Roundtable Review: Collapse Under the Empire – Sacrifice & Isolation

Postrockstar is no stranger to Collapse Under the Empire and you probably shouldn’t be either. The post-rock powerhouse duo from Germany have released either an album or EP in each year dating back to 2009 show no signs of letting up. ‘Sacrifice & Isolation’ is their fifth studio album an is the follow up to  2011’s ‘Shoulders & Giants’ as  a two-part conceptual series. We’ve gone ahead and taken the album to task in this month’s roundtable to see if it could stand up to C.U.T.E’s track record of quality.


With each new installment from Collapse Under The Empire we see these small little changes that have led us to ‘Sacrifice & Isolation’. The raw potential C.U.T.E always possessed has slowly and precisely been smelted into a finely crafted musical object. The production values and mixing process have steadily increased, the way they write songs ever so slightly refined to perfection. The soundscapes they create have gone from these small glimpses of environments into fully fleshed out musical realms of bleakness meets glimmer of hope. Make no mistake about it, this is the new high watermark for C.U.T.E. Like every album that has come before it, their latest work is so blatantly obvious their best work.

‘Sacrifice & Isolation’ is their fourth album and follow up to 2011’s ‘Shoulder & Giants’ as a conceptual effort. Sure there was a couple releases in between those albums, but pay no attention to them. Well, pay lots of attention to them, but right now we’re focusing on the culmination of a three-year musical journey for C.U.T.E. This album is massive in-depth and sound staging, but you probably already knew that if you were at all familiar with their work (and at this point you better be). ‘Massif’ shines as a Massif high point to the album (see what I did there?) while tracks like the title tracks as well as ‘A Broken Silence’ are just more C.U.T.E classics that fall in line with what I’ve come to love and expect from the band.

The deep synths playing ever so lovingly with distant swirling crescendos, the beats that utilize both live and electronic drives, the bleak overtones, the shimmering moments of desperation, the overbearing distress, They’re all here. It might all be a bit formulamatic at times, but like your favorite 1 AM comfort food from Dennys, you keep coming back for more because it just feels so damn right. And while I certainly don’t need carbs or deserts in my life anymore, the idea of being a post-rock enthusiast and not having Collapse Under the Empire in regular rotation is simply unfathomable. Another C.U.T.E classic, a must listen of 2014 and without question an album that earns a well deserved spot on my year end lists. – James

————————————————————— may like this album but, unlike him, I didn’t follow this band since their beginnings. I have a hard time getting into this primarily because of the thing James likes the most – The synth. It felt like some sort of 90’s movie trailer on the opening track  and it just never goes away. Every time I expect the band to go all-out-heavy-crescendo-whatever, it suddenly loses its thrill when the synth can’t keep up with the grunge. The keyboard can’t sound very gloomy when it’s practically identical to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’. I may be exaggerating, but that accursed keyboard is the only thing holding me back from loving this album as a brilliant, dark, and brooding piece of post-rock.

As for the rest of it, everything sounds like it’s recorded professionally, and I certainly love their sense of structure and composition. I was falling in love with the intro for ‘Lost’ with its almost industrial-sounding drums. The bassist is no slouch, no matter what’s going on. And the way they build up is well done, even if I don’t care for it. If they went in a more 65daysofstatic sort of direction, or even a sleepmakeswaves direction, I’d be much more content with this, but it has too little electronica for me to feel like it’s supposed to be there. I picture in my head the discomfort the rest of the band members go through when they try to tell the keyboardist that he doesn’t quite fit. So they just let him do his own thing, and essentially play on top of him. – Foofer


This review comes from somebody who is a new listener to Collapse Under The Empire. By new I actually mean I’ve never really given them the time of day. Every track I have heard has been good, but none have pushed me to go out and listen to this band. So I somewhat reluctantly sat down to give their newest offering, Sacrifice & Isolation a spin.

Sacrifice opens the album and basically delivers what should be a favourite track. The melodies are wonderful; the EDM style build-ups are really well executed, and managing to maintain interest around the same motif for 8 minutes is pretty impressive. However it has not really done anything for me. I find it lifeless, somehow dull. Isolation, if anything, is worse. A meandering bore-athon that has basically caused me to switch off to the rest of the album on more than one occasion. The album proceeds in much the same way. Massif has a promising intro, but fits back into the mold of the previous track. Lost does the same, find a motif, play around with it for a bit with the same tired dynamics and techniques, finish the track.

