The day this post publishes will be the same day one year ago that I found myself in Indianapolis for the first time in my life. I traveled from Boston by myself and was only there for a little under 48 hours. But I have so many incredible memories of those two days. Because it was Post. Festival. It’s hard to believe that the whirlwind of music, community, and love I found there was already one year ago. It’s even harder to see the Facebook memories pop up and people talking about it again given the fact that I haven’t seen any live music in person, let alone attended a music festival, since the beginning of this year.
It would be easy to wallow in the covid blues at a time like this. If this past week in news has demonstrated anything, it’s simply how easy it is for the virus to take down anyone who dares defy it. So, yes, I am exceedingly sad that there was no Post. Festival for me to return to this year and that I haven’t been able to connect with any of the friends I made there in person in the time since. But this is not forever, and it is up to us to ensure that when the time comes that it is safe and appropriate to hold these sorts of events again (even in a slightly modified form) that there is a space for them to return to.
As I have been busy writing my extensive essay series on the evolution of post- in the 2010s – I am currently in the middle of Part 4 of 5 and am 33 pages and over 17,000 words deep – it’s become even more evident to me that there is a real momentum and movement here within the greater post- community that has only gained steam over the past decade. We need to make sure that the momentum doesn’t die down because of the pandemic. We owe it to these artists and to all of us who have been a part of this new movement.
You can sure at least that we’ll be doing our part here to keep the flame alive. Continue on to check out our picks from the past month, as well as an interview with the band we absolutely fell in love with in September, Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension, which is probably the funniest and most metal-sounding band name we’ve featured in this column in quite some time. Their debut album, Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard is also our pick for “post-topper” this month, though we’re not doing a separate section for it, so you can read Trent’s thoughts on the album and his interview below.
Take Me Somewhere Nice: Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension
It’s not often you find a little-known, newer band who on first listen can really shake you to your core. This was the case for me earlier this month when I stumbled upon Salt Lake City’s Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension. A handful of bands over the years have managed to capture the apocalyptic, hypnotic suspense of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s profound take at post-rock, but few have done so with such fury and emotion as found on Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard. Where Godspeed relied on field-recordings and samples to supplement narrative and humanity to their work, PTTGDBD does so with novel vocal work in the form of Circle Takes the Square-esque poetic spoken word lyricism and screaming. Fans of Respire will find a lot to enjoy here as well, with their black metal elements replaced by a softer, nuanced approach. Pained vulnerability in this manner is hard to pull off, but the sincerity is fueled so well by the folky gloom of the ensemble.
PTTGDB began largely as the solo effort of main songwriter and cellist Scott Wasilewski, with vocalist Clark Stewart Radford frequently joining for live arrangements. The expansion into a full-fledged eight-piece band came as a necessity to fulfill the chamber music meets post-rock compositions, adding flugelhorn, clarinet, alto sax, piano, drums and guitar. There’s a refreshing, triumphant honesty to everything that compelled us to feature them as our spotlight artist this month, and to reach out to them for an interview to dig deeper into what made this album happen.
Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard is split into two lengthy tracks of screamo-tinged post-rock bliss. Stream it below and dig into the brief interview to learn a little bit more about the creative background behind this album.
Trent Bos: First off, Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension. Incredible band name. Was this just a case of a combination of words sounding cool, or is there any backstory or inspiration behind it?
(Scott) Hi. Thanks! I wish I could have a moment of inspiration that resulted in a combination of words like this but I’m more of a numbers guy. It’s actually from a neighbor, a decade and half and a few hundred miles ago. He had a shaving accident and in response, used most of the words in a sentence. I wrote them down, slapped a “God Damn” into the middle of it and stashed it away in a notebook for a few years. Like it should be for any good band, the name came way before any music was written.
Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard feels very ambitious in its structure and execution, and that there were a lot of pieces that had to come together to make this work. The experimentation in genre fusing of post-rock, chamber music, screamo and spoken word is unlike much I’ve heard before. I know lead cellist Scott Wasilewski was behind the composition, but I’m curious how this album came together in terms of getting the 8-piece personnel involved (plus choral accompaniment), and what are some of the musical backgrounds of the people involved?
(Scott) When these pieces were written, we weren’t a band. Clark and I were doing slightly improvised chamber music/noise sets, with the occasional guest appearance. Every single set we did was completely different material and I was usually frantically writing until moments before we hit the stage. After a few pretty intense years, it seemed like a fun challenge to do what we were doing with samples, but the way harder way. Luckily, Salt Lake City has this really awesome alt scene filled with really talented, interesting people. I just kept asking my friends to come play music with me, and they kept saying yes. That’s probably not a very inspiring story, or a good roadmap for someone trying to do something similar.
