Post- is back, babyyyyyyyyyy. Happy to be returning to you all after our brief “rest” following the absolute deluge of our 2020 wrap-up. As you’ll see soon enough, 2021 is hardly pumping the brakes in terms of great albums from all over the post- spectrum. I will say that, unlike the past couple of years where I specifically remarked I could barely keep up out of the gate, I’ve seen fewer albums out early on that were super high up on my hotly-anticipated lists. That doesn’t at all translate into there being fewer albums that impressed me overall though. Just a bunch of gems from a bunch of bands I either wasn’t already familiar with or weren’t already at the forefront of my mind.
Before we jump into all of that though, I wanted to quickly touch upon a little crossover tidbit that caught my attention this past week. Some of you reading this are likely already fans of singer-songwriter Julien Baker, whose latest album Little Oblivions – her first featuring a full backing “band” (technically Baker wrote and performed all parts on the recording) – released right at the end of February. A week prior to the album’s release, Baker tweeted out a promotion of an upcoming livestream performance of the entire album and commented, “be warned we’re a post rock band now.”
Not surprisingly, this confused some people, including Tom Breihan of Stereogum, who wrote about the Tweet in his review of the album while offering his own personal definition of the genre:
“Post-rock” is a difficult thing to properly define, but the music that the term calls to mind — Explosions In The Sky-style slow-release instrumental tingle-vroom, mostly — has nothing to do with what Julien Baker has done in the past. Post-rock bands rely on emotional release, just like Julien Baker, but they build that release out of textures and dynamics, not out of words and voices, which are usually absent. I tend to think of post-rock as headphones music — music for walking around and feeling like I’m in a movie. There’s a sort of numb removal to this music; it lets you float outside yourself, thinking of your own body as a figure in a landscape. Baker’s music — indie rock tinged with folk and emo, spacious and intimate and almost confrontationally self-lacerating — offers its own comforts, but they’re not the same. Still, listening to Little Oblivions, you can tell what she means with that Twitter disclaimer. Baker’s new album is about numb removal, and it speaks the language of swelling, crashing heartache.
Now, I think if you asked me in 2010 if I thought an album like Little Oblivions constituted anything resembling post-rock, I would likely agree with Breihan both on his definition and determination that Baker’s music is decidedly not post-rock. The problem is that what post-rock actually is has changed dramatically since then. Yes, there is still plenty of music within the category that falls on the more traditional side of instrumental epics and emotional meditations constituting primarily of dynamic and emotional crescendos. But if your primary touchpoint for the genre in 2021 is still Explosions in the Sky, then you are completely missing out on the myriad ways the music has evolved and grown in all directions since the 2000s.
For many fans of the genre these days, the bands that represent post-rock the best aren’t instrumental bands at all. It’s groups like Holy Fawn, Respire, A.A. Williams, and others who have taken post-rock’s rich history and incorporated it into their own special concoction of sounds blending shoegaze, black metal, hardcore, dream pop, and more.
Taken in that context, I can absolutely see the ways in which the music of Little Oblivions could reasonably fit into the expanded version of the post- umbrella we see now. The key to Baker’s music in general is that she rarely follows any sort of strict rock/pop songform. Her songs generally do not have a clean ABABCB structure or anything close to it. They’re far more fluid, closer to through-composed and built around the gradual builds and releases of emotional tension. And at its core, what is post-rock if not music written using rock instrumentation to express musical ideas and compositions that don’t fit into more traditional rock songforms?
To that end, is it any surprise that right around when Baker sent out that Tweet that one of the brightest young lights in the scene who also don’t fit the traditional post-rock mold, Circus Trees – who have gone on record with me multiple times citing Baker as one of the most formative artists for them – released their own cover of her song “Go Home?”
That being said, we’re not covering Little Oblivions here in this column because it still probably makes more sense to cover it in one of our other columns like Unmetal Monthly and because the primary context of her music is not within the post- community. But we could! More importantly, if these kinds of hybrids and new combinations of sounds are able to bring a wider audience for the genre as a whole in, then it’s a win for everyone. Even Breihan concludes at the end of his review, “I can say that Julien Baker is now my favorite post-rock band.”
I’ll take it.
