Posts Tagged ‘Post Rock’

Constellation – 26th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

One’s perception of time changes with its passage. As you get older, it seems different, and passes differently too. In childhood, there’s the sense that summers are long and sunny, school holidays stretch out in front of you like a playing field the size of Wembley Stadium, whereas in adulthood, six weeks is no time, and the summer means it’s nearly time to start considering Christmas. But even in adulthood, while there’s a keen and pressing awareness of the rapid passing of time, it’s easy – and perhaps it’s how we’re psychologically wired – to ignore the overall narrative span while focusing on the rapid cycle of existing in the present. You get caught up in the infinite and swift cycle of the working week, thee routine, you complain about how time flies as New Year becomes Easter becomes Hallowe’en becomes Christmas, even how every birthday marks the passing of another year. But for all the talk of making the most of life and living every day or week like it could be your last, that’s what it is – talk. Because it’s almost impossible to comprehend there being an end, not just of life, but of anything. It’s simply human nature to take things for granted, that the sun will always rise, that you will always be able to buy the same bread and crisps and whatever in the supermarket.

And then they stop making a certain brand of crisps or chocolate and there are mutters of discontent, and then, twenty years later, online forums are oozing nostalgia for these things. These things of no consequence.

Over the course of seven previous album since 2001, Canadian quintet Esmerine, co-founded by percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) have, as their bio notes, straddled the boundaries of ‘contemporary classical and late 20th century Minimalism’ and ‘more visceral and lyrical sonic terrain born from post-rock, folk and global.’

Such a broad palette is the perfect base from which to paint scenes of shifting perspectives that explore the theme of the title.

Time stalls during the nine-minute ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’ – a piece which transitions through numerous parts and brings a range of atmospheres, from quietly brooding piano solo to soaring, majestic post-rock, trickling into the brass-orientated ‘Entropy: Acquiescence’ which evokes that sepia toned Hovis advert kind of nostalgia. And so it’s here I discover that that isn’t an exclusively English thing, but still – there is a cultural heritage of a nostalgia for a golden age of simplicity and innocence. It is, of course, a fallacy: past times were difficult, flawed. It’s easy to hanker for a rose-tinted rendition of a past you never knew, and ‘Imaginary Pasts’ seems to acknowledge this, wordlessly, via the medium of slow drones and rippling piano.

And so it is that Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More mines a golden post-rock seem of evocativeness, conveyed by means of slow-burning epics, interspersed with fragmentary pieces, which, while under three minutes in duration, give the album a certain sense of pace amidst the spic sprawlers, which culminate in the seven-and-a-half minute ‘Number Stations’. The brooding ‘Wakesleep’ is tense and eerie, with a sense of foreboding, that paves the way for the dolorous funeral chimes that herald the arrival of the closer.

There’s a sadness to it, and it’s this sadness which permeates the album as a whole. It’s a sadness that speaks of lost time and fading pasts. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. And yet there are soft hints of redemption, that nothing is entirely finite. Nothing is forever, but memories linger longer than life.

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Russian Circles have released their first ever music video for the title track of their forthcoming LP Gnosis, available next week, 19th August, via Sargent House. The centrepiece of the album “Gnosis” begins with a slow-build exercise in krautrock methodologies — drones, guitar arpeggios, cosmic synth, hypnotic drum patterns—that eventually explodes into the wall-of-sound bombardment Russian Circles are known for. The accompanying video, directed/edited by Joe Kell, is full of dark imagery driving towards the actual definition of the word ‘Gnosis.’ The band explains:

“’Gnosis’ is a special song that has grown with us over a number of years. The main theme of the song was re-conceptualised so many times that it provided nearly endless arrangement options. It’s rewarding to see such a minimal song idea evolve into one of our most dynamic and fully-realised songs to date.

When discussing a concept for the video, we agreed we wanted cinematic footage of nature and humanity. Ultimately, we wanted the video to feel fresh and inspiring despite dealing with a dark theme. Similarly, we wanted to compel viewers to re-watch the video and get something new from each viewing. Somehow, editor Joe Kell masterfully made this all happen.”

