Despite our valiant attempts at what the BBC might call ‘full and unrivalled coverage’, the combination of the lack of a red button, and the incredible quantity of new music being released every day, has actually made it impossible to feature or review everything that we would like to.
Our resident Echoes and Dust boffins had been hard at work in developing an AI review bot, which could simultaneously knock out 500 words on the latest releases by Cryptograms from Basildon and Derek is an Alien, before we had even eaten our breakfast. However, plans had to be abandoned after the bot went ‘mainstream’ following a freak accident involving Ed Sheeran, Spotify and several cans of lubricating oil.
Please let me therefore introduce you to ‘Resounding Echoes’, a new feature which will seek to broaden our coverage of certain genres through pithy, ‘catch-up’ reviews of recent records we may have only just discovered, or not managed to get to around the release date. For our first assignment, we have assembled, for your spotless reading pleasure, a supremely drilled, multi-faceted squad of scribes from #teampostrock and #teampostmetal, who will regale you with well-chosen words about (mostly) instrumental music from Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and, er, some other nations not beginning with ‘S…
Nuance by Noir Reva – Released 30/04/16 via Miss The Stars/Koepfen/Hackebeil Records
Written by : David Zeidler
Koblenz, Germany’s Noir Reva deserve mention for coming out of the gate with their first EP and giving listeners one of the most consistently engaging post rock albums of 2016. Does Nuance reinvent the wheel? In a word, no. That being said, firmly entrenched fans of the genre know too well what it’s like to spend nine minutes wading through a build-up that could easily have played out in two for a crescendo that comes and goes before they know it. They’ve also likely spent too much time on albums with killer opening tracks which then lose most of their steam soon after.
Nuance has gained my fond appreciation both for getting to the point relatively quickly, and for making a strong point time and again. Noir Reva are the type of band that I value deeply – simply, they don’t spend so much time establishing atmosphere that they forget to rock. There are pretty moments aplenty but often they are accompanied by lively percussion (in post rock terms, a punchy mid-tempo), and there is always a strong riff right around the corner. Standouts include the soaring opener “In Transit” and the emotional powerhouse title track.
The Great Cold by The Great Cold – Released 21/02/16 via Bandcamp
Written by : Jamie Jones
The past few years have confirmed what black metal fans always knew: blastbeats make everything better. The Great Cold provide undeniable proof, bringing the blackgaze intensity of Alcest over into the territory of Isis and Mono. The result is at times breathtaking – ‘Oread’ is as triumphant, emotional and spellbinding a post-whatever song you’ll hear this year. And it’s in fine company.
This, The Great Cold’s debut, is self-released and recorded in 5 days. It’d sound amazing regardless of context but that is frankly astonishing. The production is exquisite, at one both atmospheric and heroically, majestically heavy. With no label backing it’s no wonder they’ve gone under the radar for most. But fans of metal of any subgenre need to get their ears on this. These boys are already quite special and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Long Turning by Ana Never – Released 26/05/16 via Fluttery Records
Written by : Bruce Cowie
From Subotica in Serbia, Ana Never have been around since 2002, and Long Turning is their third proper album for Fluttery, not counting a live album and a split EP with Rosa Parks. If you’re familiar with Ana Never, nothing on this album will come as a surprise. If you LIKE Ana Never, this is a very good thing.
The album is 43 minutes of glorious, minimal post rock serenity, book-ended by two versions of the same song – ‘Tomorrow is the Live Long Day, parts 1 & 2’. Nothing is intrusive – guitars, keys and drums are all subtle and restrained. Unlike previous albums, only one song breaks the 10 minute barrier, the wonderful ‘Martha’.
Perhaps the music works best when it’s got plenty of time to grow, to work itself into your consciousness, before reaching its gentle crescendo. But maybe that’s just me. I like long songs.
Listening to ‘Long Turning’, is like floating on a warm, dark ocean, looking up at the stars. Pure relaxation. Let it take you away.
Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet by Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet – Released 05/03/16 via Bandcamp
Written by : Stuart Benjamin
Hailing from Malmo, Sweden, Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet’s eponymous debut album is, apart from being terribly hard to pronounce, well worth your attention. Roughly (well, according to Google Translate) the band’s name and album title means “Tales that lead towards the end”, which is a rather nice way of describing both the album and the songs in it. A love of sagas – albeit in musical form – certainly inhabits every note and chord the band play and each track is imbued with a post rock epic feel that’s certainly been influenced by Mogwai and Sigur Ros. Hard to pick out favourites, but ‘Vilse’, ‘Oknytt’, and ‘Avsked’ certainly push those post rock buttons. Yes, arguably, you’ve heard this sort of thing before, but all the tracks drip with unique atmosphere, and sometimes with beauty, and sometimes with menace. Quite a journey, but like all good journeys, with a great soundtrack. A confident debut.
