Post-rock has had a sort of weird year in 2022. Usually, as in every genre just because of the sheer volume of music that releases as part of such a broad category, every month has at least a few good releases; there's an evenness to a year. And while there were certainly good post-rock albums released every month (we didn't skip a single iteration of PRP this year and we would do that if there was nothing to write about) some months were definitely leaner than over. In the middle of the year, I found myself "forgetting" about post-rock. While this definitely could just be a me thing, it felt like it was something more than that when I looked around.
But then you have months like November, and a few others across 2022, where post-rock suddenly let forth with a massive deluge of excellent albums. We've had some of these albums in our rotation for a while now and, speaking for myself, were counting the days until December finally hit so we could write about them. Seriously, some of my favorite albums of the year, in post-rock and otherwise, were released in November but the genre itself just kept hitting over and over again. Just look at how long David's part of this column is! Not to mention the Further Listening section! And I've gone through the list of all of the albums he's covered here (and some which he left out) and they are all truly excellent. It's going to take me six more months just go fully digest all of the post-rock that was released last month.
And it's good timing as well, considering November is the month of the Cornucopia, of bounty, of harvest before the Winter. All metaphors which post-rock loves and which enhance even further the narrative of the unbelievable November whch the genre has had. So, without further ado, I invite you, for the last time this year, to dive into the wealth of fantastic music which PRP has collected for you this time. See you on the other side!
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
Glaston - I Am Whole
It’s safe to say that I’ve heard my fair share of post-rock over the last few years. Even in times when my love for the genre seems to wane, which never last more than a few months anyway, I still make sure to check in with the style when I can. Other times, my heart wants nothing but the scene’s sweeping melodies and I find myself unable to listen to anything else. Put together, it’s safe to say that post-rock has been my constant companion for the last eight years, when I started writing for the blog and engaging with post-rock more seriously. This is great but it also has the downside which prolonged exposure to any form of art has, desensitization. It takes a lot to get my hand to my heart, to make my stomach flutter with the feeling of excitement that truly great post-rock can elicit.
In 2022 there were maybe four or five albums which really got me to that point and one of them was Glaston’s I Am Whole. On the surface of it, there is nothing which immediately jumps at you as unique about this release. That is to say, the individual components are all staples of post-rock: the piano is loud and rich, the guitars are laden with delay effects and perform pirouettes of ever increasing grandeur, strings are used heavily to enhance melancholic impact, and the rest of the instruments follow suit, supporting and propping up the core composition. So what’s different? What is it about I Am Whole that stole my breath away ever since I’ve first heard it?
The answer is disappointing and it is that I don’t know. Well, I do know but it’s not something you can easily quantify or put into words. It’s not something you can easily explain. Simply put, Glaston’s music drips with passion and dedication, every note, passage, and motif brimming with the band’s love for their music and their absolute dedication to their voices as expressed by it. You can see it if you watch them play their music, which you can do via their music videos, or, even more immediately, if you just play I Am Whole, close your eyes, and focus on the music as it sweeps over you. Yes, the part are familiar but something about the configuration simply snatches your heart away.
Or maybe it doesn’t for you; music is, after all, subjective, as every edgy commentary on musical reviews will tell you. However, it is my privilege and my duty to, using the blog, try to instill some of my subjective experience in you through the insufficient medium of writing. And so, I write here in the hopes that you will open up your heart to I Am Whole and truly listen to what Glaston are trying to convey here, something just beyond words. I hope that message reaches you and moves you as it has me.
Ravena - Æther
Back in 2017, I fell into the dark embrace of an album titled Laocoön by Ravena, and there was plenty to fall into. The album fit perfectly into a wave of dark, somber post-metal that was then take the scene (and my ears) by storm; it infused its post-metal with plenty of post-rock and even ambience and drone, creating a massive hulk of an album, floating through space into some sort of mythological/psychological demise. I was very excited then to learn of Æther, the band’s follow up and, once reminded of it by one Scott Randle (who stands behind this project and the excellent Subetroth) I girdled myself with a deep dive suit and went exploring. And boy did I find some pearls in there.
Æther starts off with the heavier, more “present” part of Ravena’s music, channeling those deep, groovy, post-metal influences into the forefront of its sound. The drums hit hard, the riffs ring out with heft, but the atmosphere is definitely of that darker, more haunting flavor that Ravena love so much. This is true for the first three tracks (“Agni” being my personal favorite, with its absolutely massive middle passage) but as we progress towards the last two tracks of the album, the time for the ambient and drone influences starts to arrive. “Ymir” is like a soft blanket of rain before the deep, broiling storm; it is spun up around a main, acoustic guitar line, surrounded by a fog of instrumentation that ends up making it some of the more soothing music that Ravena have made.
