Lite – Installation

Artist Lite
Album Installation
Genre Post-Rock | Math-Rock
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Label  I Want The Moon
Release 05 June 2013
Rating: Very Good

While I was taking notes for this review I wrote down LITE = ((You Bred Raptors? – Jazz) + YouSlut!)/Four Tet. Now I don’t really know if that makes sense and I am very sure that this formula could be debunked by a multitude of people better versed in the way of instrumental math rock than I. However, what I can say is that Installations is a great work that is immediately pleasing but warrants multiple playbacks to really absorb the subtle nuances that are weaved into each track.

What really interested me was the way in which the tracks very often come on with a sense of urgency, but with an overlaying chilled out vibe. Completely contradictory, but I cannot explain it any better. Typically math rock guitar lines dance around the instruments and pan through the mix like thoughts through the mind of a speed freak. The bass keeps the funk in place, while the drums skit around manically. The occasional synth or piano line gives some instrumental variation. Initially I struggled to part the tracks, but after listening more and more I was finally rewarded with an album that intrigues and surprises with each play.

Starry Morning” immediately reminds me of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, but only the first couple of notes. It is an intro that builds over its 52 second length with piano, bass and guitar. It is beautiful but somewhat misleading as when the first full track “Echolocation” starts we’ve suddenly got smooth, funky math rock. The arrangements throughout are often very complex without sounding contrived. Even the different time signatures and syncopation do not sound forced; overall every instrument has a certain spatial awareness that stops it from treading on another’s toes or overstaying its welcome.

Honestly I am struggling to do a track by track review as most of the ingredients are the same in each track, just combined imaginatively to give each track its own voice. Some are funky, some make you want to dance. Some build around one idea, others are more traditionally arranged. I believe that to be the reason that this album is far from immediate and one that you should give some of your time to really let it get under your skin.

Tropic of Coldness – Unrelated Causalities

unrelated causalities cover art

Artist Tropic of Coldness
Album Unrelated Causalities
Genre Ambient | Drone | Field Recordings
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Release 15 February 2013

“Tropic of Coldness” is an Italian-American duo, who met by chance, or maybe not, in Brussels, Belgium during the autumn of 2011. David is a guitarist, synth and sample player, already active on the Brussels scene with his electro / experimental project “Drawing Virtual Gardens”. Giovanni plays guitar, voice and samples for the North- East Italian band “Fuji Apple Worship”, involved in a melting pot of drones, field recordings and minimal sound sculptures.
Since its beginning in November 2011, Tropic of Coldness focused on drones / ambient / electro-acoustic originated from improvised session, with layers of processed guitars and synths, analogue and digital sounds, surrounded and filtrated by field recordings.

Chemists // 化学者 – Slow House Virtual

Slow House Virtual cover art

Artist Chemists // 化学者
Album Slow House Virtual
Genre Ambient | Chillwave | Electronic
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Release 15 June 2013

“The whole idea behind this project is to go into recording a song with no idea,goal,genre or type of sound in mind. Just to simply pick a instrument and start recording(despite the genre).”

This release may fall a bit outside of the Post* realm, but I chose to promote it because I think it embodies most of the concepts that make post-rock such a great genre. On top of that, It shines as an ambient release and I feel Postrockstar doesn’t really delve into that genre of music as much as we should. ~ Iamhop

Pilgramage – EP

EP cover art

Artist Pilgrimage
Album EP
Genre Post-Rock / Post-Hardcore
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Release 15 March 2013

Combining elements of traditional post-rock with Post-Hardcore angst and occasional vocal stylings, Pilgramage  is an interesting project that is seemingly lacking of web presence.

Just a quick note — Sorry for the lack of updates this week. Between returning from vacation and being bed ridden with Strep Throat I have not had much of an opportunity to write reviews. I’m hoping that we can get back up and running like normal by the end of next week.  ~ IamHop

Tyranny is Tyranny – Let It Come From Whom It May

Let It Come From Whom It May cover art

Artist Tyranny is Tyranny
Album Let It Come From Whom It May
Genre Post-Metal | Noise
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Label Phratry Records
Release 13 July 2013

Madison WI post-noiserock focusing on dynamics, repetition, and the dismantling of capitalism. Tyranny Is Tyranny is the title of the fourth chapter of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

“We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness — embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.” — Howard Zinn

Now That We’re Older – Beneath the Bridge, Under a Frozen Sky

Beneath the Bridge, Under a Frozen Sky cover art

Artist Now That We’re Older
Album Beneath the Bridge, Under a Frozen Sky
Genre Post-Rock
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Release 23 November 2012

Literally the only piece of information I can dig up on this band is that they are from Cincinnati. They have no web presence to speak of and have left no paper trail despite an excellent album.  Beautiful yet bleak, soft spoken yet sometimes harsh, “Beneath the Bridge, Under a Frozen Sky” is an album that has left me impressed and wanting to know more.  If anyone has more information on these guys, please send it our way.

Sey Hollo – Kombinat

Kombinat cover art

Artist Say Hollo
Album Kombinat
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal
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Release 31 May 2013
Rating: Solid

Being a solo artist is the best way to create music the way you want it. Nobody is looking over your shoulder, suggesting ideas, and making changes to your ideas; how dare they? It is also a way of avoiding quality control and running away with your ideas until the outcome is nothing short of self-indulgent and, quite frankly, crap. I find, and this is a massive generalisation, that solo artists are more likely to have a back catalogue of inconsistent quality than a full band. Simply because you have nobody there to bounce ideas off and trim the fat; a second pair of ears is invaluable when you are composing.

