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Post Rock Post // March 2024

Here it is - another iteration of Heavy Blog's longest running column. This is also one of the strongest ones I can remember, on quality rather than quantity.

24 days ago

This was a tough one to get out. No particular reason, just the endless crunch and pressure of everyday life coupled with all of the rest of the things we do on the blog. But, here it is - another iteration of Heavy Blog's longest running column. This is also one of the strongest ones I can remember, on quality rather than quantity. Simply put, the albums on this list are fucking excellent and I can't wait to see what more post-rock and its adjacent genres do this year. I want to let the music speak on its own so let's just cut to the album. Oh, before we do: big thank you to Trent Bos for keeping this column alive with me. You the real MVP.

-Eden Kupermintz

From Flowers to Flies - We Built This Machine

Considering the fact that Godspeed You! Black Emperor, one of the founding voices of post-rock, is almost entirely based around describing the pains and horrors of modern, urban existence, I find it interesting that so much of post-rock turns away from it. You’re more likely to find descriptions of soaring mountains than smog-drenched skyscrapers when you put on a modern post-rock album. Which is why I found We Built This Machine by From Flowers to Flies so interesting. What first drew me to the album was how it described the anxiety, dejection, derision, and compromise that make up my own life; the rituals, rhythms, thoughts, and backgrounds of every day, modern existence. 

I stuck around for the group’s ability to spin brass, synths, and excellent vocals into an album comprised of post-rock, post-punk, and even the sort of spunk that I’d normally associate with brit-rock (even though the group are from California). This genre hopping, always centered around writing tight, expressive music, means that We Built This Machine runs the full gamut of melancholy. “The Game”, for example, is morose and dour, channeling a sort of Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream kind of disconnect, while “Powerlines”, with its unbridled bass line and flamboyant vocals and brass instruments, is more Manic Street Preachers in its vociferous cry against the cages of our electrical system. And there’s more in there, with delay-laden riffs, Hammond synth intros, and a fair share of groove, turning the album into a veritable smorgasbord drawn from the “post” genres as they are today.

Add to this the fact that I’ve really never felt as seen as I have by this album in a while and you’ve got yourself a winner. If you’ve ever worked a nine to five and found yourself in traffic coming back out or in of the city and just sat there and thought “is this really happening to me?”, then this album has your number. It captures the sort of “everything is technically fine and yet I wish everyone was on fire” sort of feeling that the modern tedium can illicit in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long while (probably ever since The Tea Club’s brilliant If/When). Oh, and it also has killer music on it, something for everyone who is a fan of post-rock, post-punk, darkwave, rock, and everything in between.

-EK

A Burial At Sea  - Close To Home

An early standout in the genre so far in 2024 came from the creative Irish duo known as A Burial at Sea. And shocker, another excellent entry into the post-rock world from The Ocean’s growing collective via Pelagial Records. If someone asked me to sum up the past decade of post-rock in one album, Close to Home might be the perfect choice. For better or worse, this is truly an ode to those who came before them and inspired this record, and shows that there are still meaningful spaces to explore in this genre without needing to be truly groundbreaking and innovative. 

As suggested, despite the many genre tropes A Burial at Sea incorporates, this is one of those albums where you think you have it figured out but it just keeps throwing curveballs. It does that very And So I Watch You From Afar (if I had to guess, the biggest singular influence on this album) thing where they pump up the energy and then dial it back and go “now think about that for a moment” before hitting the gas again and layering more dazzling leads on top. It evokes a very human experience in turn, where the dancey jovial fun of their tapping riffs and upbeat tempos eventually lead into some pensive reflection, where other likely influences such as Caspian and We Lost the Sea shine further. 

While almost entirely an instrumental experience, the shorter “objects of the house” is the most subdued track on the album and features somber vocals akin to slowcore or the softer side of Holy Fawn. These little touches further illustrate their ability to recognize the importance of pacing on a post-rock album, perhaps showing again what they’ve learned from both the successes and faults of those who came before them. Scattered horn sections throughout further manipulate your senses, transporting you to moody jazz bars, before it’s like the troops have returned and everyone's dancing on the tables in jubilation. It’s this careful balance that gives both individual songs and the album itself a sense of an arc, and allows those moments of triumphant euphoria that are so well executed to feel incredibly earned and effective. Close To Home is modern post-rock at its most post-rock, a testament to the enduring spirit of a genre that continues to make our hearts sing. 

