2012 Year End Review Round Up

Orbit Over Luna – 京都​/​奈良 – Kyōto​/​Nara EP – 87%

京都/奈良 - Kyōto/Nara cover art

Orbit over Luna is the work of Shannon Penner from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a primarily an ambient instrumental project that occasionally crosses into post-rock territory. Penner lists all the usual suspects you would expect to find as his influences: Hammock, Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros, the list continues. ‘京都​/​奈良 – Kyōto​/​Nara’ is Orbit Over Luna’s latest work and is the brainchild of Penner, who pulled inspiration from a recent trip to Japan to create the 5-track 22 minute EP. As you can probably imagine the EP is littered with Japanese influence ranging from instruments commonly found in Asian music to just the overall relaxed pacing and musical flow. I won’t pretend that I’m deeply versed in the field of asian music, but it doesn’t take deep knowledge of either of those to realize just how deeply intertwined this music is with traditional japanese culture. The relaxing nature of this EP makes it a short yet sweet musical journey.

I also want to mention another EP by Orbit Over Luna released earlier this year, ‘The Wind Alive like a Heart Beating’. This 3 track EP is available for $3 on the band’s bandcamp page with all proceeds going to the Ovarian Cancer Society. In addition, Shannon is matching all donations received. All in all this seems like a fantastic deal that is going towards a good cause. That is something I can always get behind.

available for $6 on bandcamp: http://orbitoverluna.bandcamp.com/album/ky-to-nara

Orbit Over Luna on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/orbitoverluna

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Tales of Murder and Dust – Hallucination of Beauty – 85%

Hallucination of Beauty cover art

Tales of Murder and Dust are a 6-piece band from Denmark that have been together for about 5 years now. Describing themselves as a “dark experimental mixture of Psychedelic rock and shoegaze”, the band employs the use of non-traditional instruments. With one EP under their belt, ‘Hallucination of Beauty‘ is their first full length release and is a deep record oozing with eastern influence and clocks in at around 40 minutes over 8 tracks.

To best describe Tales of Murder and Dust’s sound, I would liken it to the slower styling of Earth mixed with the somber bleakness and sometimes dark feel of Jesu’sAcescension‘ album. The electro-accoustic guitar work is also eerily reminiscent of the work found on ‘Ascension‘ as well. While not directly post-rock, the band does borrow some post-rock influence such as the spiraling crescendos found in the background of “Hypnotized Narcissist”. Vocals are generally of the shoegaze variety with heavily filtered or echoed effects. ‘Hallucination of Beauty’ is an extremely well built album that flows exceptionally well and never fails to maintain the listeners interest. For that the band should be extremely proud. Tales of Murder and Dust are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Name your price on bandcamp: http://talesofmurderanddust.bandcamp.com/

Tales of Murder and Dust on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talesonline

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Like a Paperplane – Light EP – 88%

Light cover art

A four-piece from Florence, in the heart of the Tuscany region of Italy, Like a Paperplane released their short yet sweet 4-track 20 minute EP ‘Light‘ earlier this year. Like a Paperplane‘s sound revolves primarily around guitar-centric post-rock with most songs featuring leading guitar tracks that draw the listener’s attention rather than layered drone guitars. Ideally you would place Like a Paperplane somewhere in the God Is An Astronaut region of the post-rock genre. Just enough crescendo based work to be considered somewhat heavy, but primarily post-rock that you would consider “pretty” akin to Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, etc.

Each of the four tracks on this EP are distinct in their own rights. “#8” features prog-rock guitar work that swirls throughout the track while “Light,now” is a more straightforward crescendo-core third wave post-rock track. “Basement” builds upon itself and goes through several peaks and valleys amidst multiple tempo changes. “Memories” has Collapse Under The Empire / God is an Astronaut written all over it with its relaxing and laid back aura.

Although short, ‘Light‘ is the perfect kind of EP you can put on in the background on repeat and forget about as it replays itself multiple times over. It’s an impressive little EP with a big heart that leads me to believe big things are ahead from this talented italian post-rock band.

name your price on bandcamp: http://likeapaperplane.bandcamp.com/

Like a Paperplane facebook: http://www.facebook.com/likeapaperplane

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Sunlight Ascending – Leaving My Waiting Room – 94%

Leaving My Waiting Room cover art

Sunlight Ascending are a Michigan-based post-rock band who recently partook in the growing trend of using Kickstarter as a way to finance their latest release. ‘Leaving My Waiting Room’ managed to successfully hit it’s financing goal and as a result Postrockstar has one final album to review as we say goodbye to 2012. The unsigned 5-piece band, who have played over 200 shows in their 5 or so years together, can be classified as a straight forward post-rock band who have a knack for experimentation in the more ambient or quieter side of the genre while still occasionally dabbling with shoegaze stylings.