But this is all an atrium for the closing track, the self titled “Æther” which spans a whopping fifty nine minutes. Yes, you read that right: 59. “Æther” is a sprawling, convoluted, and bewildering exploration of sometimes dark, sometimes gentle (“Ymir”’s guitar returns at times) but always spread-out, unfurling, and deeply entrancing music. It’s an entire album contained within one track and is honestly one of the more bewildering experiments I’ve heard recently and I mean that in the best way possible. So, whether you’re interested in Ravena’s chunkier explorations of post-metal or here to lose yourself, once again, among the stars, Æther has your ticket. Ready to ride?
Jambinai - Apparition
South Korea's Jambinai continue to craft some of the more unique post-rock you can find today, thanks to their fusion of Korean folk instruments into their cinematic and dynamic post- style. Apparition, their new 4-track EP spanning nearly 30-minutes is the first we've heard from them since their strong third full-length back in 2019, Onda. This time around Jambinai reaches into some of the heaviest territory they've explored to date, lending Apparition to appropriately tack on a number of "post-metal" tags. This foray into a heavier side in undoubtedly a success, as it has allowed for some even more interesting contrasting sounds and dynamics with heavy guitar tones and metal drumming pairing off with the piri (bamboo oboe), the yanggeum (hammered dulcimer), geomungo (zither) and saenghwang (reed mouth organ). More geomungos in rock/metal please, the mysterious twang of its strings lends itself so well to the genre.
Right from hitting play you're treated with the fact that this is not a typical post-rock album. A very "tribal" opening of swirling folk instruments and drums greets you like a disorienting hallucinogen at a campfire. As it settles down, some surprising vocals ease you into their otherworldly spell. This isn't their only experimentation with vocals however, as on the second track they combine something else probably never heard before in the genre: k-pop. Vocalist swja (also known as sunwoojunga, known for their work with 2NE1, Black Pink, and BTS) takes one of the heaviest tracks and gives it this A.A. Williams-esque ethereal glow with a powerfully haunting performance.
"Until My Wings Turn to Ashes" is probably the most quintessential "post-rock" track on this release, with gradual tension building accented by the dance of the geomungo and piri intertwining together for another very Korean folk-inspired intro. The guitars add this darker conflict to the mood, bringing a cinematic sense of unease that steadily rises until the distortion kicks in. All these layers clicking together in climax is incredibly captivating, and an excellent display of taking one of the genre's biggest cliches and making something truly special out of it.
But it's the fourth and final track where the real magic of this release truly lies. Another genre-bending triumph of experimentation sees Jambinai try their hand at something akin to bluegrass or americana channeled through a post-rock song structure. A combo I haven't heard pulled off so well since early Panopticon. When the tremolo guitar riff finally kicks in after the 6-minute mark, it's impossible not to be fully absorbed. If you're a fan of modern post-rock but are looking for something with a unique or original spin to it, it's hard to top what Jambinai is doing right now.
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
Onségen Ensemble - Realms
It’s pretty wild and wonderful that, in a year already brimming over with fantastic releases from the psychedelic musical space (Humanotone, Path of Might, Elder, to name only a few) one of the best and most powerful releases in the genre arrives from a post-rock band. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete surprise; after all, Onségen Ensemble (from here on out referred to as Onségen) already released the incredible Fear, back in 2020. However, while that album was already quite psychedelic, Realms is a whole different type of beast. While Fear had a lot of “whitespace”, ambient passages that did much to highlight the more atmospheric, and therefore post-rock adjacent, influences of the group, Realms is a lot more focused on groove, impact, and a distinct, psychedelic rock vibe.
In tandem, much to my delight, some of that more expansive, atmospheric, and post-rock underpinnings of Onségen have been maintained, creating an album that is still grandiose. This turns Realms into a wild ride, replete with chorus, wood-winds, pronounced bass, and massively interesting and moving compositions. I am only writing briefly about it here because it really is so unique and not much that I can say while capture what it feels like to listen to it; there is nothing more for me to do than simply put you in the way of the album, tell you to prepare and open yourself up for a marvelous and mind-expanding ride, and implore you to give your undivided attention to the album the first few times around. It truly is an immersive experience and you need to experience yourself. Enjoy.
City of the Lost - Wasteland Guide III
This Russian trio is the brainchild of guitarist/keyboardist Grigory Kolokutin, and for the majority of its running time it occupies the instrumental prog-metal space nicely, at least the way I like to hear it - sufficiently impressive, but focusing on grit and power more than excess and general wankery. I can’t claim to be anything even resembling a prog expert compared to some of my colleagues here at Heavy Blog, so I’m not going to focus on that aspect of the music. Rather, I figured that since I seem to spend at least a few sentences every month throwing side-eye at bands who phone in woefully predictable replications of crescendocore they heard back in ‘09, I should also highlight when a band successfully takes on this style of composition.
