Hey folks. You may have noticed I wasn’t at the helm of the column or anywhere to be found last month. Without going into too much detail, I haven’t been doing great mentally. I switched meds and have been working on some stuff, and I’m doing a bit better but am still definitely at what I would call “my best.” Not that I need to be at my best to help shepherd this column for you all, but I also just don’t have all that much pithy to say at the moment. Thankfully we have more than enough grade-A content in the rest of the column that you don’t need me to set it up much.
As a very small token of appreciation though, I thought I’d let you all in on something I’ve been working on for a long time. If you’ve followed this column for a while you’ve no doubt seen me make mentions of some big post-rock piece I was writing. It started out as simply a smaller one-off essay specifically on Post. Festival 2019, and it has since then grown in scope into a series of essays on American post-rock as a whole, the encouraging trends I’ve noticed and chronicled over the past decade, and the challenges that still face the music and scene.
I’m not done yet, but after taking a break towards the end of 2020 I’ve picked it up again in the past month and have made sizable progress. I am probably somewhere in between 75-80% done with the entire package, with one section left to write in “chapter 4” and then the final concluding chapter that will be a bit shorter than the ones that really form the muscle of the whole thing.
I’ll have more to say as we come up to actually publishing it, but my vision for this project is larger in scope than anything we have undertaken here, and I very much want the final presentation to reflect that. No definitive timeline on that as it’s wholly dependent on my general ability to write in my downtime and my mental state as a whole, but I’m optimistic that it will be relatively soon.
Take Me Somewhere Nice: BRUIT ≤
Before we arrive at our expanded coverage of BRUIT ≤, I suppose I’ll throw in my two cents on the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, seeing as it will play at least a tangential role in what follows and, well, because it’s a Godspeed record and this is a post-rock column. First of all, I’d like to start by beseeching GY!BE for titling the album and the songs in a manner that seems to be openly flipping the bird at music writers such as myself. I’ve always thought that The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die was named as such in part as a snarky joke on anyone who had to continually write it out as part of an album review. G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is in a similar vein, what with its partial CAPS lock and the multiple characters, including an exclamation point at the end that ensures it’s going to be a mild pain in the ass to fix whatever word follows it when it inevitably auto-capitalizes. I’m not even going to play around with writing out the full titles of the two long tracks that constitute half of the album’s track order, but 80% of its running time. I see you, Godspeed, and I’m not playing this game with you. I’ll also get another thing out of the way right from the start: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are undeniably legends within the post-rock realm, but I’m not as enamored with them as the average listener. I respect their work, and I respect their fans’ dedication to them. I’ve also seen them live and can confirm that they’re really good in that setting. It’s definitely the context in which this kind of thing was meant to be absorbed. That being said, do we honestly need another reviewer wanking off over GY!BE? I don’t think we do, and in the spirit of that I’ll offer a different perspective.
To put it simply, G_d’s Pee is good. It’s not mind-blowing, and it’s certainly not bad; it’s far too thoughtful and artistic to be dismissed. But I have always gotten a similar feeling from the GY!BE fandom as I do from Tool’s. There is a considerable faction within their followers that have gone to such lengths of hyperbole when discussing them that it’s almost as if they’ve gone too far to ever come back to the reality that the rest of us exist in. Think about all of the ridiculous statements made about Lateralus (keep in mind, I very much like that album), ranging from meticulous re-orderings of tracks to reveal “hidden” storylines, to claims of unforetold mathematical genius buried in the rhythmic patterns, to the use of a golden ratio that drives every detail of the album toward mimicking the unveiling of an endless spiral represented sonically… I mean, fucking Hell, some of these fan theories are so goddamn complicated that I am literally reading them as I write this and still can’t figure out how to paraphrase them.
The result of all this madness? A group of fans that have elevated a mainstream prog-metal band to the realm of Gods, and once you’ve gone there it’s very difficult to go back. So what we end up with is a bunch of nerds that refuse to acknowledge that 10,000 Days is an occasionally brilliant but often pointlessly meandering mixed bag, or that Fear Inoculum is a bloated, boring mess that may be the shittiest album that anyone has ever patiently waited fourteen years for. Instead they double down, manufacturing reasons why the new material is brilliant in ways you simply “don’t understand,” as opposed to being the pretentious horseshit that the rest of us confidently know it to be. It’s like someone watching the Toronto Raptors win the 2019 NBA title and saying “this is the greatest team that has ever competed in any sport that’s ever existed, and that is just in part because every offensive play they run is based on specific mapped points in Dali’s Persistence of Memory, and every defensive strategy uses William Thurston’s 24 unsolvable mathematical problems as their foundation.” Then as the Raptors sit at 26-36 this year they find themselves scrambling to justify it in a flailing attempt to avoid having quite a bit of egg on their face considering their previous lofty statements.
