Our Ceasing Voice – That Day Last November

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Artist Our Ceasing Voice
Album That Day Last November
Genre Post-rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
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Label Frontal Noize (CD) / Revolvermann Records (Vinyl)
Released Jan 18 2013
Rating Very Good

Our Ceasing Voice have always been a group whose command of atmosphere and visual soundscapes is one that rivals even the most gargantuan of post-rock acts. So much so, in fact, that their music can quite comfortably sit alongside some of the darker, more sorrowful metal bands, such as Neurosis or Amenra, despite Our Ceasing Voice not being a particularly heavy band themselves. This is in large part due to the emphasis on bass, and the very low, deep end of the musical spectrum. Many songs may contain huge crescendos that carry with them high, soaring guitar lines – and they’re always sensational – however these unquestionably flutter atop a relentlessly dark and atmospheric backdrop (painted by the bass guitar and synths) that never abates. Another element that lends credence to earlier comparisons with post-metal bands is the occasional use of very deep and mournful southern/folk vocals. However this aspect of Our Ceasing Voice‘s sound has never previously been at the forefront of their compositions; on 2011’s ‘When the Headline Hit Home’, vocals intermittently appear to lend a sense of traversal to the music – a kind of piecemeal reward for journeying across the vast landscapes crafted by long instrumental passages. For all of the above reasons, ‘When the Headline Hit Home’ was an exceptionally masterful experience that went criminally under-discovered for the longest time. It’s now 2013, and we have a new record to mull over. So how has the band’s sound changed in the two years since ‘When the Headline Hit Home’, urm, hit home? Well quite a lot, in fact.

Our Ceasing Voice‘s latest release, ‘That Day Last November’, is “a dark and gloomy record, situated between hypnotizing ambient and something that once was post-rock”; or at least that’s the assertion made in the press release for ‘That Day Last November’. “Dark and gloomy” is exactly what one would expect from an Our Ceasing Voice release, and such a description fits the bill as snugly as it did two years ago. “Something that once was post-rock”? This part sounds a tad pretentious. It’s not wrong though. As a supposed post-rock band, they are one of the more difficult to pin down, genre-wise – now more than ever before.

Right out of the gate, the opening one-two punch of “Afterglow” and “Until Your Chest Explodes” demonstrates that Our Ceasing Voice are no longer a post-rock band working their next attempt at perfecting a widely-understood formula. If anything, they had already achieved this in years prior and are ready to move on; as such, genre constraints no longer bind them. A newfound vocal diversity is showcased in “Afterglow”, featuring gruff vocals in addition to some strained yells bringing a rich and multi-layered quality to the opening track. Pushing the envelope even further, “Until Your Chest Explodes” features surprisingly clean and melodic vocals (though a mournful rasp still lingers), courtesy of Matthew Ryan, with such a conventional song structure that could in a sense be compared with stadium indie rockers, such as – and bear with me here – Snow Patrol. I’m talking structurally, not sonically. The song plods through a long, lyrics-centric verse devoid of any significant dynamic changes, before exploding in a final chorus featuring big, melodic hooks and, again, layered vocals. “Until Your Chest Explodes” could be considered Our Ceasing Voice‘s “pop song”, and it’s great too; although make no mistake, it will not be crossing the radiowaves any time soon. If there’s a recurring theme here – it’s vocals. In 2013, Our Ceasing Voice are making music that reflects where they are as artists and what it is that they want to achieve. Right now they have chosen to favour explicit storytelling over the implicit narrative formed by sweeping instrumentals. As such, this is not ‘When the Headline Hit Home: Part 2’.