I love this sort of music because it makes me feel something, unfortunately this doesn’t stir my emotions really. I think the production feels too clinical and robotic. It does not feel like there are two human beings behind it and that is a big turn off for me. Then we have track 5, Awakening. Holy shit! It has taken nearly half the album but here is something that makes me sit up and take interest. Parts rise and fall, tension mounts and then disappears without resolution, you are kept on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. Shame it just had to end, I really wanted it to go on and on.

From here on the album definitely picks up. The main reason is that there is an improvement in the dynamics that takes away from the clinical feeling of the production. Check out the album highlight, Stairs to the Redemption. The drumming and heavy guitar chords are a welcome relief to what has come before. The subdued track that follows, What The Heart Craves For, has some delay heavy noise elements that I really like. The Path is another great track that rises and falls with uplifting movements, as you would expect and possible tire of from myriad post-rock bands. In this context it is incredibly welcome.

I am going to make a grand assumption that this is probably not their greatest work and if a massive fan of their work disagrees then I think that generally C.U.T.E. are not for me. There are some really great tracks on the album though; it is a shame I had to trawl through the first half to find them.  Must listen: Stairs to the Redemption, The Path   – TenaciousListening


Within the genre (and sub-genres) of post-rock, there aren’t really a lot of standout bands. Now, I don’t mean that as a way to say there aren’t many good bands, because obviously there are tons. What I mean is that in a musical style that’s defined in great part by usage of instruments only, it’s very hard to set yourself apart. There are countless numbers of bands doing the whole “cinematic” sound, and I like a great deal of them. Problem is, a lot of them sound very, very similar (well, maybe it’s not a problem, but you know what I mean). There’s a small handful of bands that, in my opinion, are doing something different, something that makes them stand out a little. That, to me, is the mark of a really great band. Explosions in the Sky does it, Godspeed You! Black Emperor & Sigur Ros do it, and if you ask me, Collapse Under the Empire does it.

Jumping back to the days, there were times where there wasn’t a lot of chatting going on, if there were just a couple of us in the room listening to tunes while we worked. Without fail, any time a C.U.T.E. song came on, you knew it was them. There was no question. In a sea of bands that are either trying blatantly to sound like other bands, or bands that not only wear their influences on their sleeves, but make a whole shirt of them, it’s a welcome change. As James said in far more eloquent terms than I can at the moment, this is a band that has been constantly evolving since day one, and well, the proof is in the pudding here. While I wouldn’t be so brazen as to say that this is leaps and bounds beyond previous material, it’s definitely a positive, and natural feeling, progression.

Where other bands do the “pretty but sad” thing, and do it well, C.U.T.E. is one of the few that can (appropriately enough, given the title of this album) really make the feeling of isolation sonically possible. Where other bands do “sad scene with snowfall”, they do “everything and everyone I love is gone”. Rather than the sense of loss from a doomed romance or something of that ilk, this is the soundtrack to the terror of abandonment, of being completely and utterly alone. There are moments of hope present, of starting anew (or “freedom”, as the band themselves have stated), but overall, it’s a dark and lonely record. The beauty crafted out of these feelings is palpable, and, like James, I suspect strongly that this will have a solid place on my year-end list. If i have one bone to pick with this album, it’s the intro to “A Broken Silence”. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the music, and just sound like the music from an 8-bit boss fight scene to me. Other than that rather small gripe, I think these two German lads have created something truly fantastic. – ShaneXedge


Roundtable Review: Those Amongst Us Are Wolves – This State is Conscious

Welcome back to another monthly installment of Roundtable Review. This month we have a real special treat for all of our readers as we are breaking down and dissecting Those Amongst Us Are Wolves’ latest effort ‘This State Is Concious’, the follow-up to their 2013 album ‘Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behaviour’.  TAUAW have been big supporters of our site for quite awhile now and likewise we are big supporters of them and their brand of unique post-rock, so it was really quite a no-brainer for us to choose ‘This State Is Conscious’ as a candidate for a Roundtable. Without further ado..


