Hello! It’s me, Eden! Remember me? I’m the guy with the thing. Anyway, this iteration of Post Rock Post had an interesting side effect: it reminded me of A Collective Nod. This was back in 2016, before Post Rock Post was really a thing, at least as a column; it was more me and Nick writing about bands we liked within the genre. But “A Collective Nod” was the first hint of the future potential of PRP; I used it to focus on an interesting phenomenon within post-rock, that of the “musical collective”. This is a group of bands that are loosely connected, either by a label, a geographical location, or some other form of organization, and who release music together. These organizations sometimes grow organically, as a result of friendships, bands sharing rehearsal spaces, and sometimes form ad-hoc, from sponsorship programs, labels creating them, and more.
One of the collectives I most liked covering was A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters. This “collective” was more of a Bandcamp page, releasing compilations of relatively unknown, and certainly underrated, bands from the post-rock spaces of the UK. The compilation I covered featured excellent bands like VASA, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster, Talon, Rumour Cubes, Brontide, and many other excellent names. I was instantly hooked, going back through the compilations to find what are now some of my favorite post-rock around.
I was thrilled then to be emailed by Chris, the man behind the effort, and to learn that there’s a new compilation being released! Naturally, I sat down to listen it and guess what? It rules. Featuring great tracks from groups I already know (and to whom I was introduced through A Cheery Wave) like Double Handsome Dragons, it also introduced me to names I hadn’t heard before or that I hadn’t retained like The Rock of Travolta and their excellent, string accompanied post-rock.
I decided to reach out to Chris and interview him briefly about the effort, the state of post-rock, the future of A Cheery Wave Records and more. You can think of this as a nod to A Collective Nod. It was very nice to go back and remember the previous versions of Post Rock Post and see how far our coverage of the genre, and the genre itself, has come in the past few years. Of course, below the interview you can find our picks for this month, which include some tasty tunes, drawn out crescendos, and lots of feeling. So, business as usual! Sort of. Yeah.
Head on down below to read the interview, check out the compilation itself, and listen to the rest of the music we loved this month in post-rock and its adjacent genres!
Take Me Somewhere Nice: A Cheery Wave Records
Hey Chris! It’s been a while since we’ve covered A Cheery Wave on the blog. Can you introduce yourself, the label, and your compilations to our listeners?
Yeah, I started doing these compilations in 2010 as a way to share my and my friends’ bands, and as a way to connect bands together. Post-Rock was not such a well-established genre then. “This is our punk rock” you might say but it’s much younger than punk so these albums were a way of helping form a scene, alongside lots of other things happening at the time.
Last year – with a bit more time on my hands because of you-know-what – I decided to develop it into a label.
Compilations abound in the world of music but I feel like there’s something especially appropriate and beautiful about a post-rock compilation. Do you feel the same? Is there something special about curating post-rock for you?
That’s an interesting question. I suppose post-rock may lend itself to taking a listener on a journey across a compilation album more than some other genres. I used to make mixtapes and compilation CDs as a kid so it’s tapping back into that joy in music for me. It’s definitely a pleasure to carefully curate a track order. I must confess though I remember for the very first one I pulled the names out of a hat…
How do you even go about curating such a compilation? I saw that the theme for this one is “these bands are no longer with us”. Do you decide on the concept first and then go out and look for bands, the other way around or a mix of both?
There isn’t always a theme, the quality of the music is the most important thing. This time I had been reflecting on the past quite a lot, and it just felt natural to re-explore a lot of bands that I know personally or have shared stages with. Being post-rock there is a lot of instrumental music on this album which I think lends itself to reflection, perhaps especially nostalgic reflection.
Speaking of the upcoming compilation, ninth in number, do you have a favorite track from it? I know that’s like asking you to choose from your children, so feel free to pick several.
I do think this collection is especially strong so that is a difficult one. I’ll say the final track, “The Long Lost” by Glissando. A real spine-shivering song – “Take my hand, I will walk with you” – A sublime end to the album.
