of me that has never fully left.
And with everything that’s going on these days – with the realities that so many mundane things we took for granted for so long will now possess a twinge of fear and guilt for likely many years to come, with the reality that so many have already died, that so many more will die, and that so many right now are being placed directly in harm’s way – my depression has come back strongly in waves. I am lucky and privileged enough in many ways that I can shield myself from the pandemic’s immediate effects and thus also many things that would also force my mental health into a complete and utter tailspin. But it doesn’t take much for the bubbling black well inside of me to overflow and for the foul moods, caustic antagonism, and misanthropy to take over for a bit.
I wanted to write a bit about this now because, more than ever, I know that I am, in fact, not alone. Whereas these feelings are things I’ve grown accustomed to experiencing and because of that I know how to recognize them and mitigate their effects, I know there are a ton of you out there who have suffered from mental health issues for most of your lives and have never been afforded the tools to manage them, and there are many of you out there who are unfamiliar with these feelings altogether and might be experiencing depression of this magnitude for either the first or one of the first times in your life. Someone I know recently made the astute observation (also in our community group) that, ironically, they’re feeling better than they normally do because for once they feel like they actually have prepared for this reality and have the ability to share what they know with others and help them. I think that’s a really awesome way of looking at things and an attitude I would like to adopt.
So to those of you out there who have seen your lives turned upside down by all of this; to the musicians whose entire livelihoods have been erased, plans canceled, and passion made nearly impossible to carry out; to those who have lost friends and family to the virus; to those who have lost your job or jobs, been furloughed, or are now having to weigh supporting yourself/your family and your own health and life; to those who are witnessing all of this up close day in and day out due to your work; to those who are just feeling more alone and isolated than they ever have; depression is natural. It’s really one of the only logical reactions to this. Depression is not bad or wrong. It is literally how your mind or body can cope with this kind of stress or trauma. It is not a sign of weakness or defect. It is a sign that things are working as they should. It is not offensive. It is defensive.
Most importantly, your depression doesn’t need to be just your own. It is a shared depression. There is nothing wrong with wanting to talk about it and share it. You are not “bringing others down” or “being a burden” by sharing it (both things it’s taken me many years to – mostly – overcome). More than ever, we need to be there as a collective to hold each other up, so when others fall or need support themselves the entire thing doesn’t come crashing down. We don’t need super-caretakers who can shoulder the load all themselves. We don’t need fucking “heroes” to sacrifice. We need a collective consciousness and humanity who can help each other as needed.
The single most important question in a time like this is: do you have anyone other than yourself you can depend on or turn to for support? Are you reaching out to them when you need help, and are you reaching out to them to make sure they know you’re there if they need you?
So, please, be good to yourself. Allow yourself to feel and experience what you will without constantly policing or faulting it. And be good to others. Be compassionate and empathetic towards the experiences of others. Extend yourself as much as you hope anyone might extend themselves to you. And once again, if you need someone, I can be part of that for you, and our community can be part of that for you. I don’t keep bringing up our community group simply in a vain attempt to get more people to join because bigger numbers look nice. I sincerely and truly believe that it is an important and good thing that can offer a lot of people things that we all need: support, understanding, belonging. If nothing else, take it from someone who has been on a never-ending search for those things his entire life.
And with that, music. April was another incredible month for new releases, possibly even stronger than March was. This is one where you’re really going to want to make sure you check out every single band mentioned throughout.
Post-Topper: Barrens – Penumbra (heavy synth rock)
Given how often I feel that I bring up my utter love for synth-heavy electronic-tinged post- and how naturally the sound fits into the current musical landscape, it’s honestly surprising to me just how few acts there are right now executing this style at a high level. The last time a new band working in this space really impressed me was Reformat, though last year did at least see bands like Lost In Kiev and Tides From Nebula turn towards bringing this style in very successfully. There’s just something so immediately gripping about the synthesis of huge synth/retrowave-sounding aesthetics blended with the compositional freedom of cathartic post-rock/metal. It presents a more immediate and usually driving side of the music that is determined to make you want to move and groove.
Thankfully it seems we finally have our first truly great entry in this musical substrain from Sweden’s Barrens and their debut album Penumbra. That their debut was released by Pelagic Records should speak volumes in itself, but if you are still unconvinced their music more than backs up the hype. Perhaps the best way I can describe the sound of Penumbra is the brooding exploration of recent synth-heavy Mogwai work – in particular their brilliant score/album for Atomic – mixed with the thrilling energy of 65daysofstatic circa Wild Light.
