Did we wait with Post Rock Post to the very end of the month for the weather to fully go Fall and thus fit the ambient mood of many of the below releases? Or is it just because we are overworked and tired? This mystery shall never be solved (it is the latter) but it's definitly true that Fall is the most post-rock of the seasons. Therer's something contemplative yet hopeful about this season, when skies begin to darken but the sun still shines on most days, where the cold is already hinted at but not yet restraining us to our homes. There's a sense of the possible, freed from the laborious heat of the summer and not yet in the throes of freezing winter.
And so, we offer you some selections of our favorite music to dream to from the past month, harkening back to music released during the last breaths of summer but with their gaze already towards the cooling of things.
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
Grails - Anches En Maat
There simply isn’t anyone quite like Grails. The somewhat reclusive and mysterious Portland enclave began 20 years ago now as a more straight-forward heavily post-influenced instrumental psych outfit and largely continued that way for most of the following decade, adding in a wrinkle here and there. The band’s 2011 album Deep Politics, however, would prove to be a major turning point. There had always been a cinematic, soundtrack-adoring streak to the group’s music, but Deep Politics found Grails fully embracing their love of classic soundtracks, particularly spaghetti westerns, and went all-in on building out compositions that would fit snugly behind wide vistas and intimate conversations alike. 2017’s incredible Chalice Hymnal only went deeper in this direction, which at the time I described as “find[ing] its strength less in any overarching themes and styles and more as a collection of self-contained and richly-developed worlds.”
After another long six years of waiting, Grails has blessed us with yet another opus of post-cinematic brilliance in Anches En Maat, and though it succeeds in pretty much all the ways that Chalice Hymnal did, it hardly feels like a retread. Rather, it’s more of a continuation of a thought in progress. The wide, spy thriller scope is still as present as ever in standout tracks “Sad & Illegal” and “Sisters of Bilitis”, combining dirty neo-noir synth with soaring guitar hooks and transcendent strings. The former track resolves in a deeply satisfying jazzy groove that would fit handily inside of a Badbadnotgood record were it not only the climax of a deeply Grails-ian composition. “Sisters of Bilitis,” on the other hand, is stunning in a completely different regard, as it is a direct re-interpretation of a track of similar name (“Daughters of Bilitis”) from Deep Politics.
While the original was a quiet, simmering mood-setter led by a keys motif that I can only describe as the sound of an exterior shot of a private detective’s office on a rainy/foggy night, the new version is the bad acid trip version, now led by shrieking guitar and haunting strings. Despite compositionally being near mirror images of each other, the arrangements and vibes could not be more different. It is a truly impressive tour de force and daring move for a band to be able to so strongly iterate on their own material in completely fresh ways.
Also like their previous efforts, the moments of relative calm and serenity are just as rewarding as the bombast. “Viktor’s Night Map” and “Pool of Gems” are pulsating puzzle boxes, luring you into its swirling textures and themes until they simply dissolve into the night. “Evening Song” is a jangly rocker that teases something greater before pulling back. And the title track is a voyage through psychedelic space and time in a way that is both cosmically broad and tenderly intimate that Grails has perfected. Anches En Maat is a far more cohesive and thematically-consistent record than Chalice Hymnal’s wild eclecticism, and while it perhaps isn’t as surprising and sonically thrilling as the latter as a result, the gorgeous care put into these seven compositions makes it as rewarding a listen as you’ll get from a Grails record. Simply put, they’ve done it again.
Night Verses - Every Sound Has a Color in the Valley of Night: Part I
I would probably use the word “angular” if you absolutely forced me to describe Night Verses From the Gallery of Sleep, the album which put the instrumental group on everyone’s radar. I’d rather you didn’t though, since we’re talking about one of the more complex, subtle, and varied bands out there. Every Sound Has a Color in the Valley of Night: Part I (from here on out referred to as Every Sound) continues this tradition of complexity while moving away from the “angular” sound (by which I mean a more note-heavy style of composition and “cleaner” approach to production) and towards something best described as “cavernous”.
