Swiftly following yet another amazing Dunk! Festival in Belgium, which is hopefully to be written about on these here pages soon (so I’ll say no more for now) we then had the line-up announcement for the second instalment of what can probably already be described as its USA equivalent; POST. Festival.
Based at the Irving Theatre in Indianapolis during the 4th and 5th October, POST. will feature 20 of the finest artists from the USA (and one from Chile!) who fall to at least some degree under that genre banner that is our obsession. The line-up includes Holy Fawn, who released one of the most astonishing albums of last year in the shape of Death Spells, Spotlights, The End of the Ocean and Wander, all of whom have released excellent long-players in the first half of this year, as well as Shy, Low, Au Revoir and Ranges, 3 bands that I have had the privilege of seeing at Dunk! in the last couple of years, and can thoroughly recommend.
So strong is the line-up in fact that just one glance at it had me looking up flight prices from the UK. Moments later some very large numbers appeared before my eyes and I was transported back to earth, with the additional realisation that my festival budget had been spent already in Belgium (having a jolly lovely time, I might add- it certainly wasn’t squandered), and we’ve still got ArcTangent to go in August. ‘Hoorah’ cries me. ‘Harrumph’ cries my wife, children, cat, and bank manager.
On we go then, to the fourth episode this year of The Round Up, our attempt at covering as many post rock and post metal releases as possible, with short-form reviews.
We start in Bucharest, Romania, where we find Nik Prowse not especially enjoying the new record from Valerinne.
Valerinne- Desire (Released 25/3/19 via Bandcamp)
Review written by : Nik Prowse
Romanians Valerinne are an instrumental post rock outfit who play soaring post rock anthems. Desire, their fourth album, gives the impression of towering above the listener with its huge, open sound. It’s got a single-minded intensity, atmosphere and passion. There are soaring guitars, there’s drumming that’s heavy on the reverb, there are soaring guitars and there’s reverb-heavy drumming. Did I mention the soaring guitars? Every track is 10 minutes plus and each has a very similar feel that envelops the listener in a perpetual post rock loop: a timehole where the guitars soar and the reverb is turned up high.
Halfway through second track ‘Star From Below’ and you already know what the second half of the track will sound like. Third track ‘Earth From Above’ is a further 10 minutes of bludgeoning post rock soaring as befits the title of the song and, indeed, the whole album. The band use a repetitive drone element that works well with the overall sound, but although the intensity is effective for short periods it all feels overdone. These guys have taken their favourite sound, guitar tone and pedal effects, created an atmosphere, looped it and played it to the max. No doubt, in an intimate live setting it would work a treat. The audience would be in raptures as a result of the intensity, the wall of reverberating noise creating a lasting impression and allowing all present to transcend the physical surroundings of the gig. But listening to the album itself is like being bashed repeatedly over the head with Pelican’s heavy bits while Explosions in the Sky watch from the sidelines. This record has no nuance, no light and shade, and very little variety, I’m sorry to say. See them live, or turn it up and recreate Valerinne’s sonic intensity in your own house, but don’t expect anything new after the first five minutes.
The Pirate Ship Quintet- Emitter (Released 29/3/19 via Denovali Records)
Review written by : Bruce Cowie
This is not a party record.
It’s been seven years since the last album, Rope for No-Hopers, and with Emitter The Pirate Ship Quintet have abandoned the ‘screamo’ vocals and entered less turbulent seas. From the start, the appropriately titled ‘First’, we are dipped in beautiful melancholy. Sandy Bartai’s ever present cello works its way into every crevice of the record, binding together the guitars, bass and drums into a sombre and restful whole. Wordless vocals drift by like a warm breeze.
It’s post rock, Jim, but not as we know it. Post with a hefty lean towards classic orchestral music. Not entirely unsurprising, perhaps, given Bartai’s day jobs with the LSO and the BBC National Orchestra. There are even some little jazzy flourishes during ‘Emitter’, the song, courtesy of Andrew Hayes’ saxophone, an instrument that usually makes me shudder. Not here, though. Here, it’s nice.
