Nomads – Nomads

NOMADS cover art

Artist Nomads
Album Nomads
Genre Post-Rock / Ambient
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Label Independent
Release 24 Dec 2012
Rating Solid

Nomads are an unsigned 3-piece band post-rock band from Ohio, which has quietly overtaken Texas as the most dominant post-rock region in America. Despite very little promotion, their self-titled debut album has been streamed over 10,000 times on bandcamp in its first month. For being a 100% self-produced album the production qualities are solid, far more so than the majorities of releases we’ve seen so far in 2013.  The band’s style is primarily straight forward 3rd wave post-rock that walks on the lighter side of the genre.

The 11-track, 42-minute album kicks off with a short one minute piano intro “Moses” before leaping into “Cleaveland On The Square“, a track that doesn’t try to do too much by staying relatively mellow. Smooth bass lines flow as free as the cymbals that crash in wide open spaces as guitar work drives the track forward. “Surveying The Western Reserve” is a track that optimizes the peaks and valleys post-rock formula by coming to a snail’s pace lull at multiple points in the track. The valleys are relatively ambient “twinkly” moments while the peaks build to the point where you think the band is ready to shed the lighter aura they’ve created on the album. It’s almost as if the band has chosen to be tastefully loud to play it safe, finding a happy medium as not to turn away ambient fans while still satisfying those who prefer the heavier breakdowns the post-rock genre offers.

“Heading North” is yet another one minute transitional track and while it serves its purpose, I would have rather seen this track and the two other one-minute transitional/setup tracks on the album worked into the tracks that lead into or follow them as to not unnecessarily inflate the track count. I suppose that’s a minor complaint though and the album is the same regardless. “Home” is the longest track on the album at over nine minutes in length and starts with an elegant piano intro that sees spiraling crescendo guitar-work hover in the deepest depths of the background as it slowly forges its way forward. With an ambient center that divides the track, “Home” finishing strong and giving the song a strong case for Nomad’s best work on this album.

Carter and The Banks of the Cuyahoga” opens with this really rustic guitar work that sets the track a part from the rest of the album. The drumming in this track catches the ear and the song itself is one of the heavier tracks found on the album. “Forest City” is a short little acoustic piece that fits in well leading up to “Unwritten Stories of the Towpath Trail” , a track in which deep bass give it a much heavier feel than it actually is. “Guardians of the City” is a wide open track that builds upon itself and before you really notice it simply overpowers you in its finale before the album comes to a close with the atmospheric ambience of “Peace on the Great Lake”.

While enjoyable, Nomad’s first effort didn’t blow me away by any means. There are certainly a lot of things musically that I like about this album and there are other things that can be improved upon. Save for “Home ” and “Carter and The Banks of the Cuyahoga“, I just found the band’s generally soft nature to be a little underwhelming and really wish the band had turned their heavy side loose a bit more. For that, I have to rate this album as solid. That being said I’m certain there will be others who fall in love with the very charming nature of this album. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit to see Nomads supporting some of the bigger post-rock names of the state of Ohio and the surrounding area in the future.

City of the Lost – At The Edge

At the Edge cover art

Artist City of the Lost
Album ‘At The Edge’
Genre Post-metal / Progressive
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Label Independent
Release Jan 7 2013
Rating Solid

City of the Lost are a three (soon to be four ?) piece band from Moscow, Russia who were formed in Late 2010. Since then they’ve put out three releases, including their latest ‘At The Edge’ , released on bandcamp on January 7th. Essentially City of the Lost is yet another solid post-rock/post-metal band that comes to us from Russia, a country that has really taken to the genre and in turn produced a handful of extremely talented and promising bands. The band incorporates a more progressive-rock mindset into their brand of post-metal, opting for sometimes flashy but almost always catchy guitar hooks and uptempo tracks rather than the standard slow, atmospheric build ups we come to expect in the genre.

