One of the things that I love the most about post-rock is how it makes me more receptive to magic. It’s also what makes the intros that I write to this post some of the more grandiose things I write, which is saying something. We often talk about melancholy, wonder, sadness, and hope when we talk about post-rock. I think that unique cocktail of emotions, at the end of the day, for me, comes together in a way which just makes my heart wider, more willing to listen to the beauty of the world (through the beauty of the music) and take it at face value, instead of collapsing into cynicism. Post-rock, after all, is nothing if it’s not a wide eyed style of music, exploring the many different ways in which the world can be approached, small and large.
Take this iteration of Post Rock Post, for example. It is May, the month of Spring. Many of the album covers chosen by us this month feature birds. I’m reading a book that’s all about birds currently (Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories). I am listening to sleepmakeswaves’ “i will write peace on your wings, and you will fly over the world” as I am writing this. There is a certain symmetry to the track, and to the column, and to the season. There is beauty here in the tension between what I feel, how I write it down, what the music tries to convey, what the band (and all of the bands which we’ve written about below) felt when they were writing the music, also trying to convey an emotion.
In short, there is beauty here and without post-rock it might have been harder for me both to see it (to be receptive to it when it comes) and to not shy away from these emotions that are sometimes seen as naive or childish in our society. Post-rock has helped me open up my heart to them and look around, celebrating myself, my hardships, the world, its ugliness and beauty, and the complex lives we live within it. Here is more music from this wonderful, moving, instructive, beautiful genre to help you do more of that. Happy Spring.
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
OK WAIT – WELL (post-metal, post-rock)
It’s funny how time goes by and musical tastes come and go, only to return again. There were years, mostly when I was starting to write for the blog, where post-metal was one of the main genres I listened to. It’s not that I don’t listen to post-metal at all today but it used to be a central part of my musical taste, informing my explorations around it and beyond it into other genres. Today, it’s like revisiting an old friend, a nice memory that doesn’t really carry that same kick but is, nonetheless, a fond memory that’s fun to revisit. That is, until a great post-metal album comes along and kicks the embers of my smoldering passion for the style into a great conflagration. Such is the case with OK WAIT’s WELL, which might not be as heavy as some of the post-metal releases of yore but which channels much of the same energies I love about the genre.
Those energies are the deep and somber melodies which inform WELL’s core sound. One needs only to turn to “Wait” for a taste of these melodies; the bass is sonorous and pronounced, conjoining with the drums to carry the lilting beat which keeps the track moving forward and cohesive. The guitars paint expressive notes “above” these elements, sticking in their tone and execution to a melancholic vibe, completing the introspective perspective which the music encourages us to adopt. Finally, heart-breakingly beautiful strings join the fray, creating the most emotive movement of the track, tying the package together. One is reminded of Rumour Cubes in the way that everything gels together and, for those of you who have been following my writings over the past few years, you’ll know that this high praise indeed.
One could, if one wanted, classify this track, and the album, “just” as post-rock. But there’s something about the emphasis on muscular groove and forceful delivery that underpin WELL that causes me to add that post-metal moniker. These elements can be heard even further down the album, as close as “Blow”, the track which follows “Wait”. There, a massive main riff takes over the track near and around the track’s middle passage, hopefully putting any doubts out of your mind. Whatever genre you’d like to classify OK WAIT under, it is without a doubt when we say that they are a fantastic band, creating the kind of music that’s certain to set all hearts and minds to rumination and introspection. And isn’t that, at the end of the day, what’s important? That the music we listen to touches us?
NYOS – Celebration (math rock, post-rock)
Something that gets brought up when dissecting newer bands within the greater post-rock sphere is ultimately their struggle for identity. Sure, bands can fit into a scene, be it the American crescendo-core landscape, or the recently rejuvenating first-wave renaissance of bands like BC,NR. But when we talk about “uniqueness” it’s usually just tying back to that overarching sub-sub-genre if you will, and not the band itself. Finnish two-piece NYOS is not impervious to this critique, and it’s impossible to fault any band for being derivative to an extent, but for a band that wears their influences pretty noticeably on their sleeve, the combined package is truly unlike much else you can find.
Going back to that previous point about scenes within a scene, NYOS would fit loosely among bands that I like to personally denote as “post-math.” A fairly self-explanatory description that often resides within the UK and finds itself drawing influence from the UK noise rock scene. A lot of the smaller-font bands on any given ArcTanGent lineup tend to fit this description. What separates Celebration from most of these bands however is their ability to explore the worlds of dissonance and psychedelia, with dense layering and at times a literal improvisational approach to song-writing as in “First Take”. There’s also a notable influence from the world of dance music in their approach. Some of the tracks here you could literally get away with playing at an EDM festival due to their pulsating beats, and gradual repetition of rhythms with multiple layers building on another similar to that classic dance music structure.