Standing tall at over an hour-long over 12 tracks, the album opens with “The Dhanbad Rails” following the short intro track “Reductio Ad Absurdum”. Pulsating drums and low-lying bass lead into an upbeat and fast paced track that eventually comes a crawl halfway through amidst what would be considered “pretty” guitar work before burning out in a sparkling finale. The first few minutes of this song alone can tell you that this is a much more mature Sunlight Ascending. “Vladdie” brings the energy down and is a relaxing number with a gorgeous atmospheric aura and acoustics. “Gleaming Pole” also follows the quieter route as a lush soundscape with a consistent beat as a nice touch to keep it being too ambient. The beat serves a second purpose as it’s used to transition into “Multivac“, which is where the album really starts to gain in intensity. This track really gives off a strong Russian Circles vibe around the 2 minute mark when the heavy distortion kicks in and that comparison is further justified by the drumming patterns later in the track.

“The Wind Factory” is one of my favorite tracks on the album but the transition to this track from “Multivac” is somewhat awkward. “The Wind Factory” is a straight-laced post-rock track driven by multiple guitar layers that compliment one another beautifully. “Picking Up Where We Left Off” is by far and away my favorite track on the album, starting off with airy guitar work which slowly builds into a sea of spiraling crescendo based guitar work before closing strong with a lightly distorted high energy finish. The song is essentially a sampler pack of all the amazing tones found throughout the album. “They’re Lonelier On The Outside” is a short yet unique track that uses the sound of a wind up clock that tics throughout the track. I’ve always been a fan of weird, unusual samples throughout music and this is as clever as it gets.

Kalkaska” is a cheery guitar driven track complimented by strong drumming and high-pitched crescendos. After a short lull in the middle of the song it goes on to a make a huge comeback in a picture perfect post-rock build up and finale. A smooth transition leads us into “Gamma” which quickly elevates the sound levels with looming guitars and either deep bass or an extremely downtuned guitar that occupies the front of the mix. “Inamovable” is a heartfelt song dripping with pure emotion featuring soft and sensual piano work. essentially this track feels like a perfect blend between The American Dollar and Mono, which I’d like to think is as high of a compliment as I could possibly give this song. The title track is the closing track on the album and is a track that comes out with guns blazing and is high energy right from the opening moments. I feel like this track is something of a retrospective of the whole album and showcases a little bit of each of the band’s different sounds and elements. The guitar work is tireless and the song is well-built, as is almost all the work found on the album. All in all the track makes for a real satisfying closer.

‘Leaving My Waiting Room’ is a much more focused sounding album when compared to the band’s 2010 release ‘You Don’t Belong Here’ and if anything sounds more like a continuation of their even earlier 2009 work ‘All the Memories, All at Once’. Sunlight Ascending create the sort of music that just leaves you in a good mood regardless of how bad your day may have been. For that the band gets big ups in my book. This is Sunlight Ascending‘s best work to date and is an album I certainly wouldn’t sleep on. 12/31/12

Available for $10 on bandcamp: http://sunlight-ascending.bandcamp.com/album/leaving-my-waiting-room

Sunlight Ascending on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sunlightascending

Psychojet – The Sea is Never Full – 84%

The Sea Is Never Full cover art

Psychojet is a four piece band from Belfast that Postrockstar writer Zicowoods plays bass in. I promised him that when his band released their album one of us would gladly review it, but make no mistake, there will be no favoritism shown here. Released earlier this month, Psychojet‘s debut release is ‘The Sea is Never Full‘ and is just over 26 minutes of music spanned across 7 tracks. While the band describes themselves as “contemporary instrumental” I’d like to think the band fits somewhere near the ranks of And So I Watch You From Afar and Mental Architects with their brand of playful yet textured upbeat post-rock.

Latitudes” kicks the album off and is infectiously catchy tune served medium rare with a warm spiraling crescendo center. “Fibonacci” is next up and opens with a guitar tone that seems reminiscent of 80’s surfer-rock. This uptempo track is one of those fun tracks that always seems to get stuck in your head. Guitar work is bright and cheerful and the textures compliment one another quite well. “False Cresendo” is where the band shows off some of their more technical side with stellar guitar work and solid song writing.