This record should be, I reckon, considered as a single piece. All nine songs blend together seamlessly – other than the tiniest of hitches as my player skips from one MP3 file to the next (1.) into one glorious seventy-minute long life-enhancing masterpiece. It is so easy to overlook the length of some songs – the twelve-minute title track and the epic 17 minutes of ‘Companion’ ebb and flow like the tide, never standing still, sometimes calm, sometimes crashing against the rocks, always magnificent. Of course, it is at heart a post rock record, so there ARE some sturdier passages, but they don’t really intrude. Like a distant thunder storm.
This is music for those of us who enjoy solitude. Quiet beaches. Peaceful forests. Lying in bed at night listening to rain against the window (2.) This is a record, like Ana Never’s Long Turning, that makes me want to set myself adrift in a little boat and look up at the stars forever.
- Perhaps one of the few good reasons for investing in vinyl.
- Outside the window, obviously.
ORSO- Paninoteca (Released 5/4/19 via Czar of Crickets Productions)
Review written by : Chris Sharp
There’s something very obviously apparent when approaching the Bandcamp page of Swiss post metallers ORSO: they like food. Their debut EP was a literal three course meal, and now they bring us a literal Paninoteca (a fancy way of saying sandwich bar) – serving up a fresh ‘Jambon-beurre’ that’s more unsettling than any song named after a ham baguette has any right to be. The veritable buffet of forceful bass, and guitar work – both in terms of melodies and hard-hitting riffs – that is ‘Monte Cristo’; and ending it all with a crushingly dense ‘Smörgåstårta’ for dessert.
While the guitars are excellent throughout – not least in ‘Monte Cristo’ – it’s the interesting bass work that stands out most, sitting front and centre both in the mix, and driving the band. The mix itself is crisp, and, like the song-writing, a subtle upgrade on the good standard already set on Primi Piatti. ‘Mitraillette’ might be the strongest track on the album – disturbing and brooding guitars, sandwiched between eerily repetitive drum patterns and the album’s best bassline, all constantly building speed towards the song’s climax. This isn’t to say there’s any filler: this is an album that builds, cascades, and crushes throughout, and deserves the best headphones – and would probably be frighteningly good live. The only disappointment for me is that they’re not a crust band…
(Note from Sub-Editor- a fine array of punnery, especially when it is all within one subject, so it deserves to be underlined).
Reserve de Marche- Here Comes The Twilight (Released 5/4/19 via Qiasum Music)
Review written by : Jody Dunstan
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly expert on the post metal/instrumental scene in Russia. It does, however, seem like I’ve missed a trick. Moscow based Reserve de Marche, with their latest release Here Comes the Twilight have created something rather lovely. The band’s third album hops around genres track by track, it’s mature and well-crafted however and the production is excellent.
They use these various styles as a canvas to paint a variety of pictures. ‘Little Flags’ and ‘Tope Olba 2013’ and ‘Palmyre’ are sometimes uplifting and melodic and sometimes angular and discordant. ‘Marvin Heemeyer’ and ‘Far from Atlantic’ in contrast have muscular and visceral riffs and can be quite heavy in places. ‘World Wide Wall’ is a stunning piece of post rock that would stand happily against any pioneers of the genre, with a jaw-dropping crescendo where guitar and bass alternate the lead. ‘Cwm Annwn’ opens with an eastern-tinged guitar piece before exploding into thick and luscious slabs of guitar. The tracks to close the album, “Pirates of Nagatino Bay’ and ‘Romeo November Delta’ give a more relaxed conclusion to the album. The build-up of the last track ensures it goes out with a bang rather than a whimper.