The final track on this EP, “Let The Flowers Bloom,” is not only a great choice for an album closer after four heavier songs, but it also demonstrates a savvy understanding of what makes the build-and-release method so moving when done well. Namely, the pacing is on point, allowing enough space for the build-up to have impact, but moving away from it before it wears out its welcome, and giving listeners a memorable climax that occurs in the natural flow of the song. Unlike so many similar songs out there, this doesn’t feel disconnected at all, like someone in the band wrote an awesome loud part and then attached it haphazardly to a softer passage with the sole purpose of providing a bridge to the crescendo. We also get to spend some time with the climactic section, rather than getting thirty seconds of it before being tossed out into a needless two-minute-long ambient outro. It’s clear that everything you’re hearing was written with the whole of the song in mind, which should seem like a given, but I really think we shouldn’t take that for granted when it's pulled off with skill.
Forest Horse - Keep Awake
This is the kind of tasty, slow-fired post-rock/doom fusion that makes my ears perk right up. It appears to be a solo project, but there is not a whiff of electronic drums or over-processed compensation for the lack of a full band. Keep Awake is gritty, gutsy, and down-tuned until it feels filthy and straight from the earth, and I find it largely enthralling even as it drones and groans through its 38 minute running time. The drums set a deliberate pace, but they’re full of purpose and passion when the performance reaches its peaks. The bass is guttural, and the guitars both aggressive and atmospheric. Very occasionally there are some vocal passages that feel a bit too much like generic stoner doom stuff, and I really question whether they’re necessary at all, but this is a small quibble, as the majority of the vocals are treated like textural elements as opposed to a central focus. I think what really brings this album home for me is its ability to step outside of the fuzzed-out stoner sound and explore some more melodic ideas without it being too jarring a departure from the overall tone. This artist has no social media that I can find, so I can’t offer much more information, but I can heartily recommend Keep Awake to our readers who have found themselves intrigued by bands we’ve covered here like REZN, Lume, and deathcrash.
From Oceans To Autumn - Surface
This one reaches back to October, but since this is our column, it’s our rules, and I’ve determined that this is well worth a look and listen, better late than not at all. This Charlotte, NC band has actually been quietly putting together a very impressive resume over the past fifteen years, though I don’t know many folks who are aware of it. They seem to be content flying under the radar and releasing music on their own with little promo. Every one of their albums I’ve stumbled across on Bandcamp, never via social media or music publications. Even still, their 2017 album Ether/Return To Earth is, to my ears, one of the true unheralded masterpieces of post-rock over the past decade. On that album their music acts more like an independently-developing storm, swirling and howling its way to a gargantuan 106-minute running time, which I don’t think I’d cut even a minute out of if I had the option. It’s a commitment for sure, but the rewards are fantastic.
One of the most interesting and inventive things about the band is their approach to writing and recording, which involves going into the studio with basic templates for each song and recording them live in an improvisational manner, allowing them to capture a sound that is literally evolving as you listen. They even seem confident allowing songs to fall into disarray at times, eventually smoothly gathering back the pieces and reassembling them in new and interesting ways. While Ether/Return To Earth begins in potentially intimidating fashion with three of the first four songs ranging between thirteen and twenty minutes, Surface sees the band tightening up their track lengths (by comparison, at least), even as they continue down a similarly spacious, druggy, hypnotic path. The songs here are somewhat more conventional, placing much of the focus on whispery guitar melodies as opposed to impenetrable droning. But approaching listeners with more identifiable song structures doesn’t take anything away from the band’s sense of adventurousness. This is a group that isn’t going to bring their music to you, you’re going to have to track it down, but I highly recommend doing just that.
Girih - Ikigai
Call this month of fixing oversights. I was so busy last month scouring Bandcamp for obscure releases that would have flown under most people’s radar that I completely neglected to recognize the contributions of one of the best American post-metal bands not named Russian Circles. This New Hampshire trio’s 2018 debut was released on vinyl through A Thousand Arms Music in the States, and dunk!records in Europe, so clearly they made an immediate impression on those in the know. They’re back with both labels for Ikigai, and while I’m on the topic of physical releases, I’ve got to mention the fabulous Deluxe Edition that these guys assembled for this release. You can check out the specs here, but I’ll just say that Girih has taken a page out of the RANGES playbook with this one, offering a gorgeous, lavish, incredibly thoughtful presentation that leaves no stone unturned.