It is a deeply prodding album, one that is intended to leave an immediate impression but not mentally exhaust. Where first proper track “Atomos” launches the listener into a whirlwind of neon city lights and fast-moving action accented by bright xylophone, Barrens are smart enough to hold back the full throttle at times and not cause sensory overload. This is true throughout the album, which is a positive feast of intentional and intelligent sequencing. “Oracle Bones” is an absolute driving barn burner, bringing in the insistent rhythmic soul of krautrock-inspired bands like Maserati. It only becomes more effective when followed by the looser and more ambient “Grail Marker,” which finds its soul in a piano lead that cuts through the mess of synth beds, just in time for “Arc Eye” to completely blow the lid off with its epic build rivaling the likes of Caspian.
The other factor working in Barrens’s favor is their ability to effortlessly shift between different sounds and “modes” that they’re working in. You come into an album like this with certain expectations in mind. You expect certain grooves, certain sounds, etc., and Penumbra most definitely delivers on all of those. But it goes above and beyond to subtly shift from hard-driving 2s-and-4s heavy synth rock to more cinematic tones and milieus while still delivering something that sounds unique to both. It’s why the action-packed groover “Shifter” and the pendulous and epic “The Passing” can work so well together, especially when linked by the musical deep breath that is the title track. For music that can become trapped in a one-dimensional gimmick, Barrens absolutely smash through to deliver a shining example of synth-post at its finest.
The Endless Shimmering (AKA Best of the Rest)
Darius – Voir (cinematic post-rock/metal)
OK yeah, I’m all for scintillating tones and longing (just check out my other entry for this month’s column) but sometimes you need things to go fast and hit hard. That’s exactly what Darius does on Voir, channeling their post-metal/rock core through some nasty, post-punk influenced lenses. That’s what gives us tracks like “Poppy” for example, motivated by a groove section that just won’t quit, funneling more and more swagger into the track as it progresses. The guitars more than keep track, their tones channeling more “punk” than “post” throughout the track’s runtime.
Comparisons like Town Portal or Poly-math spring to mind but Darius run their hotness through a more aggressive and straight-forward channel than either of those two bands. There’s complexity and scintillating tones here to be sure but just jump on over to the three minutes mark of “Poppy” to see what Darius are about. There’s blast-beats in here, for God’s sake, together with a filthy bass tone that wouldn’t put either of the aforementioned bands to shame (and that’s saying something).
There are other things to enjoy on Voir, like the more agile, complex drumming on “Men Er Grah” or the big bass/guitar lines on “Leap of Faith”, but at its core, this is probably the most pissed off and energetically direct album on this month’s entry of Post Rock Post. It’s enchanting in its muscle, not sacrificing variety for fury’s sake, creating a weaving, powerful album that just goes and goes and goes. To be consumed at the heat of the noon while furiously dancing in your room in your underpants in lieu of physical exercise in the plague-infested world we now call reality. Loudly.
The Kraken Quartet + Adobo – Backdrop (post-math rock)
I am naturally skeptical of musical collaborations between established artists. So often what sounds like should be highly promising on paper by combining two different and distinct musical visions/perspectives winds up being a kind of musical tug of war between two or more styles and ultimately less than the sum of its parts. Still, when percussive post-math ensemble The Kraken Quartet dropped a new EP in collaboration with singer-songwriter Adobo, my interest was piqued. Then I heard “Hold My Breath,” the lead track from Backdrop, and I was nothing short of floored. The musical DNA of Kraken is certainly there in the rhythmic density of tracks, but the mellow voice and guitar of Nay Wilkins adds such an incredible quality to the entire experience that Backdrop truly sounds like a project separate from either.
The five tracks that comprise the EP are each beautifully-constructed and flowing tracks that form their own stunning puzzle-box-like sound, with Wilkins serving as a guiding voice floating above it and occasionally diving deep into the waves. The vocal hooks throughout are extremely catchy and alluring, especially on “Hold My Breath,” “Zev,” and “Backdrop.” The latter in particular is really the pinnacle of this experimentation, an epic of math rock noodling, positive post-rock catharsis, and poppy uplift. It’s the kind of soothing musical balm that I need desperately these days and the kind of thing that once you hear you immediately crave more of. I don’t know if the group intend to further this collaboration in the future, but I know that I would not be at all upset to see them continue pursuing this kind of music together.