At first listen it is easy to draw a number of different opinions about ‘This State is Conscious’. This album is a vast and intricate web of unique and differing influences and styles all culled into one giant post-rock cauldron. My original perception of the album was that even though I felt the band really poured their heart into perfecting this record, in doing so they had put too many different flavors (layers) in the pot. Each song was so distinctly different from one another, full of curious nuances and sounds from different genres and well hell, different cultures of music as well. As I continued listening several times through, I realized that wasn’t the case. Sure, the synergy between the four tracks isn’t particularly great, but the blend of layers featured in each particular song synergize so well with one another that it never really occurred to me just how much sound the band jampacked into these 40 minutes until I started breaking songs down layer by layer.

With “How to Level Water” the band chose to open the record with inviting and very listener friendly third wave (I believe the kids these days just call it “pretty”) post-rock in the vein of Lights & Motion. As the track evolves it becomes easy to forget that the main focal point of this track is the spotlighted cello work that lasts until right before the shift from pretty to a dark toned. Moving forward the album immediately shifts styles and picks up with the monstrous prog-rock presence of “At The End Of The Scene, The Walls Are Black And She Is Gone, And He Is Alone.” Originally I thought this track oozed influence from fellow U.K. band Crippled Black Phoenix, but after conversing with band members I uncovered that wasn’t the case. The keys in this track are the real highlight, shining and headlining the song from nearly start to finish. The center of the track gives us a brief keyboard interlude in an Asian/Mandarin theme amidst a backdrop of ambience,  a nice touch that leads into a reprisal of the intro while maintaining the same musical theme.

“Placebo Affects” is one of the most insanely creative musical mindfucks I’ve ever experienced. So the first time I heard this track, I immediately dismissed it as filler leading up to the grand finale. It’s very easy to do that considering how this album is structured. I can now tell you with 100% certainty that this is my favorite song on the album by a landslide. The psychedelic and space age-like intro really throws you for a loop at first, so it’s best to just let it set the mood and not over analyze it while the cascading sounds swirl around your head. The song shortly evolves into a grooving and downtempo yet proper post-rock jam. Then something outright ridiculous happens. A Horn section that would make any Ska band jealous spawns out of seemingly nowhere and captures the ears. Focus on it too much and you could easily miss the rattling guitar layers or even better, the bluesy bass line being laid down in the underbelly of the mix. Finally, as if all of this wasn’t enough, the guys go back to that big band prog-rock sound I spoke of earlier as the number comes to a close. This song simply takes these massive steps of radical change and does so without missing a beat. Who would have ever imagined a Ska horn section, a bluesy bass-line and post-rock guitar layers playing into one another so perfectly? The brilliance will surely be unappreciated by anyone without trained ears.

I suppose “He Is The King of The Tenuous Link” will be most perceived as a the band’s magnum opus effort, as it sits at 20 minutes, or half the album’s length. My biggest criticism I have with this track is that they could have easily done this song in 13 or 15 minutes and the 20 minute mark seems a bit artificially inflated. The copious amounts of ambiance is nice, but it really brings the mood down to a level where I felt like I was just waiting for the next big moment, and not in a good build up kind of way. However, from around 12:20 onward is when the real finale begins as the guys unleash an all out post-rock assault for next few minutes. Keys, bass and drumming come together to form a really tight build up leading to giant explosion of layers that all come crashing down in the mix. Guitar work here is easily the best on the album with an extremely tight, occasionally gritty sound that slowly envelops everything else around it.

It’s safe to say that one play through isn’t enough to appreciate what Those Amongst Us Are Wolves have accomplished here. ‘This State is Conscious’ was well worth the wait and well worth the price of admission. There is a little bit of something for everyone in this album. – James


Song craft and structure are part and parcel to what makes good third wave post rock for me. If it’s lacking, things are flat and uninteresting, even when played by the most skilled musicians. That happens a good deal when you listen to as much stuff as we do here at PRS. This all too common downfall is in no way evident here, as TAUAW have summoned a very compelling handful of songs on This State Is Conscious.

 Surprisingly synthy in parts, I enjoyed the interplay between electronic and organic instrumentation. The atmospheres created by the electronics lend a thickness that enhances the handsome melodicism of the guitar and the very well rounded bass work.

 I had a slight issue with the drumming at times. There are a couple of places where the timing is off just enough to jar one out of revere. That coupled with the generics of the kickdrum sound (although it is a solid sound) left me wondering what was programmed and what was recorded from a live kit. The actual drum lines are inventive and propulsive when they need to be. I’m just nitpicky about sonics.