“A Coming Storm” kicks off the 8-track 38 minute album and couldn’t be any more accurate. The track starts off fast with relatively little build up. The guitar work sounds like what you might expect to find here but combine with 80’s power metal solo’ing tones. The high energy pacing continues into “The Nightingale”, which quickly builds into a multi-layered giant ripe with solid distortion guitars and persistent drumming. There is some elements of crescendo-core to be found here but make no mistake, that’s not what this album is about. City of the Lost are a band that want to earn their stripes based on stellar guitar work that simply blows you away with pure rawness and power, not the finesse of crescendo-core. “Omen, Pt.1 (Temple Keepers)” feels more like a straightforward post-metal track and really takes the album up a notch in intensity. The track starts out really focused but towards the middle sort of takes a more experimental approach through a couple of tempo change before eventually settling back into a strong post-metal groove. “Back to the Future” is a really interesting track that has a total western surfer-rock groove to it. The tones are certainly different from what’s been shown anywhere else on the album.

From that point the album takes a really stark transition to “Rise As One” as the album settles back to its post-metal roots. In so many ways I find particularly this track but mostly just City of the Lost’s sound in general to be something of a cross between the intensity of Toundra and the general unpredictability of Cloudkicker‘s older work. “86 Days of Despair” teases a slow intro before immediately going into reserved yet heavy guitar riffs that would make the late Dimebag Darrel (Pantera) proud. There really is no downtime or breaks on this album, it’s just constantly streaming sick guitar segment after sick guitar segment with no signs of letting off the brakes. Normally I’d say that’s a good thing but I always think the band could have let off the gas pedal a little and offered longer passages one guitar layer. “Basilisk” returns ‘At the Edge’ to the more traditional post-metal realm and also throws some hints of doom metal into the mix.  The album wraps up with “Omen, Pt.2 (The Stargazer)” which for the most part is a relatively relaxed, slower paced track save for a hectic middle segment and a strong finish. It would have really been nice to see the band produced more songs of this nature. It just goes to show the band doesn’t need to rely on overwhelming power to still produce a solid song.

Following getting acquainted with the album I checked out some of the band’s earlier work and their musical progression became crystal clear. Each album tried to upstage the previous and the tracks became less and less linear. ‘At the Edge‘ certainly has the highest audio and production quality of their releases and without question the most energy out of all the band’s work. To me this means that the band is on the right track for success. ‘At The Edge‘ is a solid post-rock release that does everything it can to leave a solid first impression.

Oak – Not Afraid Anymore

Not Afraid Anymore cover art

Artist Oak
Album ‘Not Afraid Anymore’
Genre Post-rock / Instrumental
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Label Independent
Release Jan 19 2013
Rating Solid

‘Not Afraid Anymore’ is the first full length album from the French instrumental rock band Oak, and although it lies on the heavier end of the spectrum, it’s still undeniably post-rock. Treble guitar melodies akin to modern post-rock bands such as pg.lost take precedence over chugging guitar riffs and deep bass-lines; there is a mildly dark atmosphere to the album but it is not a resounding one. Despite the heaviness and focus on bright melody, what makes Oak different to the likes of pg.lost, for better or worse, is a lack of exploration into the dynamics of sound — a reluctance to explore both the very loud and the very quiet. Much of the music on ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ prefers to meander through different sounds — all guitar-based — with little deviation in volume. There are the climaxes you might expect from a post-rock record, but here it is less about the build-up and reward than it is the melodic wanderings and consistency of pace. The tempo is fairly constant, rendering an album that floats in and around you enjoyably, but doesn’t hit you with excitement or intrigue at many specific moments. So for this reason, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ can be enjoyed in every moment of music that’s on offer, rather than simple anticipation for what’s to come. The result is an album that sounds reminiscent of the music that Meniscus have released in the past few years. In fact, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ owes a lot to the Australian outfit, and this is one problem that I have with Oak‘s latest release — oftentimes I’d rather just listen to Meniscus. Oak unfortunately lack the more creative, noodly elements by which Meniscus excell so consistently. Though Oak arguably bridge the gap between the heavy, wandering sound of Meniscus and the pretty, melodic sound of pg.lost, I’m not sure that this was a gap that needed to be traversed in the first place.

