The end of the year is fast approaching and, if you're anything like me, this means more time for contemplation and introspection. Perhaps it is the increasingly colder weather or the looming presence of the beginning of the year which summons this mood to mind. Whatever the reason might be, it's a mindset which lends itself very well to post-rock, the genre being the perfect accompaniment to long sojourns inside oneself. As if on cue, brought into life in the outside world by increasingly solipsitic "weather" inside of mine, post-rock this month has presented to me just the sort of soothing, somber, and sonorous post-rock that I described above, marking perhaps the most I've listened to the genre all year.
Which is, of course, not what happened. Instead, my own filters shifted a bit and were more accomodating for releases of the type. The reality is that such albums were being released throughout 2022; it's just that my ears were sort of closed to them. Is this a bad thing? Hardly, it's simply a fact of life: while I don't subscribe to garden variety nonsense like The Secret, their lie is only so effective because it rests on a bed of fundamnetal truth. In this case, the truth is that there really is an impact on reality that stems from our internal state of being and perceptions. It's just not "objective" reality, but rather the gestalt that our minds create out of the noise, the untold and uncountable number of variations, varieties, and originalities that lie out there.
So, this month, I am suggesting (in the full sense of the word) that you adopt a moodier, somewhat calmer, and more melancholic frame of mind as you read, and listen, through this month's Post Rock Post. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, then don't worry; there's plenty in here that's quite different. And if it's just not your cup of tea right now then also don't worry; we'll be here next month. And the month after that. And probably the month after that one but that's already "the future" so who knows? Enjoy.
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
In-Dreamview - Spires
In-Dreamview is one of those bands that have escorted Post Rock Post since pretty much its beginning, a band Nick and I have been following together ever since we first heard them. Their music has always been phenomenal, playing on the tensions between melancholy, hope, fragility, and impact that are staples of the post-rock genre. But Spires is a true leap forward for them, their most “balanced” album in the sense that it does an amazing job at juggling all of the themes I mentioned above to an astonishing degree. It achieves this in many ways but mainly in one of my favorite methods, by marrying album concept or “setting” with the musical ideas, creating an interplay between album art, track names, and the music.
Akin to the brilliant Promises from Floating Points, In-Dreamview have used Spires to construct a physical space, this time one cathedral or a small town’s square, delicately painting it with their compositions and tones. You can tell this is the cast when you read the track titles: “Spires”, “Belfry”, “Pinnacles”, “Steeple” and so on. When you then listen to the music, it paints it in a new light, nowhere more than on the brilliant “Belfry”, probably my post-rock track of the year. It uses a chorus of bells which plays in the background of the track as its bedrock, embellishing with more controlled brethren that play among the guitars, bass, and drums. This allows it to conjure the belfry it is named for, summoning the structure in front of our eyes with the music.
But, of course, being merely descriptive is not enough; it’s not just about “showing” you a place but rather about communicating the mood that place might hold. When you add in the album art, with its abstract representation of the album’s eponymous structure, the way the gentle compositions contrast with the various crescendos and grooves on the album, and the bright palette of tones that In-Dreamview have selected for the album, many different moods are conjured. A peaceful day in a town you know, an adventurous morning spent somewhere new, a brisk winter’s day when the chill seeps into your bones in that nice, brisk way, meeting friends in old places you’ve now returned, and more. There’s a host of ideas, sensations, and events happening inside of Spires, all expertly brought to life by the band with the fusion of sound, visual art, and names.
Nionde Plågan - Transformation
Back with another band effortlessly, and masterfully fusing heavy post-rock with screamo and post-hardcore. Nionde Plågan are not a new name to this game, with their new full-length Transformation being their 5th LP since their debut 10 years ago, but it's definitely their strongest. They're one of a number of Swedish bands who have broken out internationally within this genre, such as Suffocate For Fuck Sake, Vi Som Älskade Varandra Så Mycket, and Suis La Lune. Maybe it's something to do with the cold. Whatever the case, Nionde have tapped into a well overflowing with expressive emotion. While this formula has always been a part of their music, they lean into the post- elements further on this release and really excel at it (perhaps signified by the very Lift Your Skinny Fists-esque album cover). It comes off as a more mature and fully-fledged realization of the ideas on their previous releases, in a way that sometimes it takes a decade of writing to get to.
Everything about Transformation is brimming with emotion, from the viscerally cathartic delivery of the vocalists screams, to their heart-stirring dips and crescendos. They accomplish this in a way that is very grabbing, yet takes its time to fully submerge you into the depths of its musical pull. And does it ever pull you in. Tracks like the 12-minute single "Resenär" deliberately repeat these gentle chords that are heart-breaking as they are soothing. This track, one of the album's singles, is thematic of the whole album both conceptually and musically and should be a good litmus test to whether you'll enjoy the album in its entirety. Though not to discount the variation that is present on this album, like the more punchier, in your face approach of "Äta sova dö" that is very reminiscent of some of Envy's work.
Something post-rock has always excelled at is building tension that has a sense of gravity to it, and that really gets augmented here by the vocalist. There's this earnest urgency in his vocals, like they're pleading with you that things are going to be okay. An impressive feat that screamo is able to really pull off well without even needing to understand the lyrics. They work with the repeated dichotomy of the feeling of this album, one of comfort and heartbreak, or painful acceptance.
Transformation is out now, through Moment of Collapse Records.