Guitarist Lex Aleeksev has a knack for creating guitar pieces that remain interesting and have a real direction and purpose. A common complaint is that instrumental music can be boring but Reserve de Marche manage to keep the listener interested, I’m easily absorbed and want to know where they are going to take the tracks. Overall, it’s probably best described as a blend of Russian Circles and And So I Watch From Afar with a little sprinkling of Neurosis thrown in for good measure. And I highly recommend it.
We’ve Got Muscles- Phonotron (Released 5/4/19 via Fluttery Records)
Review written by : Werner Roozen
To put it in terms only recognizable for viewers of the last Mad Max movie this music is ‘high octane crazy blood right into my veins!’. We’ve Got Muscles, from Cologne, Germany bring six amazingly diverse yet intense tracks, tracks that are fast then slow then fast again, always melodic, often obliterating. To understand what I mean you should just listen to them.
Following a debut EP only last year, the renowned US label Fluttery Records have got hold of Phonotron, their first long player. They were obviously impressed by We’ve Got Muscles’ ability to blend several genres with ease, which has created an excellent record. If you check the band’s website you’ll see that they describe their sound as “hyperactive post rock” which is quite accurate. This three-piece will blow your mind in the most positive way. It might take a listen or two to get used to but it’s worth it.
One of my favorite tracks is ‘Cok Guezel’, when it starts it hits hard like a punch in the face. The guitar starts off with an aggressive riff which is then followed up by a melodic build-up where the drums take over, hurtling the track into an enormous climax.
We’ve Got Muscles is also trying to win an award for weirdest title of the year with ‘Chasing Rabbits in an Underground Crossing Being Photographed by Japanese Tourists’. What I like most about this album is that all instruments contribute equally to create a massive sound capable of blowing you away time and time again.
Outlander- The Valium Machine (Released 19.4.19 via FOMA)
Review written by : Rich Buley
Following two earlier singles, self-styled ‘slow rock’ band Outlander, from Birmingham in the UK, suddenly smashed it out of the park a couple of years back with their 3 track EP Downtime b/w Plans (yes, it did have another track). Combining a colossal rhythm section of funereal pace with bleeding, kaleidoscopic guitars, it was another stunning piece of work to add to the burgeoning style of music that could only ever be described as Doomgaze.
The Valium Machine is their debut album and has seen the band evolve, with a first foray into vocals and a slightly refined sound that thankfully does little to lessen the sonic intensity. Less doom, more gaze though, I suppose.
‘Sinking’ starts proceedings and could immediately be mistaken as a Cloakroom track, with the murmured vocal and gloom-ridden tone, before those wonderfully abrasive, pedal-heavy riffs lift it all quickly into the air. The vocal really adds depth and colour as the track ascends into heavy shoegazing heaven, my favourite of all the heavens.
The middle three tracks, ‘Threadbare’, ‘Drown’ and ‘Return’ were apparently all parts of the same twenty-one-minute track originally, but to move slightly closer to the Three Minute Pop Song, they carved it up into snappy, bite-sized morsels of nine and a half, five and six and a half. The prolonged introduction of ‘Threadbare’ certainly would have made more sense in the track’s longest form, as it takes a good five minutes to start ramping up proceedings. But those guitars, when they come, are just breath-taking. Dark, heavy, shimmering and snarling as your head swims in cacophonous rapture.
‘Drown’ and ‘Return’ actually really benefit from their relative brevity, the twin guitars intertwining powerfully as they dance out those beautifully melancholic melodies.
The thirteen-minute title track which closes the record has a lot more in common with post rock than with either doom or shoegaze, and not just because of its length. It builds and breaks down, builds and break down and then eventually builds again into a thunderous, no-holds-barred peak, before Outlander leave us in the same style they arrived, with a slow, sombre conclusion.
Sitting slightly beyond the normal trappings of instrumental rock, too dazzling for doom and too heavy to just be called a shoegaze band, Outlander have demonstrated again that they are a band that all three communities should absolutely be taking into their hearts right away.