Behind Celebration‘s colorful exterior however is a slight sense of uneasy dread, brought on by those touches of discordant noise rock. It’s like listening to some fun upbeat artists like And So I Watch You From Afar or Three Trapped Tigers while gradually slipping from reality. Their guitars have that similar buzzing, almost organ-like tone as ASIWYFA, but the off-beat layered loops make it feel more like an A24 movie set in a carnival. The colors begin to blur and phase into another as you sink deeper into everything, letting the fluttery, jazzy percussion wash over you in waves. By the time the infectious and heavier rhythmic groove of album standout “Gold Vulcan” hits you, you’ll likely have fully succumbed to the power of Celebration. Again taking a really free flowing improvisational feel, the feathery, higher guitar tones dance around that central hypnotic riff like flies around a lantern, skirting in and out of harmony in a dizzying fashion.
NYOS have crafted a highly ambitious album here that deserves your attention, as it repeatedly subverts your expectations. This duo have clearly tapped into a special connection with their ability to captivate and take the listener on a journey from start to finish, and it’s no surprise they’ve been sharing the live stage recently with a range of acts from Zeal and Ardor to The Comet is Coming.
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
Dead Bird – In The Absence Of (post-rock, screamo)
Not to be confused with the American sludgy doom metal band Deadbird, Dead Bird are a new screamo influenced post-rock group from the UK which of course had to be included here to keep our strangely coincidental bird theme going. This release first caught my attention due to them having the original and current drummer of well known math rock group TTNG, Christopher Collis. If you’re expecting it to sound anything like TTNG however, you might be disappointed. While there’s still a little bit of twinkle in some of the lead melodies, the songs are more driven by heavier layers of cascading distortion and crescendoing tremolo riffs.
Vocally, Thomas Wagstaff serves as a perfectly adequate typical screamo vocalist, while spicing things up with these sort of harsh-shouted vocals a bit like Native or those on the recent similar post-screamo release from fellow Brits Chalk Hands. There’s even some lovely guest trumpet playing on “Serpents and Synonyms” that sits really naturally with the melancholy riffs and somber spoken-word, giving it sort of a 00s post-rock feel. Overall, throughout the 39-minute run-time In The Absence Of thrives off those shifting vocal dynamics and interesting enough riffs to keep things flowing and buoyant. What this style of post-rock does best is having the emotionally-stirring vocals augment the catharsis of build-and-release song-writing, and Dead Bird excel at that.
David’s Lightning Round (or, browsing through the past month of Bandcamp releases and picking out anything that sounds interesting)
Deadhead – Bad Dog
This U.K. duo does a good job establishing spacious, atmospheric post-rock moods, but they really excel when they get nasty; some of the heavier bits on this album remind me of back in the day when bands like Botch and The Bled would unleash those trademark slow and savage stinkface riffs. Bad Dog proves to be a well-balanced blend of soft and loud that a lot of modern post-rock bands could take some notes from.
Chatte Royal – Petit Pansment
The Belgian/French band should be of interest to anyone who digs post-rock, math-rock, or instrumental prog, and if you’re someone who counts all three amongst your favorites then you should find plenty to enjoy here. Not boundary-breaking by any means, but certainly capably and confidently executed.
elva isa – Varen, om lenge
Often sparse, twinkly, and moody, but then suddenly you find yourself in the middle of an upbeat section centered around a two-minute guitar solo. Sometimes there’s singing, other times there’s not, sometimes it’s moving intently forward, other times it’s happy standing still and extensively exploring a single space. It’s an album that’s refreshing in its insistence on marching to the beat of its own drum.
Darkfield – Reanimated Voices
More quality material from a solo post-rock artist? I guess the recording capabilities have finally caught up to the ideas. I’m going to have to relinquish my “one-man post-rock is usually boring” stance, as it seems gone are the days of the almost-but-not-quite-interesting post-rock elevator music of the Lights and Motion era. It doesn’t hurt that Darkfield – along with other modern solo artists like h e r e a f t e r., Thought Trials, felperc, and others don’t mind rocking the fuck out once in a while.
City of the Lost – Wasteland Guide II
Somewhat by-the-books prog-infused post-rock/post-metal, but if that’s something you’re into then this Russian band should at the very least be worth checking out.
Sunbleed – Amphitrite
More solo stuff, this time leaning into the proggy, djenty, occasionally synthy post-metal side of things. This realm of post-rock isn’t always entirely my thing, but this has enough riffs and solid pacing to keep me engaged. If you’re someone who is already predisposed to enjoy this style, then you should definitely dig into this.
Constante – Esquive les Ruines
Boy, do I love the intersection of screamo/post-hardcore and post-rock. This reminds me a bit of bands like Viva Belgrado and Young Mountain, but even more atmospheric. These styles are like peanut butter and jelly; I’m surprised more bands don’t go for it, but a part of me is glad it’s remained a niche market.
SVNG77 – SXVNGX77
Something this weird and teetering on the verge of silliness shouldn’t also be this effortlessly smooth. Again the work of a single artist, this blends math-rock, art-rock, post-rock, and noise-rock, then throws in some sweet brass solos just to sweeten the pot. The music manages to meander while never ending up in boring territory, which is certainly an accomplishment considering how much that statement comes off like a contradiction.
– David Zeidler
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
OR – Pariah (math-rock, instrumental, post-hardcore)
TVLPA – Walk With Me (blackened post-everything, noise rock)