And that’s where this album gives me a slight bitter taste. Slight. The increased use of vocals should not necessarily be a condemning characteristic of an album. But when a band is so adept at crafting exquisitely dense and dark atmospheres, it somewhat detracts from this strength when lead vocals are brought so far forward in the mix. Such descriptive and narrative lyrics (for example in “One of These Nights”: “The days passed slowly yet darkness came fast and, while the thin coffee in his dirty cup went from cool to cold, he sat quietly and rolled another cigarette”) were written to be heard – that much is clear. And so they should be; Our Ceasing Voice write lyrics so detailed and intriguing that you can’t help but want to process them. But as you’re doing so, the music in the background – far away in the background – is almost entirely dismissed. There is a balance to maintain and I feel that Our Ceasing Voice have at times embraced their new-found narrative focus so tightly as to neglect the importance of instrumental prowes.

But there’s a flip-side, and I feel as though there are audiences that will absorb this new style of songwriting with absolute elation. A somewhat similar album, FareWell Poetry‘s 2011 release ‘Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite’ was a critical darling, and if you’re one of the many who really enjoyed the poetic aspects of FareWell Poetry‘s music, then I might have just found you your new favourite record in ‘That Day Last November’. Furthermore, such an emphasis on vocals and more “typical” song structures enables individual tracks to establish their own identities. Where ‘When the Headline Hit Home’ was a singular journey, ‘That Day Last November’ is a smorgasbord of memorable moments, propelled only more gratifyingly by the rich diversity of vocal deliverance; for example the powerfully-booming spoken-word segments in “One of These Nights” and, most impressively, the desperate and electric screams used to build songs such as “What Used to Be a Battle Song” and “The City that Once Had a Name” to blood-boiling climaxes.

Our Ceasing Voice have crafted an intricate and interesting record in ‘That Day Last November’; one that it is difficult to not enjoy. The extent to which you enjoy this album, however, is dependent upon you – your tastes as a music fan. To those with a penchant for variety, hooks and more refined “songwriting”: you might just prefer this new album. To those who yearn for sweeping, journeying and epic post-rock music: you might, on the other hand, be faced with minor disappointment at the helm of this new record – especially if you’re a fan of ‘When the Headline Hit Home’. But in the end, ‘That Day Last November’ is an album that you should check out, because regardless of on which side of the fence you reside, Our Ceasing Voice are a talented and creative bunch of musicians dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what they and their peers are capable of creating, and they’ve crafted an album that should be celebrated by fans and critics alike.

Download Caspian’s 2012 Audiotree session

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Popular post-rock band Caspian have just announced that their recorded performance at the Audiotree Studios from September 2012 is now available to purchase. This event was live streamed on the internet and offered the chance for viewers to preview material from the as-of-then unreleased album ‘Waking Season’, which became the runner-up for Post-Rockstar’s Album of the Year Award for 2012. This download costs $8.99 and includes high definition video and audio files of the entire set. The download can be found at the link below, and the track list is as follows:

1. “Some are White Light”
2. “Gone in Bloom and Bough”
3. “Halls of the Summer”
4. “Sycamore”

Stream and purchase: http://audiotree.tv/session/caspian/

Tortuganónima – ‘Tortuganónima’

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Artist Tortuganónima
Album Tortuganónima
Genre Math-Rock / Post-Rock / Instrumental
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Label Independent
Released Jan 13 2013
Rating Solid

Tortuganónima are a relatively undiscovered 4-piece Math-rock/post-rock band from Chile. The band lists the likes of The Mars Volta, GY!BE, Toe and Don Caballero among others under their influences via their facebook page. Other than that there really doesn’t appear to be too much out there for information on the band.  There is however, their self titled debut album, released independently via bandcamp on January 13th and it is quite good. So good in fact that despite just over 300 likes on facebook and barely a web presence, the band has caught the attention of Postrockstar. Hopefully by the end of this review we can help this album get the attention it definitely deserves.

The seven-track 32 minute album opens with “Interludio” which starts things off immediately as a medium-tempo post-rock track. I like that the band decided to open the album this way rather than with a slow build up track, it just feels more appropriate given that there is also a fair amount of math-rock to be found on the album. Drummer Andrés shows impressive talent in “Interludio” especially near the end of the track as it breaks down. After a short sample (in spanish I believe), we have “____” which is a spastic math-rock track that opens with scaling guitars before settling down and falling into a nice groove. Cymbals are a little excessive in this track, but cymbals are a little excessive in almost all-post-rock, so I’ve learned to live with it.