‘Gnosis’ eschews the varied terrain of the band’s past works by employing a new songwriting technique. Rather than crafting songs out of fragmented ideas in the practice room, full songs were written and recorded independently before being shared with other members, so that their initial vision was retained. While these demos spanned the full breadth of the band’s varied styles, the more cinematic compositions were ultimately excised in favor of the physically cathartic pieces.

Watch the video here:

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Russian Circles will be touring extensively in support of the album. Dates are as follows:

RUSSIAN CIRCLES N. AMERICA TOUR 2022:

Sep 15 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line

Sep 17 Denver, CO – Gothic

Sep 18 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

Sep 20 Seattle, WA – Croc Showroom

Sep 21 Portland, OR – Revolution Hall

Sep 23 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall

Sep 24 Felton, CA – Felton Music Hall

Sep 25 Los Angeles, CA – The Regent

Sep 26 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom

Sep 29 Austin, TX – Empire Garage

Sep 30 Dallas, TX – Amplified Live

Oct 01 Memphis, TN – Growlers

Oct 27 St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall

Oct 28 Louisville, KY – Headliner’s

Oct 29 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West

Oct 30 Orlando, FL – The Social

Nov 01 Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle

Nov 02 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle

Nov 04 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club

Nov 05 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live

Nov 06 Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw

Nov 08 Boston, MA – The Sinclair

Nov 09 Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount

Nov 10 Toronto, ON – Opera

Nov 11 Detroit, MI – El Club

Nov 12 Chicago, IL – Metro

RUSSIAN CIRCLES EU TOUR 2023 (Co Headline w/ Cult Of Luna):

March 17 Copenhagen, DK – Store Vega

March 18 Berlin, DE – Huxleys

March 19 Wiesbaden, DE – Schlachthof

March 20 Utrecht, NL – Tivoli Ronda

March 21 Brussels, BE – AB

March 22 Paris, FR – Olympia

March 23 Stuttgart, DE – Wizemann

March 24 Lausanne, CH – Les Docks

March 25 Ljubljana, SI – Kino Siska

March 27 Vienna, AT – Arena

March 28 Munich, DE – Muffathalle

March 29 Prague, CZ – Roxy

March 30 Krakow, PL – Studio

March 31 Warsaw, PL – Progresja

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Photo Credit: William Lacalmontie

Christopher Nosnibor

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More is such a quintessentially post-rock album title: without hearing a note, it evokes the spirit of 2003-2006 or thereabouts. On listening, it’s perhaps not as overtly post-rock as all that – it’s not a slow-building crescendo-fest with chiming guitars like Explosions in the Sky or even lesser-known acts like And So I Watch You From Afar, but with ties to legends in the field, it is every inch of that milieu, with ‘the cello of Rebecca Foon (Saltland, Set Fire To Flames, Silver Mt Zion) and the marimba of ex-Godspeed You! Black Emperor percussionist Bruce Cawdron at its core’.

It’s been a full five years since their last album, 2017’s Mechanics of Dominion, and during this time the Montreal-based collective have been doing what, it seems, the Montreal post-rock scene does best – detaching themselves from the world and conjuring magnificent, magical soundscapes that offer a conduit to planes of pure escapism.

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More presents a rich sonic tapestry that incorporates a broad range of elements. The press released makes mention of ‘emotive chamber works using threads of post-classical, post-rock, Minimalism, neo-Baroque, jazz, pop and a wide array of folk traditions’ as being Esmerine’s palette.

‘Blackout’ opens the album with a soft, elegant piano draped with brooding strings that’s graceful, subtly emotive, and easy on the ear. ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’, the first of the two-part ‘Entropy’ suite is a nine-minute journey through atmospheric ambience, where one treads with trepidation, uncertain of what may be hidden in the shadows. There’s an aura of ancient mysticism that echoes before eventually, the track refocuses toward a driving prog rock finale.

The beauty and joy of such a work is that while there are undoubtedly inspirations and emotions poured into the compositions, such wide spaces without words offer the listener a vessel into which to empty their own experiences and interpretations, and as such, a piece like the seven-minute ‘Imaginary Pasts’ with its lilting piano, roiling drums, and textured guitar work which trips out into hazy space offers so much scope for the listener to invest and reflect upon their own imaginary pasts. Such invitations to meditate on life and to journey into inner space are extremely welcome when life is so relentless.