How would you diagnose the state of British post-rock today? The label, in name, presentation, and text, seems to always exist in this liminal space where everything is fading away. Does the UK post-rock scene feel the same or is it more stable these days?
I think it is really strong at the moment. We have festivals like ArcTanGent, Portals and Srangeforms. We have great bands – some now returning from hiatus. I’ve also noticed UK labels distributing more post-rock now. It’s not quite as fringe as it once was.
Lastly, would you say this compilation is a “plague compilation”? Does it have a certain relationship with COVID-19 and the crazy year we’ve just been through or are the sounds on it somehow timeless or from another time perhaps?
Some of these songs are over a decade old so they are from quite another time. For anyone who knows these bands I’m sure hearing these tracks will take them right back. Whether it be Kasper Rosa in a sweaty little pub, 52 Commercial Road at a squat party, or Monsters Build Mean Robots on the main stage at ArcTanGent… And if you don’t know these bands, here they are, waving at you over airwaves from the past, reminding you to hold onto your favourite bands with dear life… and to hold on to each other….
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
Yawning Sons – Sky Island (desert/post-rock)
One of the problems with the story of post-rock is that it gets told in isolation. There’s this idea among some of the fans of the genre that post-rock was an innovation that suddenly blazed to light in wherever/whenever they choose to place its inception. But the reality is much more complex; the reality is that post-rock is an amalgamation of many genres which came before it, blending them into what is undoubtedly a unique formula but one which, like all things, has its ties in the past. One of the biggest of those influences was a genre that has today been sidelined in the face of post-rock’s ascendancy: desert rock. But desert rock preceded post-rock, forged as far back as the 80’s and the 90’s, in the US and the UK. Hell, if you wanted to play with the definitions a bit, you could even say that The Shadows were playing a form of desert rock, and that was well back in the 50’s (listen to The Shadows by the way; they rule).
However you choose to tell the story of desert rock, and its subsequent influence on post-rock, one group has to be mentioned in the tale: Yawning Man. These guys were formed in 1986 and went on to release some of the absolute classic in the desert rock genre; they were essentially the precursors and main source of influence on bands like Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. But Yawning Man played many types of rock inside the overarching moniker of “desert” and some of them were very psychedelic, dreamy, and drawn out. This is how those influences “rolled” into post-rock, creating some of the tropes that have come to inform the genre today. OK, wait, why are we talking about this? We’re talking about this because of Yawning Sons, a supergroup of sorts which consists of the legendary Gary Arce’s, Yawning Man’s guitar players, and a likewise legendary group called Sons of Alpha Centauri. These psychonauts hail from Kent and were instrumental in the filtration of desert rock and stoner into what is today known as post-rock (and post-metal, by the by).
Yawning Sons, the collaboration of those two forces, has now released their second album, the sequel to the wonderfully underrated Ceremony to the Sunset. This new release, title Sky Island, is a beautiful testament to the power of desert rock and its continuing relevance. It’s an album full of great riffs, wanderlust-infused meditation on other lands, and variances on the desert-rock theme that are sure to grab your heart in their embrace. It also features guest spots from an illustrious list of musicians, including Scott Reeder (Kyuss, The Obssesed), Wendy Rae Fowler (QOTSA, Earthlings?) and Dandy Brown (Hermano, Orquesta del Desierto).
Turning on to tracks like “Gravity Underwater” or “Adrenaline Rush”, we can witness the “straight”, more classic desert-rock sound that this album channels. The main guitars are overdriven, scintillating in their distortion which calls forth the heat haze over asphalt, stretching out to forever. The backing guitars are heavily delayed, creating mandals of sound that enchant and seduce in the track’s background. And, of course, the vocals are drowning in the honey-drawl that the genre calls for, blending into the overall atmosphere like so much incense. However, flipping over to tracks like “Passport Beyond the Tides”, we can hear how Yawning Sons are obligated to the new and the unique in their music. That track features surging synths that wouldn’t put Vangelis to shame; the atmosphere is the same, stoned out, distant, and fantastic, but the approach to it is different, interesting, and unique. The guitars are there but the synths lead the charge, injecting the music with a new, vibrant energy, here at the center of the album.