Take Me Somewhere Nice: Lachlan Dale, Art as Catharsis
At this point, I would hope that Lachlan, who runs the blog-favorite label Art as Catharsis, needs no introduction. He’s been on the podcast, interviewed by Scott, premiered music and video on the blog, and more. We’re honestly huge fans of his and his works. But we’re also huge fans of the community that he’s part of and that he supports, unspooling into the dozens and dozens of excellent bands that are making excellent music in and around the Australian continent. Which is why we were thrilled to see that Art as Catharsis, in collaboration with the incredible WherePostRockDwells, are releasing a compilation of what they’ve dubbed “trans-tasman” post-rock, meaning post-rock released in Australia and New Zealand.
Likewise, I would hope that at this point, we no longer need to extoll the many unique qualities of the scene in question. It has produced some of our favorite post-rock bands of the recent decade, and continues to create unique and engaging music in that vein. And this compilation proves it; there are names on it that any post-rock fan would be familiar with but also smaller acts who are making music just as excellent. It’s also a very well curated compilation, with almost exactly the tracks I would have chosen to include from every act.
So, we decided to jump on the opportunity and chat, once again, with Lachlan and see what motivated this sort of compilation, get an updated snapshot of the Australian music scene and talk about post-rock, success, and more. Read on below for the interview and remember to support one of the world’s finest scenes by listening to and purchasing the compilation.
Hello Lachlan! Thanks for taking the time, once again, to chat with us. This time around, we’re here to discuss The State of Trans-Tasman Post Rock, a compilation released under Art As Catharsis in collaboration with our good friends over at WherePostRockDwells. Can you tell us a bit about how this partnership came to life?
WherePostRockDwells first came on my radar when they reached out and offered to post Hashshashin’s Badakhshan on their immense YouTube channel. Then, when we signed Swiss post-rock outfit hubris. and toured them in Australia, WPRD reached out to arrange a tour of India.
At that point we began chatting about opportunities to collaborate. We were in the early stages of discussing an Indian tour for Hashshashin and HELU before COVID hit. Then the idea of this compilation popped up. It seemed like a nice chance for us to support each other.
And what about the compilation itself? What gave you the idea to release such a collection and why now? Is there a meaning to the timing or is this just when you ended up releasing it?
We’ve released a number of compilations over the years – Drone From The Underside Of The Earth Volumes 1 and 2, and Stargazing Under Southern Skies. They’ve proven quite popular, and act as a great entry point for people wanting to explore the Australian underground. I’ve been meaning to release a few more, but the years have just pulled away from me.
It’s almost been a year since COVID has decimated the Australian music sector (which was never thriving from a touring or commercial perspective). This seemed like a nice way to try and generate some sales for musicians who have had a particularly rough year.
Digging further in, I find your geographical definition quite fascinating. Are there specific areas of Australia and New Zealand that you feel are more strongly represented in this compilation? Are there certain cities that seem to generate more post-rock?
Sydney acts are probably over-represented, not only because it is Australia’s largest city, but it’s also where I’m from. But we tried to balance that by including recommendations from our Brisbane booking team, and WherePostRockDwells – who maintain an excellent post-rock database for countries around the world.
If I think of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest post rock exports – sleepmakeswaves, Meniscus, We Lost The Sea, Jakob, Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving – a majority seem to be from Sydney. That could be because labels like Birds Robe Collective and Art As Catharsis really help to nurture a local grassroots scene. Melbourne also has a number of excellent acts, with the wonderful Hobbledehoy Record Co playing a key role in that community.
Do you feel like Australian and New Zealandian post-rock is “on the rise”? Has the scene been this active all along and just went undiscovered or is there some sort of ground swell that’s coming to a head these past few years?
I’m not sure I would say it’s on the rise. When did post-rock peak commercially? Was it with Mogwai‘s Young Team (1997)? Or in the early 2000’s? I feel like that wave has long broken – but of course, commerciality isn’t everything. Post-rock can be an incredibly malleable genre (not that we necessarily see that potential as regularly as I would like – though I will name drop the incredible HELU).
For me, Birds Robe Collective really helped develop Sydney’s local post-rock scene, and then, as that label grew, they began to focus on elevating bands like sleepmakeswaves to an international audience, connecting them with opportunities at ArcTanGent and Dunk!, organising North American tours and so on.
There are three, easy to recognize, “bigger” artists on this list: sleepmakeswaves, We Lost the Sea and Tangled Thoughts of Leaving. What do you think caused these bands to break through the distance barrier and become world-wide successes? Was it chance or is there something in common to these three acts?