Listen, I’m not here trying to tell you that Tool and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are nothing but overrated hacks. I grew up with Tool’s ‘90s output – I loved it then, and I still really like it. I was also startled out of my comfort zone by F# A# ∞ when I first heard it at age 17. I like scattered Godspeed tracks or, more accurately, I like scattered sections of songs. My issue with them is that they force you to sit through a whole lot of pointless, rambling nonsense in order to get to the good parts. I don’t think I’m being unfair in saying that GY!BE could benefit from a whole lot of self-editing. Their longest records are comprised of 20+ minute songs that could easily run half that length, while their more compact albums from the past decade still tend to feature a couple of really good songs paired with some uninspiring, droning filler tracks. I don’t have the same kind of deeply personal relationship with the band that many of their fans do, and as such I have no issue committing heresy by proclaiming that GY!BE is sometimes really great and other times interminably boring.
Believe me, I can sympathize with the staunch defenders of Godspeed, because my favorite bands aren’t immune to this kind of thing. It took me years of pretending like The Mars Volta’s Frances the Mute was a masterpiece before finally breaking down and admitting that it’s an album of masterpiece-level compositions buried inside of an obnoxiously pretentious package that would have been drastically improved by cutting out a half-hour of them noodling around as if they don’t have an audience to consider. Interestingly, much like I mentioned earlier regarding GY!BE’s live show, I saw TMV play Frances the Mute in its entirety at the now-defunct Roseland Ballroom in New York City back in 2005 and I can confirm it was fucking awesome. But it worked in that context in a way that it definitely doesn’t on record. So I get it, sometimes your favorite bands make questionable choices, and that’s fine. It’s just best to admit it and move on with realistic expectations.
Anyways, regarding G_d’s Pee: there is some really good stuff in there. And, as always seems to be the case, there are some stretches where my attention wanders for minutes at a time. I know a lot of post-rock fans were upset with Anthony Fantano’s review of the album, but I thought it was exceedingly fair. He’s more a fan of the drone and field recordings than I am, but his overall point is that the album is a solid but lesser version of things they’ve already done much better in the past, which I tend to agree with. At one point he says “there are points where ‘A Military Alphabet’ feels like it’s trying to squander every bit of potential that it has, which is unfortunate,” and that basically sums up my feelings about the band in general. When they’re on, they’re really on, like during the section of “A Military Alphabet” that runs from around the 6:40 mark to around 18:30. It’s an engaging and impactful piece, the only problem being the 8 minutes of tiresome atmospherics you have to endure around it. The 6 minute “Fire In Static Valley” that follows is obviously intended to be a bridge piece, but I don’t find it nearly compelling enough to warrant the amount of time it takes to play out. You can take my analysis of the album’s first half and pretty much transpose it onto the second half, with a slight exception made for the closer “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (FOR D.H.),” which builds on a more affecting melody than its earlier counterpart does. Ultimately I come away from G_d’s Pee the same way I do every GY!BE album – deeply impressed by the good segments, underwhelmed by the rest, and unlikely to return often.
So what does any of this have to do with BRUIT ≤? Well, as we mention in the forthcoming interview, there are some stylistic comparisons to be made between them and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The difference is that I see BRUIT ≤ as the more compact conceptual vision that I have always wished Godspeed was. They’re definitely not introductory-level post-rock, and their song lengths hang around the 8-12 minute range, but as I see it they do a much more effective job of getting to the point, which is why I’m more inclined to revisit their output than I am GY!BE. There are always some great post-rock releases to be found in any given year, but there’s no denying that of late there is a sense that the genre needs a bit of a shot in the arm. I feel like BRUIT ≤ provides that with their deft blend of electronics, groove-heavy rhythmics, neoclassical gravitas, and balancing of intimate melodies and ample scope. That being said, I’ll hold off on further examination of their newest offering The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again, because Nick will be covering more extensively later on in the column. For now we’ll move on to our recent interview with BRUIT ≤’s Theo Antolinos and Clement Libes.