Maserati – Enter the Mirror (post-rock, krautrock, electronic)
If you’re not a fan of synth-fused post-rock, I’m sorry, because here is another! One of the longest running artists featured this week, the Athens, GA based Maserati date all the way back to 2001. This April, they broke a five-year silence to drop their impressive eighth studio album, Enter the Mirror. I mention the location they’re from because for a long time I’ve assumed that Maserati were European, or more specifically German. Their sound is certainly atypical of the emerging “new wave of American post-rock”, instead drawing more from synth rock, desert rock and most specifically, krautrock.
It’s a lesser known fact that early post-rock drew a lot of influence from Germany’s iconic krautrock sound. Over time that influence has dissipated as many bands grew away from that towards more ambient soundscapes, but it can still be found with groups like Maserati, Long Distance Calling, and Ground Patrol. I find myself often referring to this sort of post-rock sound as “driving.” Both in the sense that they make for good music for a drive, but also that the beat feels like an engine. Rhythmically maintaining a steady, forward-moving beat that feels like it takes you somewhere. Krautrock was so known for this sort of beat, that it was coined the name “motorik,” a portmanteau of motor and musik. Motorik is a 4/4 beat of moderate pace that is typically repeated throughout a song, often with a crash cymbal hitting on the first note. This sound was further popularized on Kraftwerk’s iconic track “Autobahn,” written to encapsulate this feeling of driving on the famed motorway.
I wanted to highlight a bit of background on that influence because it’s fairly integral to Enter the Mirror. Post-rock can take you running barefoot through fields of flowers, to running for your life in an apocalypse. Here it takes you for a drive through a city lost in time, to a gym for a workout. And believe me this album makes for excellent workout and cardio music. Rarely does post-rock keep this sort of blood pumping energy for an entire playtime. The synth tones are reminiscent at times of a lot of modern synthwave, with that retro, neon-lit 80s vibe that makes your body move while feeling (sunglasses emoji), cool. That 80s vibe carries over further with that krautrock influenced and somewhat brit-pop-ish guitar tones that are like something from a training montage.
Like krautrock, I’ve long maintained that post-rock has inherent similarities with dance music in general. Obviously there are different tools and instruments at play, but both rely on the use of building through repetition, and adding on layers for varying timbres and melodies. It’s interesting how repetition as a songwriting motif can be utilized to differing results, and we see that dance approach fusing together with post-rock’s use of it to build tension.
Maserati make fantastic use of this technique on one of the album’s highlights, “Der Honig.” The track starts like much of this album, with a driving drum beat and bassline and brief repeated guitar riff. Two synth layers fade in before a heavier riff kicks up and the original riff stretches out into noise-rock territory. It’s around the midpoint when it kicks off. With the bass and drums maintaining the same beat from the start, a infectiously catchy guitar lick jumps on top of things. This riff repeats a few times before a synth-organ joins in repeating it and the guitarist improvises something of a noisy solo based off those root notes. It makes for an incredibly satisfying and “get shit done” kind of feeling. I just wish that high point this track delivers was touched again elsewhere, as the other songs while strong on their own kind of blur together.Another aspect that has received some mixed reactions is the increased use of vocals. They’re not necessarily singing per se, but all in the form of Daft Punk-esque spoken vocoder. On the album closer, they’re sequenced and spliced for something closer to a disco sound. I personally found they fit the energetic and robotic, dancy nature of the album, but I can see them not being for everyone. Overall, Enter The Mirror doesn’t necessarily explore new territory for the band, however it delivers one of the most cohesive and tight amalgamations of danceable electronic music and post-rock I’ve heard. Here’s to another 20 years of Maserati.
Sleeping Bear – Vorokhtah (cinematic post-rock/metal)
There is an urgent need that has been pressing on me for the last six years or and that is the desire for more music from Sleeping Bear. Ever since I heard their self-titled release, back in 2014, I have just been sitting at my window, mournfully waiting for more tidbits of their extremely poignant post-rock. When 2015 and 2017 brought me a few more songs, it was pure pleasure, a release of tension that I wasn’t fully aware of but which was hurting me. Specifically Parinae, their 2015 ode to spring, further solidified their status as one my all time favorite bands, inside of post-rock and out of it.