 While the last track, “He is the King of Tenuous Links” is the obvious opus on this album, and is truly a tour de force of segues and interlocking song craft, my favorite moments are in “At The End Of The Scene, The Walls Are Black And She Is Gone, And He Is Alone.” It is so well conceived and deceivingly complex. The combination of the atmospheric ambient sections and the hammered dulcimer just lit up my brain.

 All in all I quite enjoyed every piece and look forward to more. Erich


“This State Is Conscious” has everything I want in a post-rock album. Soothing and mellow ambience, blistering passages through musical fire, a strong variation of instrumentation, and a chance to hear every member shine through at one point or another. This is one of those albums I can’t stand to listen to very often because I can’t find anything wrong with it. I have no complaints. I have nothing to think about this album, other than how much I enjoy it so thoroughly. It goes right up there with Yndi Halda’s Self-Titled album, and Caspian’s ‘Waking Season’. Just… too perfect.

That being said, don’t let me deter you from enjoying this album. The places it takes you and the stories it tells are things you shouldn’t miss out on. I mean, how many of you have listened to a post-rock album with a hammered dulcimer in it? In fact, when was the last time you heard the words ‘Hammered Dulcimer’? This is something unique, and should be at least appreciated, if not cherished.

My one and only complaint is the last song being a whopping twenty minutes long. When a song gets that long, I have a hard time avoiding any mental separation after the music dies down and picks up with a different feeling or instrument. It just kinda makes sense to split it into two or even three songs when it reaches a certain length. There are some exceptions to this like some Godspeed You! Black Emperor pieces, where they’re trying for a certain theme or telling a story. I don’t really get that feeling with this album.

Regardless, I become enthralled with the music to the point that I forget about my complaints when the album is over. JUST LISTEN TO IT ALREADY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD. – Foofer


tags: rock electronica instrumental noise post-rock space rock trip hop Coventry

Roundtable Review: Lowercase Noises – This Is For Our Sins

For the April edition of our Roundtable Review we’ve chosen ‘This Is For Our Sins’ by Lowercase Noises, the moniker of multi-talented ambient artist Andy Othling. To get a better of understanding of the meaning of this album and it’s importance, Andy penned the following to us when we received our copy of the album for review:

“..this album is written about the Lykov family, who lived isolated in the Siberian wilderness for over 40 years. I’d highly recommend you check out this article about it. It’s an incredible story, and I think it will help you get more out of the album.”

As you might imagine the anticipation going into this Roundtable is that ‘This Is For Our Sins’  would be a much different experience than we’re use to from Othling. Without further ado..


 I think I subconsciously put artists into boxes when I first listen to or stumble upon them. I’d like not to, but I think that’s what happens. There are the artists who have “made it”, and there are those who are still “bedroom” musicians. The lines might blur occasionally, with acts like Lights & Motion exploding on and beyond the scene despite humble beginnings. Generally though, I listen with different ears to music by Mogwai as I do to that of Good Weather for an Airstrike, for example. That’s not to discredit any of the works released under the bedroom musician’s name; I just find that it somehow affects the way in which I judge what I hear.

My point with this is that I have always kept Lowercase Noises in the little box, where my expectations for variety and studio polish are a little more forgiving. For this reason, the opening track of This Is for Our Sins caught me off guard entirely — I was blown away by the sophistication of what I was hearing. The album doesn’t sound like it was made by a “bedroom” musician (I cringe at my use of this term as the advancement of available technology moves to render such notation irrelevant); This Is for Our Sins is an extremely competent and professional piece of work, befitting any band of experience.

There aren’t any specific songs that stand out to me, but all serve to satisfy the senses. There is more outright rock here than in Lowercase Noises’s past — which I really dig — and I’d perhaps credit that to the novel use of live drumming. This kind of thing shows the real growth of Lowercase Noises over previous efforts. I also like that the second track reminds me so much of Sigur Ros, despite such familiarity. The vocals throughout the album are a nice addition, acting as milestones to track the progress of the album’s narrative. What surprised me the most is that I have never been bored by This Is for Our Sins, which is saying a lot for an album that is 60+ minutes of mostly-ambient, instrumental music. I don’t like that banjo though; sometimes it serves a purpose to lift the mood, but mostly it’s jarring. But don’t let that be a major deterrent. – Shooter


I have no qualms with concept albums. In fact I really enjoy cohesive albums that do not sound like just a few songs put on disc. Luckily This Is For Our Sins feels like most of the tracks are united in the name of telling a story. However that story is not always the one about the Lykov Family who lived in the wilderness of Russia for over 40 years. No, it often slips into Northern Georgia with Burt Reynolds or even an evening with Michael Flatley!