There are moments during ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ in which the pace is picked up and excitement builds, for example towards the end of “Things Are Getting Bad”; but for those who are looking for excitement and drama in their post-rock, this might be too little, too late. The final two tracks, however, are where ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ really hits its stride, and this is in large part thanks to the brilliant use of a dialogue sample taken from the 2006 film ‘The Fountain’ by director Darren Aronofsky, that skirts the seams between the final two songs. This spoken-word segment — that beautifies so elegently the passage of life into death — is reminiscent of the sample used in ISIS‘s “The Red Sea” (until now my favourite sample in a rock song). The dialogue found here might be my new favourite sample, and it leaves me with a desire to watch ‘The Fountain’. The sample ends with the words “I’m Not Afraid Anymore Tommy” — a moment that builds excitement for the closing track, and signals the timely introduction of these excellent momentum-building drum rolls. This moment is undeniably the album’s highlight, and is the major reason for me wanting to return to ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ for repeated listens. It is a moment that rounds off an album that is rarely ever exhilerating, but consistently pleasing to the ears.

J.R. Alexander – Moments EP

Moments EP cover art

Artist J.R. Alexander
Album ‘Moments EP’
Genre Ambient/Electronic
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Label Sound in Silence Records
Release Dec 22 2012
Rating Solid

Some of you may recognize the name J.R. Alexander, who has released previous material under the moniker Message to Bears. The U.K. musician has 3 releases under Message to Bears, whose previous work can be described as ambient murmurings of the heart-warming variety, occasionally venturing into the folk genre with vocal laden tracks but for the most part could be considered lighter, subdued post-rock. Alexander has dropped the Message to Bears moniker for his latest EP, ‘Moments‘, which saw release through Sound in Silence Records and has already nearly sold out of physical copies. ‘Moments‘ in many ways treads upon Alexander’s previous musical ideology except with an added presence of electronica, glitch and downtempo influence.

Moments‘ is a 5-track, 15 minute moody yet ultimately relaxing EP that should encourage the mind to drift as any good post-rock release should.. While some post-rock purists will be quick to write off this release for the use of beats commonly associated with glitch/electronic genres, this EP is much more than just a shift in genres from a talented musician. Alexander has incorporated these new sounds into his soothing ambient offerings in a way so that it doesn’t feel unwelcome or done in haste. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Moments‘ is not an electronic post-rock release similar to that of The American Dollar nor does it feel like a proper electronic/glitch or downtempo album either. Rather it comes off unlike anything I’ve heard before. By combining gorgeous string instrument arrangements, elegant piano work and rusticly smooth acoustic guitar work with electronic-inspired beats Alexander has created a downtempo sound that quite frankly has me struggling to find the proper way to describe it.

The EP’s opening track, “Memories” embodies everything I’ve mentioned in the last paragraph and is a relaxed number that should captivate the imagination after your initial thoughts on the albums intro subside. “Walking Over Me” continues the album as a spacious sounding track with an infectious piano beat. Filtered vocal harmonies simply feel like yet another musical layer, similar to that of the way Jonsi of Sigur Ros uses his voice as instrument when singing his hopelandic gibberish. “When We Meet Again” feels like a companion reprisal to “Walking Over Me” and is closer to downtempo electronic than anything remotely post-rock. The track is embedded with heavy use of glitch electronics and a slow piano hook as a filtered vocal sample continually repeats itself on local. “I’m Glad” builds upon itself the way a traditional post-rock track would and showcases a very space age  16-bit video game like sound towards the middle of the track before finishing strong with a burst of acoustics and strings. “Goodbye” closes out the album with a more bassy tone, compelling string work and ambient rumblings that come and go on a moments notice.

To be completely blunt I’m not entirely sure if the post-rock crowd will be receptive to this EP. It’s really hard for me to make that call or any sort of assumption as I am a fan of electronica primarily of the downtempo variety. It’s certainly a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Message To Bears. However what makes this departure in sound so unique is that all of the musical craftsmanship of Alexander’s previous work is retained, just presented in a completely different manner.  My biggest problem with this release is that even for an EP it’s just far too short and for that I’m giving it a ‘solid’ rating. But other than that this EP is really enjoyable from start to finish and even if you are new to electronic music and come with an open mind I think a lot of post-rock fans could find it enjoyable too. 2/1/12