Now, Sleeping Bear are back once again with a two track release titled Vorokhtah and let me tell you, it is so damn good. More dour and somber than Parinae, it channels the kind of winter-drenched part of their sound, still drenched in nature but paying homage to the more contemplative and dormant side of things. It’s so damn beautiful it makes me cry. “When Rivers Become a Waterfall” is a build-up first track, taking its time (around four and a half minutes, to be precise) to carefully gather together layers of guitars, effects, and rhythm towards the track’s crescendo.
When it comes, it is a subtle, introspective affair; to start with, it’s not that the guitars crash as much as they spread, proliferating across several tracks, ideas, and sounds to create a rich landscape of sound. When they do crash, they have that much more weight behind them, feeding off of the many movements that the buildup of the track was made of. “Phantom” is constructed in much the same way but is even more dispersed and diverse; it contains several buildups and crescendos, including one of the meatier, groovier parts that Sleeping Bear have ever written, along the four and a half minute mark.
In short, this release, like all of Sleeping Bear’s releases, just makes me want more. No one, besides maybe sleepmakeswaves and a few others, wields the tools of cinematic post-rock like they do. Their tones are impeccable, their composition interesting, their delivery intimate and earnest. They are one of the best post-rock bands operating today and after I finish listening to this EP for the millionth time, I’ll go back to waiting expectantly for even more music from them.
Vasudeva – Generator (modern traditional post-rock/upbeat)
Back in 2013-2014 when I first discovered Audiotree, I had a bit of a mini-renaissance in regard to discovering new bands. Their live series was how I learned about O’Brother, And So I Watch You From Afar, letlive., La Dispute, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Emma Ruth Rundle, Foxing, Tides of Man, and more. Eventually in mid-2015 I saw a set by the relative-unknown New Jersey band Vasudeva. This is one of the things I most appreciate about Audiotree – the name value doesn’t seem to be that important. Instead, the creators of the series rely on their own tastes to determine who performs in their studio. As a result you often get the rare kind of exposure to smaller indie bands that allows them to shine in an incredibly well-produced, professional setting. I’ve said before that Audiotree Live is one of the only in-studio video series that I can think of that can make their subjects sound even better than they do on record. At the time of their appearance on Audiotree, Vasudeva was anything but a household name, but it would appear that their subsequent development into a more visible band with a number of strong support appearances for larger touring acts can be at least somewhat attributed to the platform given to them by Audiotree, on which they no doubt shined.
Vasudeva has been praised for their ability to break the mold of post-rock formula. And while in some ways they leave the crescendo-core sensibilities behind in service of a different kind of formula, there’s no denying that what they present performs in exactly the way it’s intended to. We have often praised “upbeat” post-rock here in our Post Rock Posts, and Vasudeva in many ways embodies that concept. Their music is brisk and breezy, deferring to groove as opposed to riffs; everything they do is in the spirit of a kind of danceability. You’ll not find extended build-ups to explosive climaxes here, but rather a collection of lean, well-paced head-nodders that beg you to go outside and take a drive on a sunny day, or provide the soundtrack to a friendly gathering during a bewitching summer twilight. Or perhaps, it could work to lift your spirits during troubled times, which makes its release early this past April even more appropriate. Think of a more carefree Tides of Man – taut composition rooted more in precision and pacing than in reverb drenched melodies and dramatic gestures, and you’re on the right track.
Generator, their first release since 2017’s No Clearance, isn’t the kind of release that is going to greatly alter the perception of Vasudeva; in some regard they seem to have found a comfortable groove, so to speak, and are riding it. If there is a criticism to be levied against the record it’s that it is everything that anyone who has heard their previous material would expect it to be, and nothing more. But far be it from me to criticize a well-oiled machine for doing the thing it was built to do. I’m not just waxing poetic above – I have listened to this album in its entirety while cruising down the mostly open roads of rural Vermont, and it’s an album that made me feel good. We are living in a time of uncertainty right now, and for a lot of people 2020 is going to be the most difficult they’ve experienced. We all love a well-written build-and-release post-rock tune here, but I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of music that is both pretty and upbeat right now. That Generator isn’t a particularly challenging album actually plays into its favor in 2020. It does what it promises, it gives you a wave of good spirit on which to ride for a short time. In other years delivering what listeners expect might be a thing to be nitpicked while we all enjoy the comforts and access we’ve come to take for granted. But this year, knowing what you’re getting yourself into – especially when it’s as bright and buoyant and charming as Vasudeva’s music is – is a rare delight that restores both a sense of solidity and uplift that so many of us are in serious need of right now.