I have to say that any band that is willing to name a track “Morgan Freeman” gets a thumbs up in my book. The track is a mathy continuation of the previous track but does include a Morgan Freeman sample from the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” in the middle of the track. This track maintains high energy throughout and I feel like it would make for a really fun live track. At over 7 minutes, “Bordis” is the longest track on the album and showcases excellent song writing. Math-Rock tracks generally exceed a few minutes in length so to see a 7 minute track manage to grab my attention and never let go says to me this is a band that has talent. The distortion layers later in the track really stand out and I really wish the band would have utilized this sound more throughout the album.

Kokoschka” starts off relatively heavy compared to the rest of the material with multi-layered distortion tones and a much quicker tempo than previous songs. The sample and the far-out guitar work that spirals out of control in the middle of the track makes “‘Kokoschka” the most fun track on the album. “Margen De Error” feels very much like a math-rock vs post-rock hybrid track as the track has both styles of guitar work that seem to clash at times. Finally, the album comes to close with “Dan Cob” which brings the energy levels down just a little bit and really sees the band break out of their shell with a little bit of experimentation. While the band’s work does come off as technically sound, most of the tracks seem somewhat similar to one another. “Dan Cob” breaks that trend and for that I think it is my favorite track on the album.

The band’s talent is undeniable and overall this is a SOLID math-rock album. On the downside, the production qualities are noticeably below average and the album is lacking the polish of a proper audio engineering and mastering. This is completely understandable and forgivable as I absolutely understand these independent releases are generally self funded, but still I feel like it should be pointed out. That being the only true downside to this album, Tortuganónima’s debut is a fun, quirky album that should undoubtedly find it’s place into the collection of math-rock fans. 1-16-13

Heaven on Howitzers – “Hum “I” Eternally at the Heart of the Universe”

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Artist Heaven on Howitzers
Album ‘Hum “I” Eternally at the Heart of the Universe’
Genre Post-rock / Instrumental
Buy/DL Bandcamp
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Label Independent
Release Jan 7 2013
Rating Very Good

Heaven on Howitzers are a 3-piece post-rock band from Minneapolis, MN who kicked off 2013 by releasing their debut album ‘Hum “I” Eternally at the Hearts of the Universe’. Interesting enough, the band actually released this album on cassette in addition to on their bandcamp page. Bringing back the cassette tape? I can get behind that movement. Sorry to my fellow audiophiles, but I have nothing but good memories growing up with my Sony Walkman listening to The Batman Soundtrack, Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ and TLC’s ‘Crazy Sexy Cool’ in the back of the school bus to the jealousy of all the other kids who were forced to listen to the bus driver’s country radio station every morning and afternoon.

Well, now that we’ve traveled down memory lane, let’s get back to the album at hand. Fans of heavily distorted post-rock should fall in love with this release as it is bursting at the seams with darkly distorted tones. The influence from Godspeed You! Black Emperor is definitely noticeable and while I hate to compare two relatively smaller regional bands to one another, I simply can’t overlook the direct similarities between Heaven on Howitzers and Seattle-based X-Suns.

‘Hum “I” Eternally at the Heart of the Universe’ is a very busy album despite clocking in just over 32 minutes. Those 32 minutes are split across 10 tracks, with only two of those tracks being longer than five minutes long. This is very uncharacteristic of a post-rock band but the band makes it work by having all of the songs sort of flow into one another so the album feels somewhat like one long track. Still though, I find myself often wishing that tracks like “Conch Pistol” and “Sway Honey” were just a couple of minutes longer. The tracks are ripe with character but generally end just as you began to drift away within the atmospheric distortion and backgrounds chalked full of spiraling crescendo guitar work.