Lost in the Riots – Stranger in the Alps

Stranger in the Alps cover art

Artist Lost in the Riots
Album ‘Stranger in the Alps’
Genre Post-Rock
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Label Independent
Release Feb 5 2013
Rating Very Good

Writing is something that has always come natural to me, much akin to how some people are gifted at art or music from the moment they pick up their first pen, brush or instrument. Putting words on paper, or in most cases a notepad file just feels right to me. The same goes for post-rock, it just fits my personality and has slid into my life as no other musical genre has before. These two things, writing and post-rock have been the two constants that have remained throughout all of the shifting variables in my life. Time is everything and time is precious. The world doesn’t wait for anyone, so why would you possibly waste your time on things that no longer hold your interest? What I’m getting at here is a tale of how Lost in the Riots narrowly escaped the cruel fate of time by reentering my orbit with their latest release ‘Stranger in the Alps’.

I’m no stranger to this band. In 2011 the upstart British 4-piece put out the two-track EP ‘Sinking Ships’, which I immediately fell in love with. Despite poor equalization and mastering, the two tracks were as brilliant as they were compelling, from the opening swirling spirals of “Sinking Ships” to the catchy as hell layered guitar work of “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing”. The band reminded me a math-rock infused version of Toundra, creating their sound by compounding traditional post-rock elements upon well crafted memorable guitar riffs. I was excited for the potential for what Lost in the Riots could become. But as 2011 turned into 2012, ‘Sinking Ships’ started to lose its luster. After all, it is just two tracks long, which then became two overplayed tracks and by the end of 2012 the band had fallen completely off of my radar as Postrockstar chugged full steam ahead, our plate already full with albums we’d never have time to review as the ball dropped welcoming us into 2013.

Just as the fire I once had for this band was about to die, it was instantaneously reignited when I received an email from Lost in the Riots guitarist Adam Edwards with an invitation to listen to the album prior to its February 5th release and review it if I so pleased. Adam was as thrilled for my enthusiasm of his band as I was with the opportunity to review ‘Stranger in the Alps’, a second encounter with a band I once previously held near my heart. The nine tracks found on the album are reminiscent of the material on ‘Sinking Ships‘, but are noticeably more mapped out. Most songs on the front end of the album pack a considerable less punch, instead sporting a much more full, complete post-rock sound. That’s not to say the band hasn’t stayed true to the ‘Sinking Ships‘ formula.  “The City Burned” is a screamer that rivals those two tracks for the most riff-centric track the band has put out. However, unlike “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing” which was just 4 solid minutes of full steam ahead guitar insanity, “The City Burned” goes flat-out for a few minutes before gaining a second wind in the form of a quirky Maserati meets math-rock detour before finishing up strong. This sort of song progression shows a more refined style of song writing previously unseen during the band’s debut.

Much like how a post-rock song will trend upwards in intensity before reaching a breaking point, I feel that is how the band laid out the tracks for ‘Stranger in the Alps’. While the intro track, which also happens to be the title track, lacks the factor to overwhelm found in their 2011 work and also in the tracks on the back-end of this album, it does impress with that much more refined song writing I spoke of earlier. And don’t get me wrong, it’s still a heavy track, just a different sort of heavy. The track also shows the band’s more experimental side and just in general is a very busy track that offers a smorgasbord of different guitar styles. The next track, “Reset, Engage!” also feels a bit more on the experimental side with sporadic math-rock influences thrown in to break up the monotony of heavy downtuned carving guitar work.

I love the playful atmosphere of the track “Loki“, a warm and comforting song that I feel like I’ve been listening to for years. The energetic “Woo!” and solo guitar work is a clear homage to the band’s appreciation of And So I Watch You From Afar. The audio engineering in the layering in this track is wonderful also, everything feels so spacious and instruments feel separated enough to key into specific layers of the song. “Pearl River Delta” caught me off guard with its abundance of spiral laden guitar work among a track that starts off fairly relaxed and pedestrian. The chanting finale to this track is easily a highlight of the album to me. A short interlude at the end of the track leads into “Boats Against the Current” which pairs well with the previous track as it follows suit in opting for a quieter approach with a couple of screeching spiraling guitar peaking points for good measure.