– David Zeidler
Heavy Blog Is Heavy: You first came onto the scene in 2018 with the two track, 22-minute EP MONOLITH, and it was clear that you were operating at an unusually high level for a band releasing its debut album. How long had the band been together prior to that release, and how did the members settle on what the sound and approach would be like?
Clément: The core of Bruit is Theo (guitar/tapes) and myself (violin/bass/production). We have been making music together for more than 8 years and the idea of this project was born 6 years ago. The lapse of time between the first ideas of compositions and the first EP is the time it took to search for our artistic and sonic identity, the foundations of our sound that we hope to be as personal as possible. We tried to understand our individual and collective qualities and to cultivate them in order to get the best and most original work out of each of us. This desire to find our own sound and approach is our guide to thinking. It shows us what not to do and forces us to explore further. It sets a critical level of perfectionism that explains why in 6 years of existence we are only at our first full-length album. There’s a story, a concept, and a soundscape at the starting point of each song. A good melody or a nice chord progression, but that alone is never enough for us. There has to be a well-defined artistic sensibility where all the aesthetic choices are relevant and interconnected. It’s a long process with many ideas that end up in the trash.
HBIH: You premiered with Elusive Sound, a label that has a reputation for curating their lineup very particularly and putting a great amount of care into their releases. They typically go to painstaking lengths to seek out the bands on their roster, as opposed to simply fielding submissions. When you consider artists like Silent Whale Becomes A Dream, Au Revoir, Glasir, BLAK, Ravena, Blankenberge, and Trna, these aren’t bands that were exactly well-known at the time of their signing, but Elusive took them in and showed each release an extraordinary amount of love. BRUIT ≤ fits that mold as well. How did your relationship with them come to pass?
Clément: We contacted Elusive Sound one week after we discovered Glasir and Au Revoir, at that time we were looking for our sound identity, and we were working on some demos that we sent them. [Elusive Sound A&R head] Peter Pires answered us with a long, detailed, and extremely critical response which helped us a lot to go further in crafting our sound. Since that day we have sent him every version and every demo of every song we’ve written. The day we finished the mastering for the first EP they finally offered us a release deal. In the end our collaboration is a story of music lovers and demanding dreamers who’ve tried to create a utopian bubble in a music world that can often be dismissive of musicians such as ourselves.
HBIH: You’ve been one of the few bands that has been both vocally against streaming platforms like Spotify and willing to keep your music off of them. Can you give us some insight into your decision to shun Spotify and stick to Bandcamp and physical releasing?
Théo: I remember at the beginning of internet downloading there were a lot of ads in France against illegal music piracy. It explained that downloading music this way was a theft as concrete as stealing a physical object, and that it was bad for the artists. But now in 2021 if I follow this logic and download music legally from a platform that is listed on the stock exchange, has a virtual monopoly on music distribution, and belongs to a billionaire I don’t see how it is any fairer for the artist. They will earn a few cents with Spotify instead of zero with illegal downloading, but personally I’ll feel less insulted if a proletarian who can’t afford a monthly subscription steals our album than if the billionaire who owns Spotify throws me a few cents. The truth is that illegal downloading was fought on the internet not because it was a problem for the artists, but because it was money that didn’t go into the pockets of the multinational music industry. It’s an obvious fact: the music industry is not fighting for the artists but only for their bank accounts. Personally I don’t pay for the music I listen to online, it’s a very good way to discover artists regularly without breaking the bank, but if I really like an album I will always try to find the vinyl.
HBIH: To date you’ve released six songs, and half of them are accompanied by videos, two of which feature very strong, mindfully shot live performances. I’ve staunchly asserted for years now that post-rock is greatly enhanced by visual media accompaniment, and you clearly value this approach. Can you talk about what draws you to that medium and why you think it’s an important component of your releases?
Clément: We’ve always been big fans of live sessions, while our friends watch series on Netflix we watch the latest Audiotree, Kexp, or blogotheque sessions. Music remains a medium of communication between humans, and our first sense is vision. Additionally, as we don’t have a singer the instinctive access to emotion is less obvious with our music. Seeing artists play is giving a more direct access to the energy of a performance. Afterwards we always took care to realize it in an artistic way to underline a poetry of the piece. In the end for us it is an artistic object above all but also a promotional tool, which allows people to discover us and to understand our music more easily. Once we have aroused their curiosity we hope they will listen to our album with their eyes closed and let their imagination create its own movie!