“The Quiet Approach” is a shorter track that  feels a lot like an ambient track being covered by a post-rock band. I know that might sound crazy, but the song has a very minimalist feel to it until it reaches the ending 30 seconds or so. This track leads into “No Good (Start The Dance)” , which feels either like an expansion to the previous track or a transitional track however you look at it. “7/6” is the most upbeat track on the album and is a song you just can’t help but bob your head to. I guess you can call me a sucker for a catchy guitar hook. The album wraps up with “When Today Ends”, easily the best work on the album and feels like the most complete and focused track. Ending an album on a strong note is never a bad idea.

‘The Sea is Never Full’ is one of those albums that seems like the perfect introductory album for someone just getting into post-rock. At only 26 minutes, I found myself wanting just a few more minutes of music. Still though, I find this album to be a solid debut by a band whose future is as a bright as their tones. 12-25-12

Name your price on bandcamp: http://psychojet.bandcamp.com/

Psychojet’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/psychojetband?fref=ts

Echotide – As Our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn – 98%

Australia has been a great source for post/math-rock in recent years, with bands such as sleepmakeswaves, Meniscus, This Is Your Captain Speaking and Tangled Thoughts of Leaving all finding critical acclaim and recognition world-wide. Echotide, from Brisbane, is the latest band to join the ranks. With its meandering trajectory and atmospheric explorations, ‘As Our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn’ is one of the most interesting and enthralling post-rock releases of 2012.

Echotide have been described as a piano-led post-rock band. This is true — to which the intro of the first track will attest — but it might also give entirely the wrong impression as to what to expect from this album. ‘As Our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn’ is not as bright or particularly pretty an album as some piano-fronted post-rock bands tend to make (Not to Reason Why, for example, should not be compared with Echotide). Beyond its welcoming piano melody, “Of Addictions” introduces us to some of the aggressive elements of Echotide‘s sonic palette, with its rising crescendo of guttural guitar riffs and crash-heavy drumming. This opening track is a decent enough song, sharing likenesses to bands such as pg.lost, Beware of Safety and perhaps to some extent ISIS. “Of Addictions” is far from the best that this album has to offer, however; and besides, before long it becomes apparent that Echotide are not really about the “song” at all — they are about the experience; the journey. This may seem clichéd a notion when describing post-rock or progressive rock bands; but in actuality, few bands of this ilk sew the seems quite as smoothly or satisfyingly as Echotide do. Between each crescendo or climax sit minutes upon minutes of suspenseful lulls and calms-after-storms. In some instances these take the form of simple-yet-mournful ambient swells. In others we’re introduced to lonesome and scene-setting samples and field recordings. Echotide explore all of the corners around each song; turning stones that lesser bands might have ignored entirely. Each lengthy transition builds upon the foundations set before it, until an atmosphere is crafted so dense that you might lose yourself in it. Perhaps this unhurried approach can be accredited to the five long years spent crafting this album. Without an impatient label or fanbase clamoring for their next fix, Echotide have had the time to let their music expand in an organic nature, and it’s certainly paid off.

This isn’t to say that the tracks themselves are nothing without their wandering transitions. “3mwy (Of Hope)” is a catchy and gloriously uplifting song that would be a competent candidate for a post-rock “single”; and “Embers Glow” demonstrates some of the more beautiful and intricate uses of classical strings in a post-rock crescendo since Yndi Halda or even Godspeed You! Black Emperor were hot on the scene. This is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year, or even in years; and is, unfortunately, destined to go unnoticed by most. Don’t make the mistake of passing this up.

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://echotide.bandcamp.com/

Band facebook: http://www.facebook.com/echotide

Rhone – Inter Sidera – 88%

Inter Sidera LP cover art

Rhone are four piece post-rock band from Chicago, IL who describe themselves as a “new flavor to the genre” on their facebook page despite being only 9 months old. I was introduced to them through my friend and fellow post-rock addict Will Hough, who’s photography happens graces the cover of their debut album ‘Inter Sidera’.

Topping 35 minutes across 5 tracks, Rhone brings to the table with ‘Inter Sidera’ a calming, subdued style of post-rock. Their sound generally falls somewhere between a mix of The End of the Ocean and Long Distance Calling. Even though the album shows some of the telltale signs of standard third wave post-rock, I think this can be largely overlooked. The band unquestionably has their own distinctive style and sound, traits that are necessary to stand out in a genre full of crescendo-laiden build ups and monumental break downs. One aspect of the album that really stood out to me is the drumming, which is very front sounding and dominant in the mix. “Makeshift House” is perhaps the best example of this and is also my favorite track on the album. Between the drums and fantastic chill guitar work, this is the perfect song to just let the mind wander.

