Pete Lambrou, VLMV’s songwriter, has previously described the outfit as “the background music to an ambient explosion in space”, and for the most part that is apt, but there’s also something incredibly human and relatable to all the space of Stranded, Not Lost (Fierce Panda). Together with fellow Codes In The Clouds member, Ciaran Morahan, Lambrou has managed to create a continuous flow of music that is both slow-building and soaring at the same time. Continue reading
The 2015 Denver Riot Fest will be held at the National Western Complex on August 28-30, 2015, and the first lineup announcement has been released. A second announcement with two more headlining acts and additional acts are pending.
Snoop Dogg (performing Doggystyle)
Ice Cube & Special Guests (performing Straight Outta Compton Remix)
Rancid (performing …And Out Come The Wolves)
Coheed And Cambria
Drive Like Jehu
Explosions In The Sky
Cold War Kids
The Airborne Toxic Event
Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band
Babes In Toyland
Eagles Of Death Metal
The Might Might Bosstones
De La Soul
The Dead Milkmen
The Lawrence Arms
Reverent Horton Heat
The Black Lips
The Get Up Kids
Less Than Jake
The Joy Formidaable
The White Buffalo
Post Malone With FKI
The Bunny Gang
Fit For Rivals
The Moth & The Flame
Sleep On It
The ‘Rock-afire explosion and ‘Hellzapoppin’ Circus Sideshow Revue‘ will also be making special appearances.
Here’s a thing. I think it was the British music journalist Andrew Harrison who first coined the phrase “landfill indie”, referring to the glut of post Britpop bands that emerged at the end of the late 90s. These acts, mainly bereft of anything approaching “talent” and conspicuous in their self-regard, whiny vocals and complete lack of musical invention or excitement were responsible for the dilution of an independent music scene that was once renowned for its creativity, sense of purpose and creativity.
I’m going to coin another phrase. Consider, if you will, Post-Rock Rubble (patent pending). I refer, in this instance, to the current glut of hipster post rock bands who, in their quest for something approaching authenticity have appropriated the leitmotifs of post rock and imbued it with a level of anonymity and mediocrity that would be admirable in its effectiveness were the aural effect not so drab and boring. I think you know the sort of thing I’m talking about- delicate melodies married to crashing guitars that have journalists who really ought to know better about these sort of things, salivating at the mouth like Pavlovian dogs, using words like “transcendent”, “epic” and “life changing” to describe vocal free tunes that are, at best, pleasant enough and, at their most anodyne, akin to listening to the grass grow.
The job in hand is, therefore, to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s with this in mind that we come to Akron, Ohio’s If These Trees Could Talk and Metal Blade Records decision to reissue their 2009 debut Above the Earth, Below The Sky and its 2012 follow up Red Forest. Metal Blade don’t have a deep seated heritage in post-rock but they are a reliable label when it comes to spotting talent and If These Trees Could Talk are one of the better post rock outfits so their timing, whilst curious, is probably ahead of new material from the US based five piece which, as students of this genre will likely attest is a bit of a “good thing”.
If These Trees Could Talk operate in a world that has become all too familiar since their debut some six years ago. As you probably know, they are all about the feeling and the textures of their music and, structurally, you can spot the influence and lineage of the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and, at times, Cult of Luna at their most reflective. They have a discerning way of blending delicate and fragile melodies into the post-rock framework that is comforting and occasionally compelling.
Of the two re-issues, although there is a fair smattering of post rock loveliness in the debut album, (7) Red Forest(8) is the superior album, wherein the band have nothing like “difficult second album syndrome” but delivered a nuanced and confident record that succeeds pretty much wholesale, despite the limitations that the genre inevitably confers on its artists.
What sets If These Trees Could Talk apart from some of their more generic peers are two things: their almost metallic use of guitars to convey power as well as precision are probably one of the main reasons that they appeal to the A&R types at Metal Blade but for this listener, it is the deceptive simplicity of their music that compels. There is a moodiness and intensity to this music that brings you back to this band time and again; this is music to become emotional about and emotional for.
Above all, If The Trees Could Talk are not self conscious, nor self regarding- the two most obvious manifestations of their less talented peers. Sombre, thoughtful and evocative and a decent soundtrack for that bleak new year January.
Above The Earth, Below the Sky – 7.0/10
Red Forest – 8.0/10
Instrumental post rock outfit Explosions In The Sky are working on their first album since 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. The band issued a statement:
Sorry that we’ve been running silent for awhile. The last few years have been pretty hectic for us (touring, working on soundtracks, etc.), so we’ve spent the last few months in hibernation. 2015 will also be on the quiet side, at least as far as touring and shows are concerned. This is because we’ll be spending most of our time writing and recording stuff for a new album. We’re well into the process, but we still have a ways to go. We’re pretty excited about what we’re coming up with and we’ll keep you posted as we go. Anyway, we just wanted to say welcome to 2015 and we hope it goes okay for all of you. We’re now in our sixteenth year as a band and we’re grateful every single day that you’re still listening. Take care.