HBIH: Due to both some sonic similarities and the sheer coincidence of both of you releasing your latest albums on the same day, I’ve already seen many comparisons made between you and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. There are definitely some shared features like the use of sampled speech and longform compositions that have a distinctly orchestral bent, but it’s also clear that you all have a very distinct and clear vision for BRUIT ≤. How do you see yourselves fitting in as a part of the post-rock canon, and where have you sought to bring in your own voice to this style of music?
Theo: We’re really flattered to be compared to a band as incredible as GY!BE, but there are a lot of bands that play long-form and use vocal samples. I think people compare us to them because they have become an absolute reference. But it’s not really what we’re looking for to do “post-rock”, and actually we’re a bit embarrassed by the term because it’s really a very codified musical sub-genre. It’s a shame to create new musical terms every time rock evolves, that creates walls behind which many artists get stuck. What we like to make is rock music with classical, electronic, folk, and ambient contributions, but we’re really inspired by the entire breadth of rock culture, and our standards go from Neil Young to This Will Destroy You, while passing through My Bloody Valentine, Fugazi, GY!BE, Sonic Youth, Jakob, etc.
HBIH: I live in Vermont, so I’d be remiss not to cover your inclusion of a Bernie Sanders quote on “The Fall.” You’ve also displayed pretty unsubtle political overtones in other songs and videos. Could you speak on how music can act as a social, political, or cultural statement, and why this is important to you?
Theo: We are fully convinced that music serves to talk about the world around us. Without that, we could be satisfied with great, timeless classical works. For example, when I listen to some of GY!BE’s tracks I feel the coldness of dark and industrial landscapes that are typical of our time. Our generation is anxious about the state of our natural environment, it is afraid of the collapse, it would like more social justice and democracy. That’s the case in France but also in many other countries of the world (for example recently Chileans fought in the street against the fascist militia as we did in France two years ago, and for the same reasons). It is difficult to hold an artistic proposal that is completely abstract and detached from these questionings. That’s why behind the instrumental and conceptual aspects of our music there is also a socio-political aspect, with names that give hints toward our own reflections, samples of voices that speak about ecology, education, competitive spirit, or social justice.
HBIH: The folks at Elusive Sound released a statement in December regarding the label ceasing operations sometime in the near future. With that in mind, what’s next for BRUIT ≤, and how do you see yourselves transitioning from such an uncommonly thoughtful boutique label?
Theo: I don’t know how the future will be for BRUIT ≤, and we haven’t thought about a label yet, but what’s certain is that it’s going to be hard to be alone without Elusive, with whom we felt completely in our element and really understood. But for the moment we think about the present, and we hope to release a vinyl truly worthy of the great tradition at Elusive Sound!
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again (cinematic post-rock, electronic)
Given the general state of post- as it fits within the greater spectrum of rock or popular music as a whole these days, it’s an exceeding rarity to see an album receive a kind of attention and praise both from within the core community and outside that feels “special.” Even for myself, someone who really lives and breathes this music, I find it to be very rare that I designate a post-rock/metal or post-adjacent album as “important” to music in general. It’s not just a matter of them being good or great. It must feel like it has a musical perspective that is either new or packages certain ideas and tropes in a way that feel completely fresh and are likely to influence others and push the music forward both in the community and outside of it. I think the last 2 albums I can recall that rose to this status were Holy Fawn‘s Death Spells (2019) and Cult of Luna/Julie Christmas‘s Mariner (2016).
I knew there was something special about the debut album from French quartet BRUIT ≤ when I started seeing people I know who don’t frequently listen to or seek out post-rock writing and raving about it. And while most larger outlets focused on the latest GY!BE release, BRUIT quietly displayed a similar level of ambition, compositional prowess, and leftist political ideology in a deeply affecting way that the former band simply hasn’t accomplished since around the turn of the century. The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again (hereto referred to as The Machine…) puts its heart and message on its sleeve between its album and song titles and selection of found soundbites that bemoan the irrevocable effects that profit-driven humanity and capitalism have had on every part of the world. It lends it a kind of immediacy and sense of not just simmering anger but urgency that is absent from much of the genre, as well as an immediate point of entry and connection with the listener.