Before I go any further, I’d like to stop leading you to believe that this album is all cheerful, happy post-rock because that isn’t the case. “To and From” goes on a tirade of sludge inspired guitar-work and is really the start of a transformation in the album where the music takes a serious turn as if to say “play time is over”. Ultra bright layered guitar work with just the right amount of echo plays on in despair before ending in a screeching static filled crash. “Death of a Curse” continues to play on this darker approach and I think is the track where the band’s true potential shines through. A slow brooding track, “Death of a Curse” is the most complete track on the album and really brings out a more focused, deeper side of the band that is the other four tracks only show hints of.

“Monolith” serves well as the albums closing track and is full of rich bassy distortion guitar combined with arching crescendos in the distant beyond of the mix. In the closing moments the guitar work really breaks free and goes off on a tangent, offering a glimpse of what could be in the future for the band. To be perfectly honest the first time I heard the closing minute of this album I was really disappointed that the album didn’t feature more guitar work of this style.

Overall I think that Rhone makes a really strong showing with this debut. Despite being relatively new on the scene, the band has already shared stages with the likes of fellow Chicago natives Sioum and Rocket Miner, two similarly smaller midwest bands also carving a name for themselves. The band certainly has the potential to succeed in the genre and ‘Inter Sidera’ is definitely worth checking out in my book.

Name your price on bandcamp: http://rhonechicago.bandcamp.com/

Rhone’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/rhoneband

We Always Think That There Will Be More Time – Unreviewed albums of 2012 Part 3

Here is  yet another installment of albums that we were unable to review in 2012 that we think you will enjoy..

Bear the Mammoth – ‘In Absence’ EP

In Absence cover art

Powerful crescendo-based post-rock from Australia

Available for $3 on bandcamp

Bear the Mammoth facebook page

Loipe -‘Loipe

Loipe cover art

Heavy Drone-based Post-Rock from Germany

Available for free on bandcamp

Loipe facebook page

Constants – ‘Pasiflora’

Pasiflora cover art

Shoegaze/Dream Pop from Boston, MA

Available for $6 on bandcamp

Constants facebook page

MinionTV – ‘The Last Projectionist’

The Last Projectionist cover art

Liverpool post-rockers that are always experimenting with their sound

Available for $1 on bandcamp

MinionTV facebook page

Skye’s Diamond – ‘Chorus EP’

Chorus EP cover art

Solo ambient project from London

Name your price on bandcamp

Skye’s Diamond Facebook page

Brian Eno – Lux – 97%

When I first started listening to post-rock and ambient music, one of the first albums I found was Brian Eno‘s ‘Music for Airports’. I remember sitting in my room, transfixed, as this new genre of music started to change the purview of my limited musical knowledge. I started listening to every ambient album I could find, but something about Eno made me constantly go back. I eventually found myself playing a loop of his ambient albums, his albums with Robert Fripp, and my personal favorite: ‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’Eno changed my perception of what music could do.

 Now I sit here after spending the past few weeks listening to Brian Eno’s latest album, ‘Lux‘, and finding myself remembering and reliving why his music is so beautiful. There is no singular stunning track on this album that builds to a peak or follows a stereotypical structure. This album is made of four tracks that have their own distinctions, but those distinctions are set in compliment with each other. That means that this album is easily perceived as one long track, and there’s nothing I can see that would be wrong about such an assumption.

The music takes Eno back to the roots of his creation—ambient music. You could call this Ambient 5 and I don’t think you’d be too far off.  To compare this to an earlier work is something I’m not keen on doing. I will say that if you’re a fan of ‘Apollo’, ‘Discreet Music’ or even ‘The Plateaux of Mirror’, you’ll love this album.

So what does it sound like? That’s a tricky question. Each track is calm and lucid, punctuated by the chime of piano keys. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a simplistic pattern being repeated and altered throughout each track. The album is minimalistic and reflects Eno’s famous idea that this is music that can be ignored. Turn the volume halfway down and do something else. The music will move you in some way. I can imagine this album becoming a favorite of those that love falling asleep to tranquil sounds. I find myself doing the same.

The album has a soothing and almost pensive effect on the listener. Describing exactly what this is seems to take away from the point. What Brian Eno has produced is something beautiful and something worth hearing. He’s stepped back into the world of ambiance to show how it’s done.

For what it is meant to be, this album is as close to perfect as it comes. Brian Eno proves again that he is one of the leading musicians of our age. Listen to this album at home before bed or during a morning commute. See what the simplicity of the notes does to you and you’ll see power of ambient music.

Available in digital format for $8 on Enoshop

Also available on Amazon