The thing that everyone always forgets about “Post-Rock” is that it was never intended to be a defined style of music. Essentially journalistic shorthand for “I don’t really know what this is, but they use guitars”, it was a useful semi-label for the otherwise unlabelable until someone decided that it was a genre defined by stroke-inducing levels of boredom and its use in a review became the Touch Of Death for all right-thinking people.
Marrow Hymns (Profound Lore) is Post-Rock in the true sense of the term – a genre-less mash-up that combines bass, drum and steel guitar with Noise and Ambient elements to create a sound which touches on familiar elements but doesn’t really sound like anyone else. The instrumental performances at its heart are strong and characterful – the drumming in particular – and the less orthodox elements are integrated well. There’s a strong sense of soundscaping and soundtrack work here that most post-rock bands mistake for simply playing for ten minutes longer than the song deserves, but which Insect Ark achieve through much more interesting and dynamic means.
Insect Ark are at their strongest when the Rock elements are backgrounded somewhat, such as the menacing, near Dark Ambient opening of ‘Windless’ and the cinematic synth work used throughout the album. When riffs and beats rise to the top they can settle into familiar patterns and plod along harmlessly a little too readily. The traditional curse of instrumental Rock can settle in during these moments, too – the feeling of waiting for a leading element that isn’t going to show. In general, however, the confidence of the performances and fluid nature of the compositions push through the occasional staid moment.
Marrow Hymns is a strong example of how creativity and passion can transcend the genre labels that some of us have become somewhat too attached to, and how our inability to stick everything in a neat box need not be a problem.