Well, they have all produced excellent music and put on consistently powerful live shows. That’s part of it. But they’ve also really put in the incredibly hard yards of touring internationally. That requires a very significant financial commitment – and the support of a strong label with the right connections, which, for all three bands, is the wonderful Birds Robe Collective.
Back in 2018, Scott asked you about the state of the Australian music scene. Has anything changed, beyond the obvious effects of COVID? Are things better or worse for Australian music than they were two years ago?
Honestly, my visibility is so low right now. We still can’t really tour interstate. Many of my favourite acts still seem to be avoiding playing live. Many have been put under significant financial strain, and I can only assume that, like a good proportion of the populace, that is matched by poor psychological health. There was quite a shocking article that came out last week claiming that in Victoria – uniformly recognised as the strongest Australian state when it comes to arts and music – three in five workers are considering leaving the industry.
Commercially, the Australian music industry has been on life support for a decade or more. Sydney’s live music sector was decimated by the lockout laws and absurd restrictions that bled venues dry. Throw in obscenely high rental costs, and we are in real trouble here. I can recall one particularly amazing example where a venue was banned from having a mirror ball by the rules of their liquor license. Others have been subject to completely arbitrary restrictions, such as the types of music they can feature (country but no rock; cover acts but no originals).
I point the finger strongly at successive state and federal Liberal Governments who treat the arts and music sector punitively – despite the massive revenue we generate through tourism and international sales. They have pursued a vicious and diseased neoliberal agenda that has consistently prioritised property development and home-owners rights over all else. The effect has been a hollowing out of Sydney’s cultural life. Any vibrancy you might observe some afar exists only because bands and organisations have chosen to struggle on against the tide.
Lastly, are there any upcoming releases from Art as Catharsis, post-rock or otherwise, that you want to highlight here?
I have heard that the wonderful hubris. have been working on a follow-up to 2020’s Metempsychosis, which is exciting. We’re also expecting to be working with Desbot, SEIMS and Ground Patrol on new albums this year.
I’m sorry to tell the Liberal Party, but we are not going anywhere. In November we celebrate 10 years of Art As Catharsis, and I look forward to many decades more. I have plans to merge my brain with a cybernetic organism so that we might extend well beyond into the centuries, should the opportunity arise. Prepare yourself for the year 2323, in which you will see my hydraulic jaw still yammering on about the wonders of Australian underground.
Thank you as always, Eden, for your time. I always feel as though Art As Catharsis and Heavy Blog Is Heavy are partners in supporting vital, interesting and obscure artists, and I appreciate all the time and space you’ve given us.
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
God Is An Astronaut – Ghost Tapes #10 (ambient, electronic, post-rock)
God Is An Astronaut have for a while now been one of the genre’s more polarizing bands. Like much of the “third-wave”of post-rock, (EITS, TWDY etc.) they’re sometimes criticized for derivative and predictable songwriting, and honestly these are valid critiques. Personally, despite All Is Violent, All is Bright being a formative album for me getting into post-rock, I’ve been lukewarm to indifferent towards the majority of their output since. While I’d go out of my way to still catch their colourful live show, with their past several studio albums it felt like their imaginative spark had withered and they were just lethargically treading water with what was safe and comfortable.
While they haven’t totally reinvented their sound on Ghost Tapes #10, it feels reinvigorated with a greater sense of purpose and direction. This is evident right from the get go of the opening track, which is a lot more riff-driven and progressive feeling. Where has this energetic, lively GIAA been hiding? There’s a greater sense of urgency in their music that comes about in more up-tempo tracks like “Burial” and “Spectre”. It feels eager, like they’re tired of meandering about in the calm river they’ve been drifting in and ready to burst over those walls they’ve put up around themselves. You still get those cinematic, introspective and more keyboard-driven moments for staring into the beyond, but they’re used as more of a bridge to contrast with the guitar-heavy writing. As a result the album feels more succinct with very little filler, and the 37-minute run-time is a nice sweet spot for their sound.
The ethereal backing vocals they’ve grown known for are still present here and there, which continue to work well to bring out the airy atmospheric haze in their music that a lot of people go to them for. It’s definitely still an album where atmosphere does a lot of the work, but GIAA seems to be at their strongest when they can both find a balance, and work the contrast of these two sides to their sound, and for the most part they’ve accomplished that here.