As far as the music is concerned, you can almost always tell when a band has a technician in its ranks, because all the little upgrades in quality that result from that reflect clearly in the final product, especially in how it stacks up against other records. Alex Paul is an artist when it comes to building and modifying guitars and gear, which he does professionally through his Robot Graves Industries company. That wizardry carries over into Girih’s compositions, recordings, and live performances. He’s got a special way with looping, which allows a three-piece band to sound like they have at least five members (the attention to details shows up when you see it on stage with their pro lighting setup and presentation). His guitar-nerd dedication to crafting the best sound possible wouldn’t come off as successfully, however, without the support of a killer rhythm section, and Girih certainly has that in bassist Brian Luttrell and drummer Jeremy Dingman, who bring more than enough muscle to propel these songs into the visceral territory they’re aiming for. If you’ve got some time, go listen to some old Russian Circles albums, then scan through any number of the post-metal bands that have taken inspiration from them over the past decade and a half. Then listen to Ikigai, and you’ll see just how rarely this style is pulled off impactfully. They’re only two records into their existence, but they’ve been light years ahead of most of their peers since Day 1.
Poly-Math - Zenith
I just pointed out how From Oceans To Autumn have streamlined their fairly unconventional approach to composition in favor of focusing on tighter, more direct songs, and that’s also what we find on the newest LP from this heady Brighton math-prog act. They’ve grown into a five-piece, bringing on a saxophonist to further fill out their sound. Their new direction isn’t an assumption on my behalf, either; they say so themselves on their Bandcamp page, that they were seeking to “move away from… previous experimentation with expansive soundscapes and field recordings, and instead feature concentrated, succinct songs, all around 4 minutes long, focused on the signature Poly-Math playing style and riffery.” I, for one, welcome the new look. As much as I’ve enjoyed their music in the past, it’s undeniably challenging at times, and sometimes after they’d bust out a massive breakdown or mind-melting bit of complex instrumental interplay, I’d find myself wishing they’d do that more often and scale back on the avant-garde noodling. Zenith addresses that issue directly and decisively.
Whereas some of their earlier material had me waiting somewhat impatiently for specific parts to show up (I’m looking at you, middle third of “Ekerot”), the tracks on this LP maintain engagement throughout. And they do so without sacrificing denseness or complexity. A lot of it reminds me of what it would have sounded like if Mars Volta’s Amputechture turned the bass way up and managed to avoid its own pretentious impulses. The sax sound is quite similar on both records, and its inclusion here proves crucial in creating the dynamics necessary to keep the music enjoyably tethered to this world, even as the rhythmic progressions are bending your brain in ways you may not have a firm hold on. As legendary as these guys have become with the ArcTanGent crowd over the past decade, I think this may be the first time that the lofty ideas they’re grasping for have come together in a manner I find entirely satisfying.
Vægtløs - Kakafoni
This is only a 2-song single from this Danish quartet, but it’s got a physical release as a 7” vinyl released by Voice Of The Unheard, and it’s well-worth noting even at its brief length. Between Trent and I (Trent even more so than me), we’ve been carrying a torch here at PRP for this kind of post-black/blackened screamo/post-rock hybrid concept, and it’s executed very well here. I think the abbreviated track listing actually works in the music’s favor, because with each song clocking in at around 8 minutes, combined they aren’t much shorter than your average screamo full-length. If there’s one issue I have with post-metal/screamo fusion, it’s that the post-metal song length is often retained, and screamo is by nature an intense subgenre that performs best in short, violent bursts. So, once you start running into albums with 40 or 50 minute running times there’s a much greater chance that too much immersion into that type of fierce performance will actually dull the overall impact after a while. No worries here, as Kakafoni rushes in, makes its statement, makes it definitively, and leaves the listener on the edge of their seat.
Just as a final note for this month’s column: while there are some months where I find myself dutifully trudging through Bandcamp new releases, struggling to find a few inspired things amongst a heap of forgettable offerings, November was not one of those times. I actually had to create a cut-off for myself, because I only had so much time and I kept finding more and more releases deserving of coverage. So I would highly recommend looking down at the “Endless Shimmering” category and seeking out some of these albums, particularly Cold Ceiling, Deer Park Ranger, Yndian Mynah, Torpid May, A Farewell To Words, Dead Duck, When The Light Dies, and Sol Maraneris, all of which were left out only because I arrived at them later than what’s been covered above. Eleven out of twelve months I would have written about every one of them, and while they appear here in a secondary capacity, none of them deserve such a fate - they’re all fantastic releases and very much deserve your ear.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Torpid May - Cacophony Between Substances and Essence
ef - We Salute You, You, and You!
Ephilexia - Skeleton War
wornoc - motionless
UNK - Music For Unmade Films
There. - Dystopian Landscapes
Suburban Now - Music For Car-Centric Cities (live)
Dead Duck - Love Is Winding
Cold Ceiling - Exsanguinate & Speak In A Dim Cave
When The Light Dies - Into the Unknown
BURDENED - BURDENED
Sol Maraneris - Magellanic / The Guilding Star
Deer Park Ranger - Tamalpais
Rhina - Alluvial Plains
A Farewell To Words - AFTW
Yndian Mynah - The Boys Scribbled Like Mad
Evidence of a Struggle - Evidence of a Struggle