Despite the title seemingly alluding to a sense of nostalgia, Everything Was Forever feels more like a work that creates its own space in time, rather than reflecting on a time past. Three of the four final tracks are under three minutes each in length, and as such, are almost dream-like fragments, and the listener finds themselves wandering through chiming bells and rippling notes that dapple like sunlight through trees in a breeze on ‘Wakesleep’, before ‘Number Stations’ guides the way not towards the light, but through a murky sonic swamp or eerie echoes before taking its final magnificent form, and reminds us that, ultimately, nothing is forever, and everything is just a fleeting moment in the scheme of eternity.

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Christopher Nosnibor

And here I am, presented with Trail Of Time, the new album from Darkwave/’Neo-Fanfare" Band, Crooniek, and album which, thematically, ‘reflects on the concept of time. In particular, the inspiration for Trail Of Time is the conflict between the known past and the unwritten future. The future remains hidden and we do not yet know it. But we do know the past’.

It’s a relatable concept, and according to the blurbage, ‘This album is a nostalgic journey through the past of driving force Gerry Croon, his musical projects (‘Parade of the ‘Funeral Fanfare’) and his relationship with his own birthplace Kampenhout, a small village in Belgium, known for his chicory cultivation.’

I much prefer chicory cultivation to Chicory Tip, because ‘Son of My Father’ is limp glam toss, and as such, Crooniek also win my approval for this altogether darker, non-glam album effort.

With slow, plodding beats and mournful brass, Trail Of Time is the absolute in nostalgia, the sound of cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages, of bygone ages captured in black and white in sepia stills.

‘Would You Wake Me In Time’ is more a triumphalist medieval / martial oompah, and then again, there’s ‘At the Lemmeken Monument’ with its samples and sparse synths and eerie glockenspiel.

You could never call this album dull. For the most part, it is very much a work of nostalgia-laden post-rock, and it’s layered deep with sad strings and detailed but dolorous orchestration. ‘Condemned to the Fire’ somehow straddles ‘Greensleeves’ and I Like Trains circa Elegies to Lessons Learnt, and ‘Melancholy at Toorfbroek’ is classic post-rock.

It isn’t until halfway through that we get vocals, and for the most part, Trail of Time is an instrumental work, making single cut ‘G_B’ both a standout and an anomaly. It’s also a killer tune, in any context.

Perhaps ironically, as steeped in turn-of-the century and interwar nostalgia as it is, Trail of Time evokes – at least for me – more of the spirit of the turn of the millennium and the post-rock explosion if 2001 to 2005 or thereabouts. I say thereabouts because no time period has a definite start or end: there is a blurring, crossover, an intersection. And painful as it is to admit, 2004 is receding rapidly into the past: there are children born in 2004 who are now adults.

Time marches on, whether you like it or accept it or not. Breathe in, and breathe deep. Smell the present; smell the past: you never know if or when you will again.

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1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

London / Brighton quartet Insolace consist of Millie Cook (vocals), Conor Hyde (guitar), Sam Bryant (bass) and Onyi Olisa (drums), and I suppose you could reasonably summarise ‘I Won’t Cry’ as one of those ‘strong’ songs – one whereby the ultimate message is one of empowerment, despite it’s primary theme being of mental struggle. Here, against a backdrop of busy, accessible math-orientated jangle Cook pitches lyrics about being in the place of the supporter to someone who’s struggling.

Sonically, on the one hand it’s kinda buoyant emo, and even a bit poppy, but on the other, it’s got a bit of a 2004/5 vibe that I have a certain nostalgia for, which is something I never expected – a time when every other band was jangly, noodly, mathy, and some if it was fun, but ultimately you only need one Explosions in the Sky, and so many Spokes style acts, and probably only one Wintermute…a nd then my brain pokes me with a reminder of Everything Everything. And then you reach a point where less is more, and actually, just a little variety goes a long way.