(Clark) As far as our backgrounds, collectively we’ve been in bands and projects that were punk, hardcore, screamo, emo, noise rock, indie, post metal, post hardcore, mathcore, experimental, electronic, classical, sludge, noise, poetry, burlesque… one of us was even in a ska band once, regrettably.
I think one of the first comparisons people listening to you from an instrumental perspective will make is to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Are they or some of their side-projects a major influence? Or was it more of a confluence of the combined members’ musical backgrounds?
(Scott) Oh definitely. It’s a bit of an honor to be mentioned on the same website as Godspeed. Thee Silver Mt. Zion has been one of my favorite acts for ages. Like I have opinions about different live recordings by them. Regardless, I think there are two ways to make interesting music. Completely toss everything you know and be intentionally and consciously different, or aim for something and miss. With eight people all doing some steering the result is somewhere near where we all intended to go but also somewhere a bit more interesting and exciting. I think that’s what’s most thrilling, moving ever closer to our final form. We haven’t even reached our final form yet.
I think we’re finally shedding the skin of centuries of music that didn’t get to fully realize extreme dynamic shifts.
Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard is a record about “growing old and dealing with regret.” This pain came across both in my visceral reaction to the music, and in reading the lyrics. Deeply poetic, they feel personal but also a perfect fit for the music in their vulnerability and catharsis. How did the lyricism fit into the overall writing process?
(Clark) So, Scott had already written these beautiful, amazing pieces of music. I love the tension built up in them. And they are so enormous in scope. I generally write from personal experience, all the dark, bitter, negative stuff. You know, the usual, haha. I definitely felt like I needed to rise to the occasion for these songs, and do something that matched the tone and importance of it all. The only lyric Scott had written for the album before bringing it to me was “whatever you want most in the world is already gone for good” from the big choir part in Want. Honestly, one of my favorite lines from the album. And it fit well with what I write. The lyrics are things I wish I had said and done, loved ones I’ve lost, lies I told myself, things I didn’t want to admit, alienation. It felt right for the music, those emotions were there already, I just spelled it out with the words and how I said them. It’s obviously not reinventing the wheel or anything, but it’s all through the filter of my wacky brain. And Scott and I are well into our 30’s, in a scene where a lot of people bounce in their 20’s, which really amplifies how old you feel. We’re just angry, sad, old people, haha.
There seems to be a resurgence of the post-rock/screamo hybrid worldwide, with Envy dropping one of their best albums this year, Viva Belgrado and Vi som älskade varandra så mycket still putting out quality material, and closer to home with Respire and Infant Island bursting onto the scene. What do you think it is about these two genres that makes them work so effectively and seamlessly together?
(Scott) Glad you mentioned Vi som älskade varandra så mycket as I’m still wearing out their 2014 album. Their stuff is so powerful and it makes me run faster.
As you can imagine I have an affinity for western art music and a big evolutionary step in music was that ability to deliver extreme dynamics. To go from loud to soft, or soft to loud is a luxury only afforded in places where the audience shuts up (lame), the soundsystem is really big or in recorded music. I think we’re finally shedding the skin of centuries of music that didn’t get to fully realize extreme dynamic shifts. There are absolutely other interesting things to experiment with but both Post-rock and Screamo are both great examples of music exploring these massive starts and stops and shifts in dynamics to emphasize emotion.
I also think both genres have this sweaty, emotionally and physically draining image. That the band shows up and leaves everything they have out on the floor. There’s an authenticity to playing music at its edges, whether the edge is the edge of one’s physical ability to play said music, the place where the sound system peaks, or screaming until you vomit the burrito you told yourself you shouldn’t eat before the show, but you did anyway because you weren’t sure the taco truck would be there when the show was over.
The American post-rock scene on the other hand seems to be trending more towards the expansive-crescendo-guitar-driven side of things. If you are at all invested in it, how do you feel about the current state of the genre in the US, and is there any semblance of a scene for that in Salt Lake City, Utah?
(Scott) It’s interesting because when we started assembling a larger band, the last piece we added was guitar. I knew who I wanted to play guitar well before we had a guitarist; I just didn’t know if I should eschew guitar altogether just to be a contrarian. Ultimately not having Chuck on guitar would have been a massive disservice to our music. So to veer back on track, I am invested in it. I’m actually really excited about the way people keep coming up with interesting ways to take a step sideways from where music was a year ago, or where they were five years ago but still touch on this common thread. A handful of bands here are dipping their toes in that water. Just to drop some names real quick: I Hear Sirens, who just put out a new record, Temples, Hoofless, Orma, Sympathy Pain and a slew of other really great bands. Like I don’t want to sound like the chamber of commerce here, but there are some really great venues (Diabolical Records, Beehive Social Club, etc..) and some really great people making things happen in SLC. I’m really proud of all my friends and everything they do to make our community better and how they keep making that community bigger through their work.