Every one of the album’s four tracks has the distinct feeling of different dystopian landscapes, from the more urban and mechanic “Industry” to the wistful and pastoral “Renaissance,” barren “Amazing Old Tree,” and rising calamity of “The Machine Is Burning.” When we term a kind of music “cinematic,” this is truly what it means in every sense of the word. BRUIT manage to paint such a brilliantly vivid picture with these four compositions that it’s nearly impossible not to see it as you’re listening. The combination of bombastic and crushing rock instrumentation with heart-rending strings and electronic flourishes is not at all rare in this kind of music, but the way the band employs all elements feels utterly seamless. It feels like a single instrument or organism lurching, thrashing, contracting. There isn’t a single moment, a single beat wasted or without purpose.
This is everything that this kind of longform post- is and should be about, and for my money with The Machine… BRUIT have set a new bar that other bands in this space should and will attempt to approach and clear in the coming years. Given that this only the debut LP from the group, it’s very conceivable that they will be the ones to outdo themselves. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.
LUME – False Calm (slowcore, post-hardcore, drone)
If your last exposure to this Chicago post-hardcore band was their 2018 Equal Vision debut Wrung Out, you may be thinking to yourself “why is this being covered here?” And fair enough – while that album had whispers of post-rock, it was a mostly straightforward, tightly-arranged affair. However, if you attended their tour following the release, or saw their onstage collaboration with fellow Chicagoans REZN at the 2019 Post. Festival pre-show, or heard the record that was birthed from that union, you likely have more appropriately adjusted expectations for their newest offering. False Calm is the kind of album that the phrase “slow burn” was built for, and if you’re on board for this type of thing it’s likely you’ll be melting into the floor with bliss upon listening to it.
You may also be saying “Wrung Out was awesome, these guys really had something going with that one!” And you’d be right; on the strength of tracks like “Loss Leader,” “Keep Me Under,” “Unglued,” and the title track, Wrung Out was one of the best albums of 2018, and one of the finest examples of hard-hitting, post-rock adjacent indie rock this side of O’Brother. It’s a killer record, and it deserves to be cherished. But I also respect the choices that Lume have made leading up to the release of False Calm. The band played a show in my area back in 2018 and even then I remember bassist Dylan Hulett saying that they wanted to go into a slower, doomier direction with their new material, which required their quiet split from Equal Vision following just one release. Their show that night was proof that they weren’t kidding around — their faster-paced tracks were eschewed for Wrung Out’s more atmospheric pieces, as well as some brooding, menacing new songs that didn’t pull any punches with their commitment to putting the “slow” in slowcore.
Their 2019 collaborative release Live At Electrical Audio with REZN was the first indication that they were onto something with this new direction. The record demands patience, but the payoff is huge. False Calm doubles down on this compositional style; at this point I’ve left the “illicit substances” period of my life behind, but if ever there was an album for which a bit of carefully curated impairment would be beneficial, it’s this one. First of all, it’s definitely a “full album” kind of experience. There are no singles here, and the full effect of the songs can’t be felt with quite the same impact if you’re listening to them individually. You have to be there for the 5 minutes of atmospheric guitars, hypnotic drum patterns, and tranquilizing vocals in order to truly appreciate the moments when shit gets turned up. The explosive releases on “Common Death” and “Somatic” are perfect examples: you’ve spent so much time drifting in this almost narcotic-like haze of lurching doom atmospherics that the eventual drop is utterly shattering. You have to look at the entire album through this lens. It only works if you commit to it, and I’d highly recommend doing so. This album is like the sonic representation of the kind of movie set piece where the main character enters unfamiliar, unforetold territory and experiences something that is strikingly enigmatic, vaguely intimidating, and incredibly cool all at once. Think the Satanico Pandemonium dance sequence in From Dusk Til Dawn, except with way more smoke and mysticism.
HØST – Kos (post-rock, prog, jazz)
I can’t decide whether this album can be said to wear its heart on its sleeve or whether it’s a subtle grower. On one hand, HØST’s Kos starts off with all of the elements already present from the get-go; the first track has beautiful and moving brass instruments, agile and clever drumming, sweet, groovy bass, and the post-rock tendencies which underpin the album as a whole. These are the basic ingredients which make Kos work. In that sense, it can be quite an uplifting and “bright” album, belonging to post-rock spaces which are more contemplative than melancholic, quick on their feet and groove driven.
And yet, Kos does some really interesting and different things along its runtime. Most prominent is its guest spots. First, we have Nicolas Gardel, who contributed the magnificent trumpets on “Vill” and arranged the track as well. The result is something even more boisterous than the opening track, with the brass section exploding into several marvellous crescendos. If you can’t tell, I love this track; it feels bigger than life, like the basic fuel that is HØST, placed right into a rocket ship and launched into the stratosphere. This elation is executed by the full band but Gardel is at its core.