Lizzard – Eroded (progressive stoner rock, post-metal, psych rock)
I am, once again, imploring you to pay attention to the French rock n’ roll scene, especially if that rock n’ roll has any form of modifier before it from the realms of post, psych, or stoner. In case the many previous iterations of this imploration haven’t convinced you, maybe Lizzard’s Eroded finally well. Releasing on the illustrious Pelagic Records, Eroded is a heady mix of alternative, psychedelic and art rock, bringing in many influences from stoner and psych. It sounds like Lo-pan by way of Mastodon’s trippier moments, Elder channeled through Black Mountain, all the while shirking these comparisons, possessed of its own very unique vibe.
That vibe probably has something to do with the color of Lizzard’s music. Beyond the (excellent) cover art, all screaming in yellow and white tones, there’s something essentially upbeat and boisterous about Lizzard’s sound. Whereas other bands in this very specific niche, like those bands I mentioned above, temper their sound with a darker tone, Lizzard are all about celebrating the brighter, more upbeat parts of their sound. They do so by striking a peculiar balance between the above stated influences, drawing inspiration from each style to create their own concoction.
Check out “Haywire” for example; you can hear sounds that might not be out of place on Elder’s Lore, especially in the opening segments but also near the end; there’s a certain series of notes hiding in there that just screams Elder. But the music stays more simple than that progressively tinged album; the chorus is more central, and sweeter, channeling a more upbeat and tight structure. The vocals take more of the spotlight on this track than they ever would on an Elder piece and boy, are the vocals good! They move between a more airy, sugary atmosphere and deep, throat-y and incredibly satisfying timbre.
Or how about the previous “Blowdown”, opening the album’s “proper” tracks? You can hear that tapped guitar line that echoes something out of Crack the Skye, but there’s a different vibe to it, a different part it plays in the track. It’s more there to accentuate and lend weight to the other, groovy riffs, replete as they are on the track as much as they are on the album itself. It all comes together differently under Lizzard’s hands, giving the album its very own sensation and vibe. And, beyond “just” being unique, that vibe is very, very good. Eroded is one of the better albums to be released in the genre in the first quarter of the year and is sure to last us well beyond it. It’s easy to pick up, easy to listen to, but still composed of plenty that’s interesting and unexpected. Simply put, it’s excellent rock n’ roll, as we’ve come to expect out of France.
Mountainscape – Acceptance (post-metal, sludge metal)
It may be true that the kind of simultaneously sleek and ungodly heavy and sludgy style of post-metal embodied by Russian Circles is no longer in vogue like it was around the early to mid-2010s. It’s also pretty much undeniably true that the Russian Circles of 2021 are nowhere nearly as essential and innovative-sounding as they were in their prime from the late 2000s through early 2010s. However, that in no way means that I don’t miss that kind of music and sound sometimes. There have been a few albums the past several years that have scratched that itch decently for me, with Coastlands’ excellent Death likely at the forefront. With their debut LP Acceptance though, the UK’s Mountainscape might just be the ones to push the style ahead and bring it back to the glory it deserves.
As seems to be the case with so many of these kinds of bands, Mountainscape feature the stripped-down “power trio” format that manages to sound at least twice as mammoth as they should. The music of Acceptance is towering and designed to fill every nook and cranny of whatever space it’s played in. Opener “Wilderness” sets this tone immediately with an absolute epic of a composition that ebbs and flows in the typical style without ever losing the thread or keeping every section as compelling as the last. Perhaps what’s most remarkable about Acceptance, in fact, is that the band are bold enough to take on the risk of huge compositions and extended runtimes – its 8 tracks extending for 64 minutes – without succumbing to the many cliches and pitfalls that befall their peers in this space. The entire package is brimming and brilliant with big ideas and fantastic execution, with every track serving its purpose as a “movement” within the greater piece.
So while “Wilderness” establishes the tone and throws down the epic gauntlet, “Resurgance” is more angular and groovy, eventually building up to a really cool conclusion. “Supernova,” meanwhile, is a fluid piece that swirls around its excellent drum and bass groove before, aptly, exploding into a maelstrom of light and blastbeats. Acceptance features several cycles like this – occasionally all within single tracks, like the above 10-minute epics “Visions” and “Descent” – allowing them to stretch out in a bunch of musical directions and experiment with a lot of great ideas while simultaneously holding firm to their core sound. It’s exhilarating and refreshing to find an album so huge and so adventurous that also doesn’t sound like a drag. Acceptance is one of the first post- albums from this young year that has commanded and demanded my attention, and I suspect that will continue to be the case for months to come.