Undoubtedly my favorite track on the album is the nearly 6-minute long “Crunch Feather”, where the band’s talent and song-writing abilities really shines through. With most of the songs being so short, it’s really tough to get an idea of what the band is truly made of. This track shows us that the band is capable of writing excellent sustained post-rock tracks at the typical length you’d come to expect a straight forward post-rock song to be. It should also be mentioned that the two-part “Great Hills” series that bookend the album are also prime examples of the band’s talent shining through.

Aside from the short tracks, my only other gripe with the album that is on rare occasions the drums feel a tad too artificial and generic. This is a very minor gripe and the guitar work and tones more than make up for it. ‘Hum…’ is a great starting point for a young band who’s upside is relatively bright. They band has distanced their sound far enough from the standard crescendo-core sound that their tracks are memorable even after just a few listens. In a genre where it’s easy to forget the names of bands once you hit the “shuffle” button, Heaven on Howitzers is a band that certainly stands out, and that’s one of the best characteristics a young band could have.

Postrockstar’s 2012 Year End Awards

As we write the final chapter of the book of 2012, We leave you with our year end wrap up awards that encompasses everything that our site strives to accentuate within the realm of post-rock. It was a huge year for post-rock that saw the return of two of the genres biggest bands and many new bands emerge and make their names known. I’d like to think of 2012 as a year that really saw the genre explode creativity wise, as what is most commonly referred to as the “third wave” post-rock revival seems to be coming to something of an end. While crescendo-core still remains as popular as ever, a lot of bands have begun branching off in different directions exploring exciting new sounds. Where are we headed in 2013? Who really knows, but Postrockstar is optimistic for the future and can’t wait to start helping our readers discover new music.  All of our decisions were made by a panel of our writers and were discussed at extremely great lengths. These albums stood head and shoulders above the rest in their respective categories and for that we’re endorsing them as the best releases of 2012. Without further ado, the awards…

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Sigur Ros – ‘Valtari’
Review | Buy Album | Facebook
Honorable Mention: Caspian – ‘Waking Season’

“Sigur Ros return from hiatus to reclaim their spot at the top of the post-rock genre. Valtari to me presents the best range of emotion, song structure, raw ability and timelessness showcased in any album released in 2012 and for that it deserves all the praise it has gotten.”  – IamHop

EP OF THE YEAR

The End of the Ocean – ‘In Excelsis’
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Honorable Mention: EF – ‘Delusions of Grandeur’

“I’ve maintained that if the EP was just two songs longer it would still be among the best albums released this year. The End of the Ocean are a band with unlimited potential and this EP showed true promise for a bright future.” – IamHop

SHOEGAZE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Whirr – ‘Pipe Dreams’
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“Carrying a more downtrodden tone than their previous releases (Distressor, and the June 7″), Pipe Dreams cements Whirr as one of the leading bands of the modern shoegaze scene. This is a band that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of shoegaze a bit (see ‘Formulas and Frequencies’), and this album excels for that.” – ShaneXedge

POST-METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

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Amenra – ‘Mass V’
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“The long awaited newest album from Amenra delivered on all fronts, and with its release, the band stood tall amongst their contemporaries (and even some of their predecessors). With so many great post-metal releases this year, there was a lot of competition, but “Mass V” was the obvious pick for best of the year.” – ShaneXedge

MATH-ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Mental Architects – ‘Celebrations’
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“This album is everything that a math-rock album should be in that it doesn’t try to do too much. All of the tracks have great synergy and the energy remains high from start to finish. Most Math-Rock albums tend to peak early and slowly fizzle at maintaining my interest after multiple listens. “Celebrations” just keeps getting better.”IamHop

AMBIENT ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Good Weather For An Airstrike – ‘Underneath the Stars’
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“Underneath the Stars is an album that allows itself to be discovered on the listener’s own terms. It’s understated; it’s sparse; and it has an expansive atmosphere, so pure and vacuous that your deepest thoughts can’t help but wander into it. This is Good Weather for an Airstrike’s magnum opus — a powerful catalyst for your mind’s own voyage.”Shooter