But we’re not done yet, not even close. The next track, “Dreamwalk”, features the unique voice of one Jeff Taylor. To support it, darker and more “off key” synths are introduced, synths which remain prominent throughout the track and work extremely well with Taylor’s sweet and alluring timbre. The whole track feels off-kilter, urban in a weird, spiralling way, definitely more pop influenced than anything else on the album, and throwing beautiful contrast with the rest of it. The last piece of the puzzle comes right after it, with our last guest spot in the form of Ferdinand Doumerc’s saxophone on “Diu Ors”. This track has a little bit of both tracks which it follows, although it definitely has that somewhat larger-than-life feeling of “Vill” but perhaps tempered with abit of “Dreamwalk”’s darker side.
It’s a bold choice to not only have guest spots but also give them so much freedom to experiment and perform on the album. The end result are two tracks which could “just” be interesting curveballs but end up reconfiguring the album’s entire DNA. It’s also interesting that the band have chosen to place all three tracks smack in the middle of the album and right after reach other. I think that risk has paid off and has made Kos a super varied and fascinating album. Sure, a lot of it is the “basic” style of post-rock introduced in the opening tracks. But so much more of it goes into wild places, powered by the external voices that HØST have graciously let into their creative spaces.
Böira – Cendres ~ Mineral (piano-centric post-rock)
Post-rock (for many valid reasons) often gets aligned as a melancholic, borderline misanthropic genre. The strong use of minor chords, apocalyptic and isolated themes and general lack of vocals obviously lends credence to this. It appeals to introverts and as a vessel of escapism. Or as just a soundscape that can compliment your thoughts and mood. But hell, sometimes a band comes around in this genre that can just make you feel good. Böira are one of such bands, and their new release Cendres ~ Mineral brings some of the charisma and personality of the late 00s UK scene, notably Maybeshewill, early 65daysofstatic and And So I Watch You From Afar. Relative to some other bands in the genre, this more upbeat and uplifting style arguably hasn’t been played out over the past decade and there’s still a lot of things you can do with this sound. While Böira aren’t necessarily re-inventing anything here, it’s a welcome addition that I don’t see escaping my rotation any time soon.
The guitar and drum work are nothing to scoff at here, but the piano is certainly the selling point and where the obvious Maybeshewill comparisons can be drawn. The way these elegant piano riffs harmonize with the backing guitar riffs is like watching a time-lapse of flowers blooming in sunlight. But it’s not all sunshine and daisies, there’s dips and valleys and moments of contemplation and reflection that make the euphoric climaxes that much more special and earned. The guitars at times are matching along note for note with the piano, but often an octave higher or lower, giving it this expansive engrossing atmosphere. Not to mention the guitar work is relatively heavy, there’s even a breakdown towards the end of the album opener – so the contrast between the rather bright piano tone and guitar distortion creates a unique juxtaposition.
The course of the album mostly keeps within this same structure, but the frequently changing tempos and energy levels keep things from going stale. “Brot” is a great example of this as it kicks off with a boisterous tapped guitar riff that could easily have come right out of ASIWYFA’s self-titled. This more guitar-centric, math-rock infusion is something I’d love to see explored further, but the hints of it alone are a welcome touch to what is already a highly dynamic post-rock album.
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
Ride The Waves Until You Reach The Shore – we are forsaken, we are doomed (post-metal, instrumental prog)
I’ve been in the mood for heavy, cinematic post-metal for a while now. Think Telepathy or Labirinto. But I haven’t really been able to find anything on the caliber of those bands. Well, until now; we are forsaken, we are doomed has that deep groove that makes all of these heavier post-rock/metal bands work and they splice it with this irresistible canvas, huge in scope. The album wastes no time in getting started, plunging you into an epic, almost sixteen minute long track. Listen how the heavy main riff continues to underpin the track throughout the intro, while the guitars etch tremolo-picked filigree around it. But then, prepare for the surprise that is the groove-inducing main riff of the track, backed up by some really cool work on the drums. Long story short, if you’re looking for that darker instrumental vibes from the bands I cited above, look no further; Ride The Waves Until You Reach The Shore have you covered.