Given the number of people involved in the creation of this album, how did the pandemic impact the writing/recording/release of RF;RO?
(Scott) So the little bit of silver lining to always moving glacially slow is that we actually had everything recorded back in February I think, with the exception of the sax and the guitar. I felt pretty deflated for a while and lost a lot of momentum. I wasn’t even listening to music at all for a bit, but we managed to get the final pieces in place and mix/master at the beginning of the summer. It was definitely a bummer to not get to put together a big release show, or any shows, because playing together is the best part, but sitting on any record when you’re ready to move on is just about the worst part. Now it’s done. Our bodies are ready for the next one. That’s it. That’s the interview.
The Endless Shimmering (AKA Best of the Rest)
Felperc – borders (post-rock, ambient, electronic)
Felperc is one of those unique projects that captures exactly why I love a specific sub-genre of music so much. In this case, the sub-genre in question is “electronic post-rock”, which we’ve made it our goal to cover extensively on the blog. From bands like 65daysofstatic and Nordic Giants, through lesser well known acts that we’ve gotten the pleasure of featuring on this blog like Infinity Shred and Reformat, this sub-genre is one of the sounds most important sounds to me because of the unbridled hope, power, and sober melancholy that it often channels like no other style of music.
This is definitely the case with Felperc, a one-man project from Austria. The project’s latest release, borders, is a beautiful and evocative exploration of how touching and moving electronic post-rock can be. From the very first track, “brainwash”, the formula is one mixing the more ambient and melancholic sounds of electronic music with the sort of grandiose, sweeping crescendos that post-rock is famous for. The resulting contrast just arrests my heart by first exploring more down-beat, contemplative sounds, before exploding into this vibrant and chromatic expression of personal perseverance and hope for the future.
It also helps that everything on borders is just expertly made. The ambient compositions are lush and textured, feeling like something you can just lose yourself in. The second track, “love”, is a great example of this; the pianos reverberate across the brooding backdrop perfectly, like drops of water creating concentric rings in a still and cold pool of water. Likewise the tones used for the explosive peaks on the album are spot-on, evoking that sense of wide-eyed wonder without falling into cliche or saccharine flimsiness. On “hope” for example, the heavier tones used for the bass that drives the build-up of the track, the undulating synths which accompany it and the eventual explosion of sound are all crafted with meticulous attention to sound and texture.
Bring everything together and you get an album that I’ve been listening to on repeat for days now. There’s just nothing out there that even comes close to moving me in the same way that this album, and this entire sub-genre, does. It’s a place where I can lose myself and hope for the future while still giving my present cares and worries their space. It’s both a contemplative and an expressive album, towing the line between inwards perspective and outwards moving energy. It’s just really damn good.
Giants – Second EP (post-rock/math-rock)
Okay, so technically this didn’t come out this month, it came out in March. But from what I can see this release basically flew under everyone’s radar, and it’s certainly deserving of mention. Giants emerged not long after the first boom of American post-rock bands, joining the likes of Caspian, This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles, and Red Sparowes. They were active from 2007 to 2011 and have at least one album, 2008’s Old Stories, which is considered a classic of the genre amongst basically anyone who’s heard it. They had a unique gift for the kind of uplifting-with-a-hint-of-melancholy sound that many have attempted and few have really succeeded at. They are a well-remembered and even beloved band when it comes to other small touring musicians that crossed paths with them during their five-plus active years. Just the other day when I posted this EP in a couple of music groups, I received back almost instantaneous responses recounting how gracious and kind and fun Giants were to gig with. For whatever reason, they never broke wider like some of their contemporaries. Maybe it has something to do with life happening as it often does, maybe it has to do with being based out of Iowa. Who knows? But Giants is a band well-worth remembering and celebrating.
It turns out Second EP is actually a collection of four tracks that were recorded back in 2014 but never properly mixed or mastered. They decided to release them about a week after COVID really began to take hold in America, hoping that some previously-unheard music might make some people feel better during difficult times. If they hadn’t mentioned the unfinished nature of the songs on this EP I probably wouldn’t have noticed. They sound fantastic, bearing the signature twinkly, infectious guitar work that helped their music make an impact back when the band was active. If you haven’t heard them, imagine a four-way crossroads where American Football, And So I Watch You From Afar, Ghosts and Vodka, and Saxon Shore all meet. The songs on Second EP are all named after towns – Joplin, Missouri, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pontiac, Michigan, and Portland, Oregon. My best guess would be that these songs were written in each city while on tour, but I’m not really sure.