Just when you thought that post metal had run its course with the demise of Isis and Cult of Luna going on hiatus, along comes another set of bearded types who love Explosions in the Sky more than they do employing a vocalist. That’s not to say they’re not welcome to hang around for a while however, for St. Petersburg, Florida five piece Set and Setting have some gloriously hazy sights to show us, which they do with aplomb on sophomore record A Vivid Memory (Prosthetic).
With a name referencing the importance of one’s mindset and location in order to best appreciate an experience with psychedelic drugs, it would be lazy to lump Set and Setting in with those bands who rely on their listeners being wasted to make up for their own musical shortcomings, but it is true that the kind of woozy, gradually building post metal they play would go well with some mind-bending substances at hand. The repetitive melodies and surging rhythms of opening tracks ‘Waves of Luminescence’ and ‘The Inevitable Cycle’ will delight fans of Mono and Pelican, especially with the latter’s bursts of speed indicating that the band haven’t nodded off just yet, while the clinical squalls of ‘Acceptance’ has the members getting the most from their instruments.
Track lengths increase as the album progresses as the band explore the void even deeper with the blurring of post and black metal on the searing sheen of ‘Descending Sun’ which at times sounds like Deafheaven devoid of vocals. The dual percussive assault is maintained throughout the album, giving proceedings a hypnotic feel while the visual impressions of dramatic landscapes and blurred impressions are enforced by the use of repetition and occasional forays into drone and even Shoegaze territory. However the band never tries to outdo themselves and know that the best way to produce a memorable song is to make it worth listening to again. A Vivid Memory has plenty of such tracks and although you don’t have to be baked to fully appreciate them, it wouldn’t hurt.
Memorial (Sargent House) by Russian Circles is a confident beast. It slithers low on its belly on a dark, deep, moody journey, the songs running into each other to provide an ebb and flow that doesn’t exist within the songs themselves. As with all the good music it finds that balance between disparate and opposing elements, like the lone half bar of stick click leading to thumping, flailing drums, end to end with no percussion at all. There’s a heap of skill in the composition and the execution, making this one of the better post-rock/post-metal releases so far this year.
Despite comments by bassist Brian Cook about bands that sound like copies of Explosions In The Sky, these songs aren’t a million miles away either in their slow burn and atmospheric approach, especially in tracks like ‘Cheyenne’, which relies on subtle variations and contrast with its adjacent tracks rather than dramatic crescendocore, dynamics and a procession of short and ever-changing elements. Yes the tracks are shorter, much heavier and use oils and palette knives against the brush and watercolour of EITS, but each track explores one emotion at a time as opposed to a range. Add the fact it’s recognizably Russian Circles, and you realize Memorial doesn’t stretch boundaries or redefine post-rock and post-metal
As with their two previous records, there’s a wonderful raw quality and both riffing and tremolo guitar are more likely to play second fiddle to bass and drums than you normally find with this style. It gets very intense at times. Actually strike that – some passages are even more intense than others even when light. A case in point is ‘Ethel’, which is the sunrise that breaks through the bleak, murderous night time of ‘Burial’ and provides one of the most beautiful transitions I’ve heard in post-rock and post-metal. All the while it retains that thumping, fat bass you can feel and see as well as hear, and those powerful but restrained drums, despite being a far more gentle track. Then there’s that perfect guitar only used in Ethel – some other instrumental bands could learn a trick here about avoiding effect overuse.
The transition from opener ‘Memoriam’ into ‘Deficit’ is severe, unpleasant, jarring and harsh as fuck. It will annoy a lot of listeners and that’s what I love about it – create discomfort by throwing a hurdle in nice and early that gives the listener no clue as to how this thing is going to pan out. It only makes sense if you listen to the record as a whole (as most fans will) and not to the tracks in isolation though. Once again, a quiet introduction giving way to a thunderous attack in track two is nothing new, particularly in metal and post-metal, but as with the rest of the album the execution is brilliant.
A record of this quality will have many talking about how it’s at the cutting edge of instrumental experimental rock, but it’s not, and it doesn’t matter. This really is one long, epic song that takes you through a range of emotions without losing identity and without losing your attention. It’s far from the first instrumental rock album to do this, but it is one of the best. In the end that’s what matters.
Locrian from Chi-town (Chicago, USA) are by no means a typical band, and perhaps they are proud of this. Borrowing the post-black stylings of forward-thinking New Yorkers Krallice, post-rockalyptic instrumentality of Explosions In The Sky, and the droning post-disquietude of Sunno))), they’re certainly not ones for short and punchy tunes. Instead, they opt for the more aethereal end of the metal world, where light rather than darkness takes prevalence, and more introspective topics of mortality, spirituality, and some heartfelt reflection takes the stage (no pun intended with one of the songs being “Panorama of Mirrors”). Understandably, this isn’t everyone’s thing, so from the start they’ve got an obstacle to overcome. In making music that dares to try for the “epic”, is it possible for them correctly capture the essence unlike a teenager remarking the latest technological marvel or a particularly skillful maneuver in a sports match? Continue reading