Long story short, if you’re a fan of how post-rock approaches drawn out melody, dreamed-out spaces, and an overall atmosphere of celestial journeys, you’d do well to dig deeper into desert-rock’s illustrious past. Sky Island shows that this past is very much alive and represents a fertile ground for exploration and composition even today. In a sense, the album itself is a sort of “passport”, into a different version of how post-rock might have been, for a brief second was, and, in many ways, still is today.
SleepingDreaming – M. Inclemens (post-metal, post-rock, shoegaze)
Lately I’ve been interested in looking at my relationship with post-rock over the years and how it’s grown and shifted, and reflecting that back onto the genre as a whole. When I first discovered Explosions in the Sky back in 2001 all I could think about was how I wanted to hear more of exactly what they were doing. When the American boom began in the mid-2000’s with Caspian, Russian Circles, Red Sparrowes, and This Will Destroy You, it pulled me into a vortex that I became almost singularly obsessed with. Over the bulk of the 2010’s I was seeking out as much as I could possibly consume, and for a time the “post-rock formula” was enough to satisfy me. Until it wasn’t. During the last couple of years I’ve come to a point at which I have gotten far more entrenched in this scene than I ever could have expected, and I have to tell you I’m straight-up sick of the crescendocore formula. There are only so many big climaxes you can experience before the thrill is just kind of gone from it. This realization reveals an integral truth about post-rock — it’s simply not sustainable within any kind of comfort zone, and bands need to start recognizing that, especially ones that are relatively new to the scene. The honeymoon is over friends, and the time has come for bands to seriously evaluate the functionality of a successful relationship with fans and make the necessary adjustments.
While I’m on the subject, can I just get it off my chest how frustrating it is to listen to album after album that features one huge track where a band pulls out all the stops and subsequently hits all the feels, only to then underwhelm you with five generic tracks surrounding that one diamond in the rough? I’ve honestly had it with the endless facsimiles that have figured out how to manipulate the formula once but have never really grasped what it means to be an interesting band. Some artists, like Caspian, have managed to gradually shift their focus enough to ensure that each album is different from the last yet still accessible to fans of their previous work. Those guys are brilliant, though, and almost no one else exists at their level. Another band, although unfortunately defunct, that was really good at this was Red Sparowes — they found ways to subtly alter the landscape they were working within on each record, so when you’re listening they all present a different kind of experience without ever feeling jarring. I feel like I’m always knocking Russian Circles in this column, and I don’t want to give the impression that I can’t stand them because they’re very important to my experience as a fan of this genre. But they are the definitive cautionary tale about what happens when you find a comfort zone in this genre. They have basically been releasing some version of the same album for the past eight or nine years now, and I’m just over it. The reality is that when you don’t have a singer you have to constantly redefine yourself sonically. If you don’t then it’s like being a copy of a copy of a copy of a VHS tape – eventually you become such a shadow of yourself that the people that once loved you find themselves straining to remember what it was that once drew them in.
What does all of this have to do with SleapingDreaming you ask? Primarily it’s that their newest release M. Inclemens features three of the crucial elements that have contributed to my continued interest in post-rock over the past few years – vocals, shoegaze, and rhythm section. Ten years ago if you had tried to sell me on any of those elements in the context of post-rock I would have given you the side-eye. But now after years of listening to a thousand bands all basically writing some version of the same song, I welcome these elements with open arms, and I would even posit that they are going to be the key to maintaining the relevance of the genre going forward. It’s no coincidence that the bands that have captured me over the past five years or so all explore at least one of these paths. There are bands like Outlander and Of The Vine that have fused post-rock with doom and shoegaze to striking ends; ones that have taken aspects of post-rock and layered them into more conventional arrangements to establish a more interesting, textured quality – names like O’Brother and Lume immediately come to mind; and others that have forsaken the formula to focus on groove, like VASA and Aiming For Enrike. To me, these bands are the lifeblood of post-rock right now – they’re the examples we can use to refute naysayers’ claims that post-rock has become hackneyed. It doesn’t matter that these cynics are kinda right if we have examples to show how they’re really not.