‘Stranger in the Alps’ begins to switch gears with “Sentinels“. If the previous two tracks had in any way, shape or form put you in a lull, “Sentinels” is a heavy downtuned track ready to recapture your attention. Fellow postrockstar writer Bothra critiques post-rock bands by asking himself if he could name the artist if he heard their songs in a playlist of post-rock tracks on shuffle. If he could pick them out he considers the band to be unique and therefore good. I think that this is a solid barometer to measure the potential of any band really, especially post-rock bands as so many of them tend to lack a truly defining sound. I have no doubt in my mind that the final four tracks on this album meet this criteria and with enough familiarity most of the tracks on the front of the album would as well. “Heartfelt Wolf” serves its purpose as the transitional track between “The City Burned” and “We Build Cathedrals”, the longest and final song on the album. This track sees a rather quick build up through frenzied drumming and guitar work that oozes with a hint of despair. You can just tell the band went all in on this track to leave a lasting final impression. A track like this never fails to fuel my curiosity for how amazing it could be when performed live.

So this is where I’m suppose to tell you how this is an impressive debut by a band with unlimited potential, but I’m not going to do that. I almost gave up on this band and for that I feel terrible. They deserves better than that and I’m not prepared to send them on their merry way with a generic “great job and good luck” send off. No, instead I’m going to plead to everyone who has made it this far to lend Lost in the Riots your ears for 48 minutes of your life. Time is valuable and while I’m gracious that you’ve spent 5 minutes of your life reading this review, this band deserves more of your time than I ever will. While I’m absolutely positive that this is an album that will grow on me with time (there’s that word again), for right now this is a very good album jam-packed with epic riffs, playful personality, strong musical prowess and excellent sound engineering. I’m not sure what more you could ask for. 2/2/12

Press Release: Minot (former From Monuments to Masses) now taking pre-orders on new 7″

The Ringing Silence Between Your Ears b/w The Means Relativize The Ends 7" cover artUpstart bay-area post-rock band Minot, featuring guitarist Matthew Solberg from the now defunct post-rock band From Monuments to Masses are gearing up to release their first 7″  through The Mylene Sheath. The uptempo post-rockers, who infuse elements of psychedelic-rock, kraut-rock and feature refreshingly clever bass-work are set for a big year in 2013 as they intend to be on the road touring as much as possible while also have plans in the works to write a follow-up full length later in the year.

The band released their debut EP, ‘An Era of Institutional Failure’ back in November which can be had on bandcamp for $3.49. Their upcoming 7″, ‘The Ringing Silence Between Your Ears b/w The Means Relativize The Ends’ will be a limited release of 500 vinyl copies (3 different colors) that can be preordered here as well as on bandcamp. Both the digital and the 7″ drop on February 5th.

From The Mylene Sheath:
“The idea behind Minot is deceptively complex. Livid post-punk energy roils beneath a surface of cooly understated psychedelic instrumental composition. Their music is immediately familiar, yet they are a singularity in the world of post-rock. They are a bundle of contradictions: Dark, but up-tempo; heavy, but danceable; mean, but whimsical. Minot has very little to do with the ubiquitous reverb-soaked melancholy crescendo-rock; their style has been shaped by experimental bands on the fringe of rock music like Turing Machine, Laddio Bolocko, Young Widows, and Future Of The Left. These influences brought the three members to an interesting musical intersection. Minot puts experimentalism and fury back into post-rock; the expansive, but increasingly predictable genre.”

New Pre-Cloudkicker Ben Sharp compilation availble on bandcamp!

myspace.com/musicistight cover artBen Sharp, better known as the mastermind behind djent turned post-rock powerhouse Cloudkicker, has released through bandcamp a series of recordings that he made available through myspace in 2005-2006. Most of this 32-track compilation has been available online but was rather difficult to find unless you knew where to look. By posting it on his bandcamp, Sharp has made it much more accessible for Cloudkicker fans to check out some of his earlier recordings.  As always with Cloudkicker, the release has been made available at “name your price” meaning it can be had for free if you desire. This massive compilation is definitely a must have for Cloudkicker fans. You can get the compilation here.

Cloudkicker released ‘Fade‘ last year to rave reviews across the net including a review of 98% from postrockstar.