Weary Eyes – Weary Eyes (post-math rock/synth rock)
I am totally here for this new wave of electronic post-rock that seems to be taking off lately. Whether that’s coming from a more strictly electronic music or IDM starting point and adding in more post-rock elements, or taking more rock oriented post-rock and adding electronic elements. We of course covered another iteration of this up top with the darker, synth rock approach of Barrens, as well as the dancier krautrock leaning Maserati. Now for a lighter, twinkly take on things, we have the new self-titled EP by the Moscow based quartet Weary Eyes.
With Weary Eyes, the group has deviated somewhat from the heavier purely post-math sound of their acclaimed 2018 release Truth North. The change is a welcome one to me, largely due to the fact that while strong, the sound of the previous works has been largely played out already. On their new EP, that sound has evolved into one that is much more novel. This is a result of not only the addition of synths/keys, but also vocals! From the opening beat you’re hit with these drawn out synth tones that act as a backing layer for most of this track. They add a more IDM derived ambient feel to the music that matches and plays off the guitar. The reverb heavy Russian-sung vocals bring their own element of added atmosphere that fortunately fit perfectly.
The synths carry over to “Sleep”, taking the role of driving the melody of the intro until those sparkly math-rock twanged guitars kick in. I was happy to hear the vocals weren’t just a one-off on the first track, as they contribute a more emotional (and well emo-influenced) feeling that has always worked well with math-rock. It would be a crime not to mention the drumming on this release, as it is arguably the highlight. The twinkly tapped guitars and backing bass lines are impressive on their own but it’s really the drum work that carries this EP with its energetic and eclectic flavour. Take “Enough” for example, it takes what could be a more straight-forward groove oriented electro-post-math sound like Vessels or Gallops (is electronic post-rock the new djent?) and adds a perfect mix of grounding groove and jazzy flare.
Weary Eyes blend of electronics with more American Football styled math rock and conventional post-rock is a wonderfully charming combination that works better than expected for a truly novel sound. What could have come off as fragmented and lifeless in theory comes together cohesively, surprisingly warm and endearing. For a short but sweet and fresh take on some old sounds, Weary Eyes is a safe bet.
Wolfhand – The Devil Arrives (doom/post-rock/cinematic/spaghetti western)
It’s a rare treat to be able to cover a band local to me here, one that’s especially sweet when they’re doing something truly unique and exciting. Wolfhand has been putting in work in the Burlington scene for a few years now, but The Devil Arrives is their first full-length release, and it’s a wonderful representation of their ominous-yet-arresting fever dream blend of post-metal, post-rock, doom and sinister slide-guitar country and western. If there is one album this month that is drenched in atmosphere, it’s this one. It scratches a very specific itch that you might not even know you have, but once you dive in it’s an undeniably rewarding experience.
We have actually encountered one of the members of Wolfhand previously – last year Nick covered keyboardist Mike Fried’s other band, Sad Turtle. This is a much different affair though. Whereas Sad Turtle is much more about jazzy grooves and bright tones, Wolfhand is keenly focused on building oppressive soundscapes that deftly balance ample riffage with stark and evocative dust-bowl Western overtones and the ever-present menace of a horror film soundtrack.
It’s interesting that it shares a lot of sonic similarities with stoner rock, yet its ability to play through without insisting upon itself or its influences makes it far more listenable than I tend to find that genre. I’m certainly not discounting all stoner rock releases — Kyuss’ Sky Valley is one of my favorite albums of all time — but I have to say that I tend to keep that genre at arm’s length because so many bands seem to grasp onto their Sabbath worship so tightly that they aren’t able to emerge from that shadow in any kind of meaningful way. The thing that makes The Devil Arrives work is that it honors its influences at the same time as it constantly strives to set itself apart from them. In this way you’re able to both appreciate where it comes from and feel excited about where it’s going.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES:
Astodan – Bathala (post-rock/post-metal)
aswekeepsearching – Sleep (post-rock/ambient)
Coldbones – The Cataclysm (post-rock/post-metal)
Egoera – Fortuna (post-rock, post-metal)
iiah – Terra (cinematic/post-rock with vocals)
In2Elements – Cycles (groove post-rock)
tiny tree – Embolism (post-metal/prog)
Unconditional Arms – Formation (upbeat cinematic post-rock)
Viva Belgrado – Bellavista (post-screamo/post-rock)
Yojo – The Stepson (dark-jazz, post-rock)