pictures of wild life – terrene (upbeat post-rock)
I won’t go too deep into the debut EP from this California solo artist since I already covered the music in part for our March Post Rock Post, but I still wanted to mention this very worthy offering from an artist that to this point seems to be largely unknown. Fans of bright, upbeat post-rock are definitely going to want to check this out. If you’re looking for a point of reference for pictures of wild life, fellow Californians Wander would be a good place to start. terrine opens with “caldera,” a mid-tempo affair that certainly shares the same space as modern traditional post-rock but has an undeniable energy that carries into “coastal flora,” which is where the EP really picks up steam. Big riffs, soaring melodies, strong pacing, and dynamic songwriting are all equal contributors to terrene’s impactfulness. And it’s all wrapped up in a very trim, manageable 21-minute package that is well-worth exploring.
Go March – III (upbeat electronic post-rock, krautrock)
Antwerp’s Go March is probably not a commonly known name on this side of the Atlantic, but hopefully their addition to the dunk!records lineup this year will change that a bit. I hope so, because to my ears III is essential listening, especially at a time when post-rock is at somewhat of a diversify-or-die juncture. There was a short period of time when I was in college in the early-2000’s when I attended my share of raves (I’m not sure how old that terminology makes me sound, but I don’t feel great about it), and while those days are well behind me I did take away an appreciation for just the right kind of pulsing, hypnotic house music vibes. Go March scratches that itch without forcing me to comb through the endless caverns of DJ culture.
From the opening moments of “Zipp,” which has a provocative nightclub-meets-Knight Rider sensibility, this proves to be one of the most irresistibly danceable post-rock records I’ve heard in quite some time. “Ortisei” continues to carry the groove, managing to celebrate krautrock roots without devolving into the boredom that often comes with that genre (sorry, I prefer my kraut to be of the sauer variety rather than the rock). “Stampede” might be my favorite song, and would fit snugly into that opening dancefloor bloodbath scene in Blade. It actually makes a ton of sense that I’d connect strongly with Go March, who share sonic similarities with the music used in that sequence (The Pump Panel’s remix of New Order’s “Confusion”), and is squarely in that Crystal Method/Chemical Brothers wheelhouse that remains the only kind of techno from that era (or any, for that matter) that has actually stuck with me to the present day. III gets my blood pumping for the return of live music, because it’s absolutely the kind of music you want to experience in person with a large group.
Suffocate For Fuck Sake – Fyra (post-hardcore, screamo, post-rock)
I’ve covered a fair share of post-rock-screamo hybrids for the column over the past few years, but I bring you today one that breaks the mold towards a uniquely heavy approach for this fusion. Fyra, the third full-length from amicably named Swedes, Suffocate For Fuck Sake, opens with a slow crawl of a post-metal track. There’s an unsettling ambience to it that feels like an approaching storm on the horizon, a warm humid air with an inescapable sense of dread. This ominous aura sets the tone for what is a one of the darkest albums you’ll find in the genre this year.
Fyra is a long album. Even for post-rock it’s long, but it’s likely the longest screamo-adjacent album ever written, clocking it at 1hr21min. Due to that length I find you have to really be immersed in the album to get the most out of it, or else you can drift in and out in some of the more atmospheric and quieter moments. Throughout the album are spoken word sections taken from a Swedish interview. The lyrics and interviews focus on the devastating effects of drug addiction and the anxiety and depression that can spiral around the disease.
There’s an oddly welcoming atypical post-rock structure to Fyra in that it doesn’t frequently rely on cliches like tremolo-picked pull-and-release climaxes, but takes almost an atmospheric sludge metal approach of building increasing heaviness and anxious rage. Occasional softly sung vocals such as in “Hope” bring a welcome reprieve. The line “If I ever let you go…” echoes out in a powerful bleakness that eventually explodes into some of the more typical post-rock instrumentation of the album. Ultimately I respect the ambition in what they were going for, but the album length probably could have been dialed back. There’s just not enough different ideas for it musically to warrant the playtime, but the concept very well may have taken precedent which is hard to knock them for.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Balmorhea – The Wind (neo-classical, piano-centric post-rock)
Blackshape – Blackshape (post-metal, math rock)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! (cinematic post-rock, drone)
Lake of Licks – Surge (post-rock, prog rock)
The Mighty Missoula – Virga (ambient, cinematic, neo-classical)
Oreana – Sunrise, Gold (post-rock)
where mermaids drown – And the raging winds do blow (post-rock, post-metal)