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
Dave’s Corner – Slow Grave / Thought Trials / Secret Gardens / pictures of wild life
I want to take a moment to talk about an integral piece of the puzzle for any little-known artists looking to make an impact with their music – leading with the strongest foot possible. This month feels like a perfect time to do so, because over the course of three weeks in January four artists I’d never heard before grabbed my attention in a serious way. I get that if you love music you should be listening to entire albums and evaluating afterwards, but let’s be real. There’s too much music available to us, and it’s too easy to access. Attention spans are ever-dwindling, and it’s better to face facts than to pretend it’s going to change back to the way it once was.
When I was in high school and my options were confined to the radio or whatever CD’s I owned, a band like Failure could get away with an album like Fantastic Planet which demanded you pay attention to it for 68 straight minutes before coming to a solid conclusion. Hum could release Downward Is Heavenward and take the risk of it not resonating during the first few listens, because if you had access to that album it meant you invested in it, and you were tied to it. Then three months later, or even three years later, there would come a moment where it would finally click and you’d realize how awesome the album was. Admittedly, it didn’t necessarily pay dividends for them at the time, but as evidenced by their monumental 2020 comeback album Inlet, Hum played the long game and managed to pull it off.
Bands don’t have that luxury anymore. I’ll be completely honest: when I’m scouring Bandcamp to find new releases for this column, you have somewhere between 60 seconds and *maybe* 3 minutes to grab my attention before I move on to the next of a hundred albums that have been released in the previous two or three weeks in just the post-rock genre alone. It may not be fair, but it’s the reality – you need to get it out there, and get it out there fast. Especially you, post-rock bands. I see you. I know your game. But I’m sorry, you no longer have five minutes to dick around with your delay pedals building some ambient framework before you strike that first chord. Not in the modern music world. So, in the spirit of that idea, I want to do some rapid fire coverage of four releases that get it right from jump street. These albums are all very good, but the point here is that the only reason I know that is because they grabbed me immediately from track one. If nothing else, I can guarantee readers that if they click the embedded Bandcamp players provided here they’re going to get high quality every time.
[Before I move on, let me quickly vent. As I am on the topic of cycling through post-rock new releases on Bandcamp, two things come to mind that I implore bands to consider: (a) please don’t label yourself with a dozen different genre tags if most of them don’t apply. I can’t even tell you how many janky post-punk bands there are on Bandcamp tagging themselves as “post-rock.” Believe me, you’re not expanding your potential for an audience, you’re just pissing people off when they came for one thing and you instead gave them something entirely different. (b) please, please, please, please stop publishing your music if it sounds like a demo you recorded in the subway on a Fisher Price tape recorder. You understand this shit is public, right? Before deciding to publish music on Bandcamp, just take a moment to think: is this how I want to represent my art to the world? Thank you. Moving on.]
First up is Slow Grave from Puerto Rico. Their album Foam is an example of the kind of post-rock I’ve been appreciating more and more as time goes on — compact, punchy, and to the point. There’s only one song that tops 5 minutes, and that’s a lovely thing my friends. Kicking off with “Malingen,” there’s a decided post-hardcore and math influence found here; the more I listen to it the more it almost strikes me as reminiscent of Sparta without vocals, which I’m definitely here for. “Malingen” stays in motion with a combination of earworm guitar melodies, loud, impactful rhythm guitar, and lively drumming. Once you’re hooked, the band transitions into “Submerge the Sun,” which is a real burner that probably stands as the best track on the record, the haymaker on the backside of a potent 1-2 punch that introduces Foam. On this second track Slow Grave also reminds me a bit of The Last Sigh Of The Wind, except a bit less overproduced (no disrespect to that band, they do the damn thing, but there’s undeniably a LOT of extra topcoat on that gloss finish). If these first tracks hook you then you’re definitely going to want to ride it out, as Foam is a consistently strong album front to back.