More important than me guessing about song title origins, the music here is not of the lame unreleased content-drop variety, where a band decides that the crappy songs that never made any of their albums need a release of their own. Second EP is like a perfect bridge from the 2011 self-titled EP that previously stood as their most recent release, full of earworm melodies and moving refrains. Like I mentioned before, Giants are a band that excel with a tone that seems like it should be contradictory on paper. There’s a sadness that you sense is there, but when all is said and done what you’re left with is a triumphant feeling, a warm knowledge that you’ve found a band that knows your heart and encourages you to move forward with all you’ve got. If there is a sentiment that people need more in 2020, I can’t imagine what it would be.
Spectaclist – Our Days Are Multiplied (post-math rock, progressive rock)
Given Tortoise’s immense influence in shaping the entire post- genre early on, I really shouldn’t be surprised whenever I hear a musician or band who has clearly drawn influence from their work. But Tortoise’s brand of blending laid-back jazz, krautrock, electronics, and more is simply not the dominant sonic profile of the vast majority of post-rock. It wasn’t when they were at their creative peak, and it’s even less so now. I can probably count on my hands the groups that are carrying on their legacy these days, so whenever a new one comes along that manages to captivate me in similar ways I immediately take a strong interest in them. The latest to do so is Austin drummer David Hobizal and his project Spectaclist. Our Days Are Multiplied is his first collection of songs under this moniker, and it’s really unlike just about anything else I’ve heard come out of post-rock this year.
Given that Hobizal’s primary instrument is drums, it’s no surprise that the music of Spectaclist is both percussion-heavy and rhythmically-dense. Similar to fellow Austin residents The Kraken Quartet, Spectaclist is filled with rhythmic intricacies, with melodic instruments like guitars, vibes/marimba, and keys/synths often bringing in additional layers of complexity. The effect is songs that have a bit of a puzzle-like quality to them, which is not to say that they are wholly cerebral and joyless. Much like the music of the other bands mentioned above, Our Days Are Multiplied is defined by its incredible attention to detail, creating a clockwork machine that moves and grooves in very enticing ways.
Tracks like opener “The Spectaclist,” “Player Queen,” and “Sum of Square” revolve around cyclical progressions and patterns that grow in complexity over time and develop into interesting and unexpected places. The latter in particular takes a sharp left turn as it fizzles out midway into a patchwork of synth beds and transforms into a heavy, almost drone-like head nodder. There are other moments where Hobizal sounds like he could be writing for a straight-up nu-jazz group. “Everywhere, Playgrounds” in particular starts off sounding like a mellow GoGo Penguin track before kicking into overdrive and exploding into an awesomely triumphant melody and theme. “Estacado” and other songs also veer into the kind of dreamy and psych-tinged jazz territory that has endeared In-Dreamview to me for years.
For a first foray into writing his own material and then recording it as a solo album, Hobizal has done a monumental job in creating an album with a very distinct musical identity. Our Days Are Multiplied is a complete joy to listen to, even if most of it elicits some soft head bobbing rather than head banging.
Other Notable Releases
I Hear Sirens – Stella Mori (cinematic post-rock)
The “traditional” post-rock space is a crowded field for obvious reasons. This is the real meat and potatoes of the genre, for better or worse. Salt Lake City’s I Hear Sirens prove that the field still has as much emotional potency as ever though with the beautifully-constructed and emotionally-drenched Stella Mori, the band’s first release in seven years. At once both epic in proportions and incredibly delicate, Stella Mori is a journey of cosmic exploration, of personal loss, and struggle. It’s a wonderful comeback for the group that doesn’t skip a beat from where they left off but also demonstrates that they haven’t been simply spinning their wheels in the interim.
Iress – Flaw (doomgaze/slowcore)
What better time for some strong new doomgaze, seeing as we are basically gazing at our own doom on a daily basis here in the States. Los Angeles’ Iress hits a really engaging sweet spot somewhere between the crushing, smoky drone of Tunnel Blanket, the mysticism of Holy Fawn, and the powerful vocal performance of Emma Ruth Rundle and Chelsea Wolfe. Had I not discovered the release of that Giants EP, this would have been my longer review this month. But please consider this essential listening, and if you want to get an immediate sense for it, check out the penultimate track “Wolves,” which is a legit stunner.