But it’s easy to be critical, and over time, things do change. Where’s all the noodly math-rock now? Some of it’s here, it seems, and ‘I Won’t Cry’ feels like a 21st Century response to The Cure’s seminal classic ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’. I Won’t Cry I Won’t Cry’ is busy, and a shade technical. But it’s crisp, and has a solid hook, and for that alone it deserves a wide audience.

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Venus Principle are premiering the melancholic and powerful new track ‘Drag Nets’ as the final single taken from the dark psychedelic rocker’s debut full-length Stand in Your Light, which has been scheduled for release on May 27.

‘Drag Nets’ makes subtle use of a wide range of instrumentation from sax to mellotron vibes and Mini Moog, and the stunning vocal chemistry between Daisy Chapman and Daniel Änghede comes into play again as well.

The band comment: “After the initial recording sessions for Stand in Your Light were postponed, we had a chance to write a few more songs”, guitarist Jonas Stålhammar tells. “The last one written was ‘Drag Nets’. It turned out to be by far the heaviest track on the album. ‘Drag Nets’ represents the waste and rejects of man. You can trawl the sea for food and treasure, but humankind will always carelessly discard all unwanted matter only for it to be rediscovered as flotsam and jetsam. The idea of adding saxophone was a last minute thought in the studio when I reached the conclusion that we had too many guitar solos on the album already. Our amazing guest on the saxophone, August Eriksson, copied my guitar solo note for note and then added some improvised sprinkles.”

Listen to ‘Drag Nets’ here:

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28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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Sargent House – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

If you’re looking for the short version, Helms Alee’s sixth album is a belter – a rich, deep, and intense experience that combines the delicate and atmospheric with thunderous, grindingly heavy riff-driven assaults.

To expand on that… well, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. It’s not really an album to dissect, because to do so would be to pick apart the magic – and yes, magic is what it is, something conjured from the air and pulling on all of the elements to create something… something beyond, and something bigger. And there are so many great tunes on Keep This Be the Way, too. Yes, real tunes, proper songs.

‘See Sights Smell Smells’ intimates a delicate chime of post-rock that builds to a crescendo, but it rapidly progresses beyond that, into a thunderous blast of tension that leaps out and scorches like a solar flare.

Helms Alee are by no means the first band to combine elements of post rock with a host of other styles and forms – And So I Watch You From Afar and pelican are among the first who come to mind when it comes to post-rock with the emphasis on rock that pack a real punch, but they’re still not particularly close comparisons: ‘How Party to You Hard’ is dreamy shoegaze but hard, like A Place to Bury Strangers covering Slowdive, and ‘Tripping Up the Stairs’ goes all out on the searing racket, explosions of noise that’s every bit as much Nirvana as it is Sonic Youth as they push their way around the dynamic range that flips between heavy and absolutely fucking raging.

Then you’ve got ‘Big Louise’, a soft, gentle, semi-ambient indie wafter that’s nice but unremarkable but for the immense reverb. You can’t exactly complain that there are a couple of cuts that seem to ease off the gas a bit, not least of all because sometimes, it’s simply impossible to any song to really hold its own in such illustrious company, and the fact of the matter is that the majority of the songs on Keep This Be the Way are so, so strong there’s only one way to go.

The seven-minute ‘Do Not Expose to the Burning Sun’ is a slow-burning serpentine twister, building around an insistent and ominous bassline into a dark, hypnotic squaller that calls to mind both The Pain Teens and The God Machine, while the yawning drone of ‘Mouth Thinker’ evokes the spirit of Ride and Chapterhouse, and boasts a breezy melody as well as scorching blasts of overdrive that emerge from nowhere to tower as shimmering walls of kaleidoscopic noise.

These contrasts provide much of the joy in listening to Keep This Be the Way. It’s an album that’s steeped in 90s vintage, and if you were going to pitch it anywhere, it would be in the indie bracket – but to pitch it anywhere, or align it to any one, or even any three genres, would be to sell the album short and grotesquely misrepresent it. Yet for all the hybridization and seemingly incongruous crossovers, Helms Alee manage to melt everything together magnificently, making not just music but pure aural alchemy.

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