A week after Foam was released we got The Hiding Gene, from Buffalo, NY’s Thought Trials. We begin with “On The Correct Handling Of Contradictions Among The People,” a song whose title I’m only going to write once. This one sits somewhere in the hazy area between post-metal and doomgaze: slow, deliberate and crushing, but a bit riffier than we’re accustomed to from the latter subgenre. From what I can tell Thought Trials is a one-man project, and I’m usually wary of that distinction, but I would never have guessed had I not researched the album. All of the instruments are live and organic, no drum machine/synth cheese to contend with, and as a result the record presents listeners a dense and layered experience. It leans into slightly more traditional post-rock as it goes on, and with strong returns, but it’s that initial anvil that gets dropped on your head that locks you in for the journey.
Next we have New York City’s Secret Gardens, another startlingly effective one-man project (this will become a theme as we go on). Tundra is actually an impressively varied and dynamic album, but there’s no denying where the inspiration for opener “Tough Conversations” came from. It’s leaning hard into 00’s This Will Destroy You territory, but here’s the thing: it’s fucking great, so whatever. Incredibly crisp and well-produced, this track is much more of a slow-burner than its counterparts here, but it’s so lovely that there’s no way you’re not going to want to see it through. You’ll be rewarded if you do, as the back half of the song gets increasingly expansive and powerful. And before you tag Secret Gardens as some kind of imitator it’s important to note that this album treads a lot of ground. Take a look at “Stillness,” with its mesmerizing vocal performance from Erin Rues, or the quick-hitting banger “Squall,” or the bright, mathy “I’m Fucking Tired Of Being Sad,” or the dramatically-building closer “Walk Away,” which channels Old Solar for a genuinely towering climax. Honestly, I could have done an entire extended entry on this album because it’s thoroughly fantastic and deserves serious consideration.
The last entry is a bit of a cheat, as it’s not actually an album, but it does shine light on a different approach. Another solo artist project, Los Angeles’ pictures of wild life has been taking the “singles” route with his first batch of songs. I’m typically not that thrilled about this kind of thing, though it sometimes pays off. One of the best examples that comes to mind is the Melbourne, Australia project Burning Bones, which produced a fantastic single in 2018 that ended up being one of my favorite songs that year. I spoke with pictures of wild life multi-instrumentalist JJ Powell, who says that eventually each of the three songs he has released over the past few months will become part of a full release, but for the time being he’s releasing piece by piece. Thus far his music has been characterized by math leanings, compact song structures, and bright tones, definitely upbeat and uplifting in the best of ways. “seabright” is the most recent, joining “twin pines” and “coastal flora” as his only output to date. You’d be well-served to check out those other two songs as well, as this is definitely an artist to keep an eye on as 2021 progresses.
So there you have it — four bands I’d never heard of and may never have noticed had they not put a huge first foot forward. Getting on the radar at all is half the battle, now it’s just a matter of following up with more strong material. We’ll definitely have our eyes on these artists going forward.
Heave Blood & Die – Post People (post-rock, post-metal)
It’s been a while since I heard a post-whatever album that was genuinely pissed off, but Heave Blood & Die’s Post People is just that. Beyond the band’s aggressive name, the album itself is possessed of their anti-capitalist, punk-anchored roots. It shows on everything: the heft of the guitar parts, the agility and attack of the drums, the disaffected derision of the vocals. It’s like a truck full of post-metal groove smashed head on into pissed off brit-rock, swirling in its madness into the ethereal, heady places of post-rock. Just tune in to the first track, “Radio Silence”, to hear for yourself what I’m talking about; there’s something that feels so urgent, so unwilling to wallow in despair and yet feeling it so strongly, in the album’s first track. And it doesn’t slow down from there for a second, continuing to unfold the urban, defiant nature of the band’s sound. Just play it and play it fucking loud and remember everything they’re taking from you.
Infinity Shred – EP002 (Recovery) (electronic, synth rock, post-rock)
If I was to write for as long as an Infinity Shred release makes me want to write, this entry would be as long as this entire column. I’ve said so elsewhere: Infinity Shred’s music makes me want to write and never stop. It makes me want to walk city streets and never stop. It makes me dream and hope and despair. It makes me feel everything. EP 002 (Recovery) is no different; what it lacks in the band’s usual scope (because of its limited runtime), it more than makes up in impact and directness. It has everything I love about this band and an amazing cover to boot, on which I still plan to write a longer post. Long story short, if you like your post-rock electronic, dream-inducing, and filled with wanderlust, you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with every single piece on Infinity Shred’s backlog. This release included and especially.