Martlet – Chroma (post-metal/synthwave)
Just give me those dark-ass synths and heavy guitars, okay? Like, there are many kinds of music in this world that I enjoy, but whenever I hear this combination my brain pretty much goes into lizard-mode. Montreal’s Martlet hits that sweet spot to the T, and their second release Chroma is pretty much everything I could want from this kind of music. It’s got those sawtooth synths leading the charge and sick, heavy-ass riffs underneath threatening to pull the entire thing into a dark chasm. I dare you to listen to “Carmine” and not just start howling at the moon. Goddamn.
RANGES – Babel: Confusion of Tongues (cinematic post-rock/conceptual)
It’s no secret that we, like much of the modern post- community, love RANGES and their personal take on the modern “traditional” strain of post- that straddles the line between rock and metal. With their latest “secret” release however, the band prove that they’re not only pioneering the future of the genre as a whole, but our very conception of what an “album” and “release” can look like. The three tracks that form Confusion of Tongues operate perfectly well as standalone tracks or as a separate 3-song EP, but when combined with last year’s Babel to augment the entire package it really breathes an entire new life into the full album. If you have not read our premiere of the collection’s final track, I highly encourage you to do so to understand the level of care and planning that went into every aspect of this. I suppose I should expect no less from the band that formed the origin of A Thousand Arms and everything they’ve done since, but it is still hugely impressive and fascinating.
Sprain – As Lost Through Collision (post-hardcore, post-rock, slowcore)
This is the kind of weirdo post-everything art-noise rock that really makes me nostalgic for the early 2000’s when it felt like I was discovering something bizarre and challenging and exciting around every corner. It’s one of those albums where you’re not even sure if you like it, but then you realize that you’ve listened to the entire album and want to go back in for further consideration. It’s not easy music to grab hold of, brimming with dissonance, disconnected vocals, jarring instrumentation, and seemingly endless experimentation. But it’s also one of the most interesting records I’ve heard this year, and I suspect I’ll be diving headfirst back into it on numerous occasions in the coming weeks and months to see if I discover things I hadn’t picked up on before. That’s a sign of uncompromising artistry at work, and it’s something well-worth supporting.
Stray Mother – Darker Still (math rock, instru. midwest-emo)
Math rock hasn’t been really at the forefront of my listening for the last few months. No special reason, it’s just that nothing has really jumped out and grabbed me. Until Stray Mother’s Darker Still that is. It’s like if Infinity Shred (already mentioned in my main entry, I just love them that much) were more math rock and also had a bunch of midwest-emo influences in their sound. The result is a bright-eyed, often electronic, happy and morose in equal measures bit of math rock that just brings a smile to my face every time I hear it and a dance to my step to boot. Listen to this for lush melodies, little guitar ideas that will make you laugh and an overall feeling of boisterous serenity.
Threestepstotheocean – Del Fuoco (post-metal/post-rock)
Fans of the Russian Circles/Pelican end of the post- spectrum will want to take note of this record. We’re not witnessing a re-invention of the wheel by any means, but if you like it loud then you’ll find this one occupies a real comfortable space. Nice, chunky production definitely helps it fill out your speakers, and while the impact can become blunted from time to time due to some lack of variation tonally, the synths are a nice touch, and when they’re clicking on all cylinders the band suffers no shortage of bone-crushing riffage. Threestepstotheocean may not be as well known a name in the States, but they’re no newcomer to the post-metal game, so now thirteen years into their run they prove to be a well-oiled machine with a strong awareness of what it is they do well.
Vessel – and it’s still beautiful in my memory (post-rock)
Another extremely well-rounded debut here out of nowhere. Vessel’s and it’s still beautiful in my memory is an impressively polished four-track post-rock EP that feels wise beyond its years. Despite the brief 17-minute run-time, the breadth of the spectrum of emotions captured is immense. It’s the type of release you can play back-to-back without feeling tedious or tiring. From a sheer sound standpoint, it’s extremely expansive, yet delicate. The keyboard and electronics play a strong role in adding a floaty textural atmosphere over the guitar and drum work with great production quality. And it’s still beautiful in my memory feels entirely fitting as a title, with a deep sense of reflection and contemplation coming across the whole EP. You can almost picture it perfectly fitting a nostalgic flash-back in a film, or a life-flashing-before-ones-eyes type cinematic montage.
Human Pillars – Transmission (progressive post-metal)
IAH – III (post-metal, space rock, psych rock)
Lost In A Detail – The Nothing Is Spreading (post-rock/post-metal)
Orochen – Thylacine (post-metal, alt rock, dark folk)