Is M. Inclemens a perfect record? No. It could certainly stand for some more dynamics and a few additional hooks, but to my ears and my mind it feels like a part of an essential shift for the post-rock genre. The form is undeniably in the DNA of SleapingDreaming — for example, the reverb-drenched guitar wail playing alongside the melodious bassline on opening track “Ring of Fireflies” immediately tells you where you are and where the roots of this record lie. But then the vocals kick in and the track moves into a kind of hybrid territory between post-metal and post-hardcore. “Sojourner’s Truth” features a passage that sounds like a doom band doing their version of a hardcore breakdown. “Kowalski” presents like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song minus the extra 9 minutes of pretentious bullshit and noodling around, which lord knows is just fine by me. M. Inclemens may not find its way to my year-end list for 2021, but it does rock out pretty hard, and even more importantly I love the path it takes. It drops all the played-out post-rock tropes and focuses its energy on many of the ones that I currently find most interesting. At the end of the day it’s a case of a good record that works from a great template, and that’s enough to warrant my lengthiest write-up this month, because frankly I’m out of new ways to write about build-ups and crescendos at the moment.
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
felperc – tsunami (cinematic post-rock, post-metal)
Usually when you see an artist releasing a million albums in a short period of time, it’s a sign for concern. You have to imagine that something in the assurance of quality mechanism has broken down and they are just churning out subpar works. But then, every so often, an artist manages to just make an incredible amount of amazing music and release it all one after another. When that happens it can get overwhelming, because there’s so much to listen to but you know that keeping up with them is worth your time. This is exactly what’s been happening with felperc. We first covered his work on the blog in October of 2020. Since then, he has released five albums and they’ve all been amazing. No, I am not exaggerating; they have all been amazing.
On tsunami, his latest release, felperc forgoes, at least for a while, the “electronic” moniker of his “electronic post-rock” and delves into some amazing, longform post-metal with the opening track. Its storm, however, is but a precursor for the some of the deeper churning tracks that follow. The end result is an album decidedly felperc but darker, heavier, and more contemplative, like some sort of deep-sea monster shaken its tendons and limbs into life from the depths. Taken together with his latest output, tsunami is yet another brilliant release from one of the brightest burning names in post-rock today, a prolific artist who compromises nothing on quality while still churning out release after release.
In Crimson Colours – The Rain Will Erode the Deeds of Life (post-rock, slowcore, ambient)
In Crimson Colours bring an incredible amount of feeling into one of the more ambient and minimal approaches to the genre you can find. A collaborative effort between two solo projects Méon and Qualia, The Rain Will Erode the Deeds of Life sees the two creating music free of the confines and expectations of genre labels, while striving for a more visual element to their music. Whether that visual element had to do with a live-show setting, or for the listener to be able to visualize their auditory experience, I’m not sure, but the latter was certainly realized. The album artwork also brilliantly captures that image – windswept southern/Midwest USA canyons, with a dreary filter bringing a feeling of the past. A delicate journey into a broken soul, this is music for long skies, and longing. For when you’re alone with your thoughts, to reminisce under the wistful dancing of the flames of a small campfire.
Listening to a lot of post-metal lately has made me wish on a couple instances on this album that it would explode into a thunderous double-kick and distortion-fueled heavy section and harsh vocals, but the range they work in is definitely adequate to get their emotion across. Some of the more typical post-rock songs like “Low Ballad” hit on that with a cathartic and satisfying gradual build up, where the drums steadily get more fast-paced and intense and there’s an ominous distorted guitar melody mixed in to the fray. With these moments there comes together a nice balance of the folky slowcore with hints of Americana, and the more stirring aspects of post-rock, into a unique yet potentially set-and-setting restrictive album.