Kaschalot – Zenith EP (post-rock, prog rock, math rock)
We absolutely love Estonia’s Kaschalot and their blend of energetic post-rock with proggy, mathy elements. Whale Songs from 2018 was an absolute highlight, so seeing them come out with anything new, even if it is a 4-song EP, is more than welcome. Zenith is a power-packed 20 minutes of pure drive and energy, jumping from the high-octane heavy prog of “Supernova” and “Beacons” to dreamier breakbeat-driven pieces like “Mothership” and the bright mathiness of closer “Distant Light.” Just an absolute treat through and through, and hopefully not the last we’ll be hearing from them for another few years.
Mekong Airlines – Gran Telescopio (cinematic, synthwave, neo-traditional post-rock)
To be honest, there wasn’t a ton of post- released in January that really captivated me. Leipzig, Germany’s Mekong Airlines and their sophomore LP Gran Telescopio was an exception, however. Blending a smooth, cinematic post-rock style will touches of synth and dreamy production but more than enough punch to keep things lively, Gran Telescopio is an incredibly well-rounded musical package that keeps things as fresh as the lemons that grace its cover.
The Metaphor – A, b, c, d, e & f (traditional post-rock, piano-led, proggy)
Released all the way back on new year’s day, this Kuala Lumpur based five-piece caught my attention with their compelling mixture of heavier post-rock and piano. With this their third release and first since 2014, the curiously titled A, b, c, d, e, & f (representing the first letter of the first word of each song-title) evokes comparisons to Maybeshewill and early 65daysofstatic in the way the piano harmonizes with the guitar melodies. Structurally, you can find classic build-and-release post-rock styling in the writing, emphasized by sky-scraping guitar swells. The minimalist piano-riffs however do a great job of dancing around the composition, bringing out the heartfelt emotion in their writing. The drums are also very LOUD in the mix, which is refreshing and augments some of the more metal-leaning riffs like on “Delusions of Grandeur”. All in all, The Metaphor have delivered an uplifting and digestible little 6-track album that should provide a nice caffeine-like pick-me-up to your day.
Mogwai – As the Love Continues (cinematic, traditional, electronic, post-rock)
By now, Mogwai have absolutely nothing left to prove. If nothing else, As the Love Continues, which marks the Scottish post-rock legends’ 10th “studio” album – which doesn’t even count their numerous soundtrack albums – is a simple and huge achievement unto itself. Those soundtracks, in fact, have kept up at exactly the same pace as the studio albums over the past decade (Les Revenants, Atomic, Kin, and ZeroZeroZero versus Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Rave Tapes, Every Country’s Sun, and now As the Love Continues). And while I’ve gone on record numerous times now stating my preference for their soundtrack work over this period, I will gladly listen to anything they put out. The good news though is that As the Love Continues is a genuinely great Mogwai album.
It’s perhaps the most invigorated the band have sounded since at least Hardcore Will Never Die. They continue to dabble in electronics and synths, especially on the beautifully warm “Dry Fantasy,” to great effect. There’s still plenty of classic Mogwai grooves, shoegazey indie rock, and cheeky musicianship throughout. There’s even some genuine experimentation and new sounds, especially on the lush (if not aptly-named) “Pat Stains,” which features Colin Stetson and his brand of frenetic alto sax filling up all space in the background. It’s, frankly, everything I want a Mogwai studio album to be in 2021, even if I still prefer the soundtracks nowadays.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Anfiorester – All the Past Lights (cinematic post-rock, post-metal)
Black Country, New Road – For The First Time (post-rock, post-punk, experimental)
Ciempies – Eigengrau (shoegaze, ambient, post-rock)
Pointing at the Moon – s/t (post-rock, shoegaze, dream pop)
Powder! Go Away – jól (traditional, sometimes heavy)
Ranges – Babylon the Great, Pt. 2 (traditional post-rock, cinematic)
Sarin – You Can’t Go Back (post-metal, sludge)
Scale & Feather – A Slow Forest Burning (post-rock, post-metal)
Sinestesis – La Busqueda (post-metal, post-rock)
SIOM – After Earth (post-rock, post-metal)
Solars – Negative Apex (post-metal, post-rock)
Sorrow Life – If i die, i will (post-rock, cinematic)
A Spark in the Void – The Journey (cinematic post-rock, post-metal)
Spoiwo – Martial Hearts (electronic post-rock, darkwave)