The Night Verses you know and love (and I truly hope you both know and love them, otherwise you are missing out) is still here; the tracks on this release move with the same bewildering speed and post/prog metal aggression. But the sound belies the appearance of the night in the title, deep, somber, and seemingly bottomless, holding much more texture and metallic edge to it. This begins from the get-go, with the wonderfully named “8 Gates of Pleasure”. From the opening notes, you can tell that Night Verses are leaning much more heavily into the post-metal elements of their sound, creating a massive, present, and fully fleshed out, chug-heavy sound. Of course other parts on the album augment this sound with its own counterpoints and shades, like the scintillating “Arrival” which immediately follows the opening track and its tinkling, fragile guitar leads, but the dark core remains.
Perhaps the outro of that same track is the best example; this is Meshuggah levels of heaviness, chug, and resonant bass. This kind of ultra-hefty aggression is repeated several times on the release, taking Night Verses deeper than ever before into the heavier sides of their sound. And the result is marvelous, off-setting the more delicate moments and allowing them to stand even brighter than before while delivering all the neck-moving, mosh-inducing moments you could desire. This combo makes Night Verses one of the few non-post-rock, instrumental bands I still listen to; their duality creates an alluring, irresistible pull.
World's End Girlfriend - Resistance & The Blessing
We often refer to post-rock’s ability to take the listener someplace else. The stretched out song-writing, use of a wide-array of instruments, adventurous riffs, and generally cinematic and lyric-less form make it one of the best genres at truly letting the listener’s imagination run wild. And wow, is that ever the case with World’s End Girlfriend’s new album Resistance & The Blessing. This album is nothing short of an epic journey through time, space, and color, filtered through a lens of Japanese culture and history. Epic isn’t really hyperbole here either, given the album’s impressive yet daunting 2.5 hour run-time. Yet it just works. There’s so much to take in, so many interesting takes at genres, so many refreshing fusions of sounds. It’s an experience. Truly an outstanding and impressively ambitious release for a project 23-years into its existence.
World’s End Girlfriend is the long-running solo project of Japanese virtuoso artist Katsuhiko Maeda. Since 2000, they’ve released over 20 albums and EPs, including film scores, motion picture soundtracks, and collaborations with the likes of Vampilla and MONO. WEG’s sound is known for its blend of dramatic post-rock and orchestral modern classical, while frequently incorporating electronic elements of IDM, glitch and breakcore for an unusual, and frankly surreal listening experience. This is certainly the case with Resistance & The Blessing, as the electronic experimentation and general avant-gardeness is taken up a notch with deconstructed club music and sound collages, while still retaining an overall post-rock framework. There’s such strong balance between these chaotically eclectic and dense sounds with lush and delicate movements, a testament to WEG’s compositional brilliance. Album single “MEGURI” is maybe the best example of this, a bittersweet dance of melancholy and soaring, shoegazing triumph, written as a powerful tribute to Katsuhiko’s child who passed away.
Ultimately it’s hard to ignore just how much this album is. Beyond the length, the abrasive glitching, erratic genre shifts and walls of textural noise are striking and powerful. It can be difficult to digest in one sitting, but the whole thing is worth exploring and consistently creative.
It's like a Godspeed album with the quirkiness of Björk, the esoteric experimentation of Venetian Snares or death’s dynamic shroud and a dash of cybergrind for good measure. It’s that experimentation that makes this feel like more than just an album. The frequent Japanese spoken word samples, glitches into sound collages, and Japanese folk melodies give the feel of floating through a dream. Going into it with this perception might actually be the best way to experience Resistence & The Blessing. Allow yourself to be absorbed into the dreamscape, whether you envision it being someone else or yourself, it doesn’t really matter, but there’s a story to be interpreted here full of turmoil, twists and euphoric bliss. All of this is the landmark of a special album, by a special artist who continues to create some of the most compelling and original music in the greater post-rock scene.
- Trent Bos
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Din of Celestial Birds - The Night Is for Dreamers
Back when I premiered a track from this album, I had a feeling it would stay close to my heart and, as Fall draws closer and the days have been getting colder, that is indeed what ended up happening. As its title implies, The Night Is for Dreamers has the perfect blend of atmosphere, dreamy compositions, and satisfying catharsis to draw those of us who need a soundtrack to a clear, cold, blue sky and a rhythm to set our feet to. Din of Celestial Birds provide these vibes in droves, with the end result being an album you can choose how to process: focus on the more airy aspects of it, and you get an introspective and delicate release. Focus on the big crescendos and riffs and you get a hopeful, grandiose, larger than life album. Just the way I like it. In short, if you’re looking for a dose of that good, well made, patient, classic post-rock, look no further; this one has you covered.
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