Norsind – Lys (post-black metal, post-rock)
Instrumental post-black metal bands operate in a tricky area of the post- world. They risk isolating themselves from black metal fans who weigh vocals heavily as an integral part of their listening experience, and unfortunately not all post-rock fans are into blast beats. There’s also just only so much you can do with that sound. Newer Danish group Norsind however have taken up that challenge, and proven that it’s very much still a space worth exploring.
Their competence as songwriters in capturing moods is what ultimately sets this album apart. The melodic leads are infectious and emotional, hitting all the right heart-string pulling notes for the genre. Yet under that sombre veil, there’s a certain youthful carefree-ness to Lys that’s hard to pin down. I think it comes with a level of self-awareness that these Danes have. Yes, they hit on about every trope for this style, and the writing is fairly predictable, but god do they give it their all in the process. Where they’re not pushing boundaries as to how post-rock/shoegaze fused black metal can be written, they’re pushing themselves to the limit to write some of the most compelling music you can find within those instrumental confines. It’s that old adage lending to the benefits of structure and constraints in music. In other words, this is the perfect album for when straight-forward, instrumental reverb-filled post-black is exactly what you’re in the mood for. In a sense Lys is to post-black, what Tides of Man‘s Young and Courageous is to post-rock.
For as melancholic as this album is for the most part, it’s at perhaps its strongest when they let their spirits soar. Tracks like “Midnatsssol” (translating to “midnight sun”, perhaps the subject of the album artwork) conjure that blissfulness of running through a meadow of flowers, but perhaps this time during the night time. That almost jarring brightness of this track reminds me of a little of Liturgy, mixed with what could work as an alternate Midsommer soundtrack. I know a lot of post- fans are adverse to screaming in their music, so Lys could work as a great entry point into the blackened world.
Empires of Light – How To Build a Monolith (post-rock, progressive metal)
Oregon based Empires of Light have brought a refreshing take at the blending of progressive metal and post-rock. They use song building through repetition excellently, with a multifaceted approach. At times this will involve a simple riff repeating while other guitar layers are added on over top. However on songs like “Sailors and Sirens” this involves the repeated ambient riff itself evolving into a more melodic, prog metal-esque guitar solo of which the likes of Widek made a name from.
While the ‘post-metal’ moniker is not necessarily simply post-rock + metal, this album is actually more of that in its literal sense. You can find a lot of the classic PNW/Cascadian post-rock sound in their music, and in some instances the metal elements feel like they just took a regular post-rock track, and down-tuned and ‘chug-ified’ the rhythm section. This isn’t so much a critique as much an observation, as it works as the backbone for an interesting song-writing dynamic. It’s similar to the approach For Giants took with their strong new release from earlier this year, however where they side more on the colourful, fun side, Empires of Light are more contemplative and reflective.
On the third track, “Leviathan Down” we see a real uptick in the progressive metal/metalcore influence. The ambient guitar lead builds into a climatic explosion of tremolo picking before crashing down to an impressive polyrhythmic breakdown that you wouldn’t be out of place on an August Burns Red album. The lead guitars then rejoin the fray and we get this great juxtaposition between these soaring highs and thunderous low grooves. Other tracks like “Violet Andromeda” lean more heavily into their prog metal side, yet there’s consistently that dance between loud and quiet sections and an emphasis on atmosphere that allows it to blend seamlessly with the post-rock-isms of this EP.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Postvorta + RIAH – RIAHPSTVRT (ambient, cinematic, post-metal, sludge metal)
Baulta – Another Second Chance (cinematic, ambient, post-rock)
Itella – Letters Are Made of Trees (post-rock, neofolk, post-metal)
A River Crossing – Forsaken (post-rock, alt rock, post-hardcore)
Thank You To All Who Helped Me – – (instrumental, post-hardcore)
Deriva – Haiku II (post-metal, instrumental)
Kuiper – Alignments (ambient electronic, post-rock)