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
Carved Into the Sun - The Earth Fell Away
When bands make what is now called “cinematic post-rock”, they usually tend to focus on the crescendos. The quieter passages of the music are, at worst, merely excuses for the explosion of emotions that the track’s catharsis offers and, at best, muted segments that are given time and attention but which never see their own theme and emotional weight resolved. This is, partly, why I’ve, mostly, fallen out of love with the genre; I like my music to be “whole”, with every part of it as carefully constructed as any other. Which is why I really enjoyed Carved into the Sun’s The Earth Fell Away, an album which spends as much love and care on its quieter, more morose segments, as it does on its oceanic explosions.
Check out opener “Hexis” as an example. Its middle passage is possessed by an admittedly competent crescendo, just the kind of post-metal tinged peak that fans of the genre enjoy. Again, it’s very well made and I like it but what I like even is more is how good the passage which immediately follows it is. The guitars there are far from generic, utilizing the tones and tropes of the cinematic post-rock genre but doing something interesting with it. Especially sweet are the interplays between the percussion (mainly the cymbals) and the deep, longing-filled bass that runs at the bottom of the track. The passage is there not just to bring you to the outro or to move the track forward; it has its own heft, message, and delivery. It is composed and fully fleshed out by the band. It, in short, is also very well made, as well made as the big climax that came before it.
The entire album is filled with sections like this, where skill has been invested in the more melodic and somber parts of the album to equal degrees as the “mightier” soundscapes it utilizes. It makes for a much more fulfilling release, hitting you on more than one or two emotional levels. The Earth Fell Away is a fuller album because of this, inviting more listen-throughs after the shine of its big moments fade away, asking you to spend more time with it, to get to know its nooks and crannies. And it’s a pleasure to do so.
HUNS - Der Summer
These cats from Buffalo, New York keep it nice and simple in the best way, attacking the instrumental approach like a proper power trio. This four-track EP is packed full of fuzzy Sabbath worship, galloping breakouts featuring a pummeling rhythm section complimented by wailing psych guitar solos, and a bit of post-rock melodicism just to balance everything out. The songs are all fleshed out enough to be considered post-rock, but tight and concise enough to avoid being boring post-rock.
Jahmolxes - Jahmolxes
I’ve got to give this Romanian band credit for really buying into their own premise. Their name is Jahmolxes, the album is called Jahmolxes, two of the four tracks are called “Jahmolxes,” and “Trials of Jahmolxes,” and the band’s self-description is “an instrumental group that chronicles the adventures of Jahmolxes.” At the very least, they don’t leave any doubt as to what they’re about. But who is Jahmolxes, you might ask? Fuck if I know, but since this is all instrumental, I question whether you really need to understand that. What’s important to know is that if you enjoy stoner rock and psych, this is definitely something worth exploring. And who knows, maybe during your journey you’ll become witness to the enlightenment of Jahmolxes, and count yourself as one of (his/her/their/its) devoted flock. Praise Jahmolxes.
lostlemming - 61 Cygni
This duo from Oak Park, Illinois clearly have a great deal of awareness regarding what their aiming at compositionally on a track-to-track basis (see: “Post Doom,” which sounds exactly how you’d expect, in a good way), and as much as I’ve bemoaned the incredibly derivative nature of modern post-rock, I also hold that when the formula is executed really well I’m still thoroughly on board. If you can also deliver that with some strong production behind you, even better, and lostlemming certainly have that. This is solid, salt of the earth post-rock that pays tribute while still offering something well worth listening to on its own terms.
Lucida Dark - Ordiri
This may only be two tracks, but it’s 16 minutes long, which makes it longer than Orchid’s 10-song debut album, which I was listening to earlier today, so I’ll use that as justification to cover it. Also, Dan from Black Flak gave them his seal approval during his band’s tour toward this year’s Post. Festival, so even better. AND it features a remix of one of their tracks by Holy Fawn’s Ryan Osterman, which only boosts its relevance to us here at PRP. PLUSSS, I don’t know if anyone is keeping score, but this is now four straight releases I’ve covered this month that come from full bands as opposed to solo artists, so that’s just a little extra cherry on top, as far as I’m concerned at least. This is a really well-produced, well-executed, well-thought out take on post-metal/post-rock fusion. I wouldn’t call it straight up post-metal, because it’s a bit less punishing and a bit more melodic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit hard. Keep an eye on these guys, they have the feel of a band that’s right on the cusp of being a strong player in the modern post-rock scene.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
my education - EMKA (post-rock, cinematic, experimental)
Rumble Young Man Rumble - Origins (post-rock, instrumental)
Ships Fly Up - Rivers Without Time (post-rock, prog, solo)
Celestial Ocean - A Long Way (post-rock, cinematic, solo)
peixes que brilham no escuro - a cicade de deus (post-rock, cinematic, expansive)
Love For Strangers - LFS (post-prog, post-jazz, post-rock)
Sunbleed - The Hunter and The Harvest (post-rock, post-metal, solo)
NUIT D'ENCRE - De Lautre Cote (post-metal, sludge)
Vantre - Treehopper (Vol. II) (post-metal, stoner, instrumental)
We Stood Like Kings - Away (post-rock, neoclassical)
Il Giardino degli Specchi - Monstrum (post-rock, instrumental)
lovecraft in tokyo - non avevamo capito niente (shoegaze, post-rock, dream pop)
Arklay Mountains - Why Are The Skeletons Dancing? (post-rock, post-metal)