ELECTRONIC BASED POST-ROCK/AMBIENT ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Watermark High – ‘Slow Motion Clarity’
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“Many post-rock bands utilize electronics to infuse their music with energy and intrigue. What makes Slow Motion Clarity stand above the rest is the way in which the electronic elements supplement the album’s lush, almost aquatic atmosphere, without ever detracting from the organic nature of the guitars with which they interplay.” – Shooter

DEBUT ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Echotide –  ‘As our Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn’
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This is one of the most confident realizations of the “one long song” approach to album composition that I’ve ever heard. It has the strange atmosphere of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the hard edge of Gifts from Enola; the melody of Mono; and the flow of Do Make Say Think. And it’s arguable better than many of those bands’ works. Lose yourself in this.– Shooter

MOST IMPROVED BAND OF THE YEAR

Sunlight Ascending
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“‘Leaving My Waiting Room’ is a much more focused sounding album when compared to the band’s 2010 release ’You Don’t Belong Here’. It really just seemed like something just clicked for the band while recording this album and they took their music to the next level. This is Sunlight Ascending‘s best work to date and is an album I certainly wouldn’t sleep on.”IamHop

BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE

Alcest – ‘Les Voyages De L’ame’
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“Despite the fact that I don’t speak or understand french, I still find the vocals found on Alcest’s ‘Les Voyages De L’ame’ to be utterly breathtaking.  Dynamic range, brilliant harmonies, voices full of emotion and the occasional black-metal shriek made this album absolutely shine brighter than the rest.” – IamHop

BEST USE OF NON-TRADITIONAL OR STRING INSTRUMENTS

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Balmorhea – ‘Stranger’
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“I’ve always loved Balmorhea for their ability to make unique music not confined by the restraints of a genre. This album solidifies that motif. You can hear the thought and dedication that went into each track and the musicianship at work. They aren’t afraid to change their sound and take chances, and this album proves that effort pays off.”Bryan

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Fire Spoken By the Buffalo – ‘Air Your Grievance’
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“Fire Spoken By the Buffalo’s decision to incorporate post-punk screamo vocals into their brand of well-rounded post-rock took “Air Your Grievances” from a once highly anticipated album to a tragic mess in my books. The vocals did the band no real favors and definitely turned away more post-rock fans than just myself.” – IamHop

New Cloudkicker song premiere

Multi-instrumentalist Cloudkicker has just released a new song, entitled “Hello”. It appears that this 10 minute–long experimental track is a standalone song, not yet scheduled to appear on an upcoming release. As with all of Cloudkicker‘s releases, “Hello” can be downloaded for free (or name your price) on Bandcamp (see below for link). In addition, an 18″x18″ silk-screened art print version can be purchased for $25, of which 100 signed copies are available. Last year, Post-Rockstar awarded Cloudkicker‘s ‘Fade’ an outstanding 98%, in a review that can be found here.

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Bandcamp: http://cloudkicker.bandcamp.com/album/hello

Staff Picks 2012 – Will Hough’s top 10 albums of 2012

As we conclude our staff picks weeks, we wrap up with a very special guest. As he’s basically a walking encyclopedia full of post-rock knowledge, we asked photographer and friend of the site Will Hough (http://www.willhough.net/) to participate in our staff picks week. Although he refused to rank the albums, he did give us his top 10 favorite albums of the year in no particular order.

Be sure to check out the site on Wednesday when we bring 2012 to a close by posting our big “Year In Review: Postrockstar Awards 2012  !”

Toundra – Toundra II


Líam – MMIX


Maria Isn’t a Virgin Anymore – The Fall Of Public Man

Marriages – Kitsune

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend


Psychojet – The Sea Is Never Full


Powder! Go Away – We don’t know when it has begun, but we know that it will never end


Astralia – Astralia


Rhone – Inter Sidera LP


Maserati – Maserati VII