We Were Heading North by We Were Heading North – Released 12/01/16 via El Hombre Bala Records
Written by : Jody Dunstan
Spanish (or more strictly Canary Island) post rock outfit We Were Heading North released their eponymous debut mini-album/long EP in January this year via the wonderfully named El Hombre Bala records. The band describe themselves as ambient/post rock/shoegaze. For me, it is standard post rock- dense, layered guitars, dream-like ambience and triumphant crescendos. One noticeable thing is the use of bass in the mix, several tracks use a solid and melodic bassline as a backbone to the track which works to great effect. ‘People are the Same Everywhere’ and ‘Leitmotiv 01’ both have excellent and dramatic crescendos, the latter using strings to give the track a beautiful, euphoric feel. The ‘Absence of Field’ and ‘Untitled (Green on Maroon)’ are slightly more down-tempo which I assume the shoegaze description comes from.
We Were Heading North have made a stunning debut effort here, sounding like a much more experienced post rock band. They have weaved a few different styles together to make a wonderful, uplifting post rock record.
Translucence by All You’ve Seen – Released 11/03/16 via Bandcamp
Written by : Rich Buley
The other Swiss post rock band I have properly heard is of course The Evpatoria Report, responsible for one of the greatest tracks of all time in the genre, ‘Taijin Kyofusho’. So that’s a good start. All You’ve Seen have been a going concern since 2008, and Translucence is their sixth release, and the follow up to 2013’s Elements- Part II (there wasn’t a Part I, which is odd).
Despite parts of the album sounding like they were recorded on the wrong side of the door to the broom cupboard the band were playing in, All You’ve Seen have delivered an entertaining if somewhat generic record. They do sweep between delicious sections of serene ambience to blistering distortion in confident fashion, calling to mind This Will Destroy You and Philadelphia’s The Sound of Rescue. And highlight ‘Veiled’ is as moody and monolithic as The God Machine, minus those wonderfully mournful vocals from Robin Proper-Sheppard.
Empathy Box by Empathy Box – Released 01/06/16 via Bandcamp
Written by : Lance Turner
Empathy Box offer up a nice blend of mellow soundscapes and heavier textures in their recent release Lake Of Stone. With plenty of proper, audibly fluent crescendos leading into areas of experimentation, where the band refuses to observe accepted instrumental song structures. Empathy Box have a unique ability to change up their track pace without feeling disjointed.
I do have two gripes. First the abhorrently poor segue from the ambient sequence to full accompaniment on ‘Tundra’. Also, the fact that the vocals found throughout the entire release appear to be more of an afterthought and better off omitted. I guess we will have to chalk it up to my personal taste.
In closing, the album will likely not be included on many Record of the Year lists. However, it is certainly worth your time as there may be aspects that appeal more to your ears than mine.
The Ever Shifting Fields by Seas of Years – Released 17/05/16 via Bandcamp
Written by : David Zeidler
‘Passing Skies’, the first track from Swedish quartet Seas of Years’ third album, is a real burner that sets a high bar for everything that follows. It possesses a taut immediacy and a thrilling combination of towering riffs and emotionally charged melodies – a jaw-dropping intro that upon first listen left me thinking “there’s no way they can follow this.”
But The Ever Shifting Fields manages to maintain a fairly high level. While “Passing Skies” proves to be the peak moment of the album, the entire journey is well worth taking. The album is slick, well produced and exceedingly listenable. Although that does occasionally cause a bit of a dulling around its edges, it proves admirably capable of vacillating between engaging rockers, more restrained mid-tempo compositions and atmospheric passages. It’s a solid formula that should have instrumental rock enthusiasts firmly satisfied.
In a year where genre titans Explosions in the Sky experimented with the road less travelled, with mixed results, and a number of fans have bemoaned some canonical artists for going to the same well a few times too many, Seas of Years deserve credit for releasing an album that celebrates the form in a way that is both comfortingly familiar and undeniably energizing.
Master Manipulator by Native Daughters – Released 06/04/16 via Sailor Records
Written by : Jamie Jones
Native Daughters are Denver post metalists who crib heavily from the Russian Circles playbook. Only they don’t see themselves as a post metal band, preferring ‘Instrumental Metal’. The distinction is in intention: there are no unifying themes or deeper meanings to Master Manipulator’s 8 tracks, they’re exercises in tone and technique. There are ponderous passages but they’re there for song dynamics rather than to have you ponder anything in particular.
Master Manipulator is a little paint-by-numbers at times but boasts a rich palette to paint with, utilising twin drummers to create undeniable momentum, and shredding and riffing fabulously throughout. It makes for a satisfying listen: they won’t alter your perception of reality but they’ll get those horns up pretty quickly.