-TB

Samlrc - A Lonely Sinner 

I’ve come to the conclusion that when some random solo bedroom project has a hand-drawn, scrapbooky, furry-style character album cover, it’s going to be either absurd nonsense, or fucking incredible. In the case of the new album A Lonely Sinner from 19-year old artist Samantha Rodrigues da Cruz from Brazil, otherwise known as samlrc, it’s surely the latter. Similar to the solo post-rock/blackgaze artist Abriction I covered last year, (who put out another stellar release earlier this year), samlrc’s earlier work spanning 6 releases back to 2019 existed more in the realm of electronica - incorporating drum and bass, breakcore and glitchpop, genres more approachable and applicable to a solo artist with a computer. This stark evolution to a full-fledged conceptual post-rock project, with an orchestra of real instruments stretching from guitars, harmonica, flute, and even soda cans alone is impressive, but the fact that this is arguably one of the best post-rock releases of the year? A concept album about a sheep experiencing the love of nature? That’s something. 

That “bedroom” ethos is still present as it’s all recorded with a simple BMG22 interface and BM-800 microphone. An eclectic range of sampling is also incorporated, some of which makes me question this release’s longevity on streaming platforms, as it includes bits and pieces of works from artists such as Bjork, Swans, Low, Merzbow, and Yves Tumor, not to mention themes from Princess Mononoke and Silent Hill 2.   

A true “more than the sum of its parts” album, everything just comes together for a compelling listen from start to finish. On the opening track and in doses throughout, it sounds like the parts of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor live concert where you're not sure if they're actually playing something from a studio album but you’re still utterly captivated by it. The shimmering strings and delicate synth pads set such a lush, bittersweet backdrop to the whole album. As things eventually grow into more structured fabrics of post-rock songs, you’re still met with this fascinating juxtaposition of the raw, earnest vulnerability of a solo-bedroom project with the expansive arena-filling atmospheres of shoegaze and even post-metal. This rings the most true on one of the albums standouts “Storge”. This near 12-minute track builds into a momentously Russian Circles wall of sound, with the pounding rhythms of an immense drum performance carrying an assault of heavily distorted but coherent noise. 

While I’d love to hear more of the ferocity of their dense post-metal approach, A Lonely Sinner more than makes up for it with its sentimentality. The ambient singer-songwriter elements exhibit some delicate, at times chopped-up vocals that further the innocence of both the lyrical concept of a sheep in a field, and the overall feel of the album. March was a timely release, at least in the northern hemisphere, as it evokes both liminal and pastoral spaces, and the undeniable aura of spring. This is accented near the end with “For M.” an intriguing remix of sorts of a string quartet’s cover of Bjork’s Hyperballad that feels like the climatic end of a romance story set on an Icelandic pastoral coastline. This is the sort of album that rewards repeated listens, as the subtle beauty within further reveals itself. While there’s some odd pacing and issues of flow, I can’t help being astonished at how good this is for a 19-year old with no previous experience writing post-rock, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next.   

-TB

Chatte Royal - Mick Torres Plays Too F***ing Loud

How about something just positively radiant then? An enjoyable and engaging listen from start to finish, Chatte Royal is a refreshing blend of the fun, danceable side of math rock and the emotionally resonating melodies of post-rock. I’m not sure who Mick Torres is, but apparently he plays so F***ing Loud that this Belgian math rock group named their debut after them. This group shares a guitarist with better known post-rock group We Stood Like Kings, and the cinematic tremolo-picked influence from them makes its way into this release with clever compositions, contrasting between playful math rock licks. It’s aggressive when it wants to be, but equally virtuoustic and technically impressive. Some of the riffs here wouldn’t be out of place on a CHON or Dance Gavin Dance album in both the toe-tapping poppiness and proggy proficiency. Fans of bands like Covet and Strawberry Girls that bridge these elements will find plenty to love here, but Chatte Royal makes more out of the strengths of post-rock songwriting to their advantage.  

-TB

Eden Kupermintz

Published 24 days ago