Kombinat’ is a mixed bag, but overall it is not an album I am going to go back to again and again. Bunker of a Bare Life is kind of grungy and shoegazey. The crunchy guitar brings the grunge, the heavily reverbed melody lines bring the shoegaze; less the wall of sound. The thing is, while it sounds good, it is far too repetitive and lacks drive. I would like to say that it is hypnotic, but it falls short of that. Cutting the track’s length would have improved its effectiveness.

“HarakaHarakaHaina Barakza” is a definite improvement. The syncopated riff that drives it is certainly unnerving. Once that heaviness breaks the track finds its feet with a repetitive part that really works due to the way the instruments interact with each other. Returning back to the original riff kills the vibe though; this is another track that could do with being shorter.

Now we hit gold! “Terroture” is a track that hits home why I like Post-Rock. It builds layers of noise and introduces melody and distant drums that build slowly as sludgy chords drone and tremolo picked guitar adds atmosphere. I find that music that can build around a simple idea is often the most affective and this track is perfect. If you have heard and loved “Weight” by Isis then you will certainly fall for this.

Marching percussion holds “Lusaka Funeral Association” together as simple chords support a spoken word sample that lasts for a good few minutes. Luckily things step up a little and the drums push the track forward while the other instruments play with ideas around a repetitive chord progression.

“Crowds at the End of the World” is the longest track on the album. I hoped for another behemoth of a track, much like “Terroture“, but It does not immediately deliver. I found the first six minutes to be tedious, but it is building a context for the end of the track which builds drums over a monotonous guitar part and then breaks into a crushing, fuzz filled, sludgy, droney section. It is another highlight of the album.

The album finishes off with “Jimmy’s“, A track straight from the soundtrack to a film like Donnie Darko or similar angst filled teen movie. You know, that scene when the protagonist’s world has finally, completely, turned to shit. It is a nice piano driven track that is a little out of place on the album, but still one of the best.

After repeated listens you get a feel for an album, but I am struggling to understand if I like it more than I find it uninspiring. The solo artist “curse” has reared its head and overall I think that there are too many moments that go on too long, or structural decisions that make me groan; like returning to a section that started a track when it feels unnatural to do so. The standout tracks are those that build on ideas and I urge you to at least listen to “Terroture” lest you miss out on one of the top post-rock tracks I have heard this year. I’m a real fence sitter on this album, maybe somebody can tell me what I am missing?

Damascus – Heights

Heights cover art

Artist damascus
Album Heights
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal
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Release 10 July 2013
Rating: Very Good

I was rooting for this band to be good when I first started doing research on them simply because they’re from South River New Jersey, which I lived fairly close to for about 10 years.  I tend to research before I even listen to any given release that I’m not already familiar with because I like context. The fact that damascus are from Jersey really has nothing to do with their music, but it gave me a bit of a star to wish on, so to speak, and that star didn’t disappoint me.

The guys in damascus are evidently fluent in quite a few sub genres of post-rock, and I am impressed by the grace with which they slide into different modes, with seemingly no effort.  This is, again, third wave, but has elements of post-metal and even neoclassical as well as the expected peaks and shadows.

Although song lengths here are hardly epic by post-rock standards, damascus uses the average 8 minutes very well throughout “Heights.”  For the most part everything blends quite seamlessly, making the individual tracks actually feel more like movements in a longer work. The downfall that this can sometimes precipitate, in the form of repetitive themes and boredom, is completely avoided here, with always a twist of trail and riff.  The whole album seems to evolve over its span, rather then simply feeling like a deliberate sequence of songs.

The musicianship of this 4 piece is very good. These guys are tight in all the right ways. This makes for a precise execution of musical and tonal ideas, which further solidifies the flow of the entire album. Especially dexterous to my ears is Bassist Edwin Rivera, who adds countermelody and a certain textural definition to “Heights” that really stands out. It’s a joy to hear the bass, at times, take a more up-front roll, without making the band sound like they’re ripping off Tool, like so many others.

The production, done by Drummer Brendan Bianowicz is well suited to the styles involved, and, while not stellar, is solid and satisfying. The mix here is key, and it is on point. The ear of the listener isn’t assaulted, but teased, helping one find more depth and idiosyncrasy with each listen. Guitar tones shift very well. The previously mentioned bass is mixed into just the right pocket to stand out, and it’s tone is organic, yet full, especially considering it’s nimbleness. Drums are solid and grounded, while cymbals dance in the stereo spectrum at just the right intensity for the band’s sound. If any of this were overdone, it would likely have wrecked the entire endeavor.

In this, Bianowicz shows restraint and self-discipline that many people who play an instrument and produce oftentimes disregard in favor of showcasing their preferred instrument or device. When this happens, it infuriates me to no end, so my compliment is one of gratitude as well as commendation.

With a previous full length and two EP’s, one of which being a more ambient reworking of some of their earlier songs, these fellows are doing a yeoman’s job at putting out solid, slightly progressive, and very enjoyable post-rock. Most of their music is “pay what you want” on bandcamp, which shows they desire your patronship more then your dollar (although the music is, to my mind, charge worthy, which is another rare statement for me to make) there is every reason to check out both “Heights,” and their back catalogue. They do play live, and I would be guessing that it would quite a treat to hear them in that sort of environment.

I suppose I have two questions remaining about damascus and “Heights.” Who played the keys at the beginning of “Come to Light,” and why hasn’t a decent small imprint or label gotten in touch with them? I know I would be proud to say I backed the release of something like “Heights.”