OK, I am being facetious, but the first time that Banjo makes itself known in The Hungry Years I instantly thought of the banjo duel in Deliverance. I can see no place for a Banjo in a concept album based in Russia. Andy Othling has said (in a Reddit AMA) that it was used because “I didn’t set out to make Russian music. I set out to make music that expresses my own feelings about the Lykov family and tell their story in my own way.” Fair enough, but it doesn’t sit right with me and detracts from the overall power of the album.

I’ll explain the Michael Flatley comment now. The piano melody towards the end of album opener Death in a Garden reminds me of the melody from the hymn, Lord of The Dance. It does work with the track, but it does mean that I think of rows of Irish people shaking their legs about whenever I hear that part. The melody also returns in track ten, Prepare to Die, but Sow the Rye. It is something that takes away from the overall experience of listening to the album, simply because I associate it with something else.

After all that, what do I think about this album? Well I actually really like it. I feel that the first two tracks are the strongest on the album, which is a shame as it detracts from the other great tracks that are on there, but all the tracks are well composed, expertly produced and carry those Lowercase Noises’ trademarks (Volume swells, slide guitar, that bloody Banjo, etc.) without just being a rehash of previous works.

This is forward thinking Lowercase Noises; an ambient album that does not have to work hard to keep my attention like other ambient albums might. I really enjoy the vocal work, especially the end of Prepare to Die, but Sow the Rye; overall they help strengthen the concept. The additional musicians bring a lot to the table too. The percussion brings life to the tracks, especially Death in a Garden, which actually feels pretty heavy in sections, and I am a sucker for Cello and Violin parts; they are such emotive instruments and they really carry the album’s overall atmosphere.

This is a great album, but there are some elements that detract from my complete enjoyment. I have to applaud Andy Othling for putting this out; I think it is the strongest release that I have heard from Lowercase Noises. – TenaciousListening


I’ve been a fan of Lowercase Noises’ work since he released his “Migratory Patterns” EP. In our house, it’s called “The Whale Album” and rightfully so. My whole family adores it, even my infant son falls asleep to its soothing tones.

Then “Passage” came out, and it was a step in a new direction. It had new instrumentation, a whole new feeling that he hadn’t explored before. From the accordion-like sounds to the banjo, it all fit together so well.

When I saw that Lowercase Noises had announced a new full-length album, I was absolutely ecstatic. If he could make amazing EPs, imagine what a LP would sound like! He said it’d be a conceptual album, based on the Lykov family, who had all died in the harsh Siberian winters. (Beautiful stories, by the way)

Now, when you think of a Russian winter, what do you think of? A harsh, unforgiving environment, surely. Lowercase Noises definitely thought the same thing, with Minor tonalities abounding, this is definitely another step in a different direction for Andy Othling, the one man band behind Lowercase Noises.

However, there is one major problem with the album. A Banjo. Every Postrockstar staff member has mentioned the overabundance of the banjo in this album, so I know it’s not just me who thinks that it doesn’t belong in this album. The perfect example of this would be in “Requiem”, which, at first, feels like a song about how you feel after all of the funeral attendees have left. You’re all alone, left with the bittersweet feeling of leaving someone you love behind, knowing that they’re in a better place… Until the banjo comes in. Literally every time I was really getting into the music, the banjo would make an appearance. Out of all the things you could picture about a Russian winter, a banjo isn’t one of them. It was a fun bit in “Passage” but he never should’ve thought about using it for “This Is For Our Sins.”

Tinny plinking aside, there are a lot of good things to say about this album. Andy’s always had a very firm grip on composition and layering, and this album showcases it just as much as any other album of his. The times I was getting into the music were very well done, and the production quality is superb. In one song I could actually hear the sound of wood striking wood as the piano was being played. This only happens on the highest notes, and it’s the best example of how well this was recorded.

Overall, I can’t truthfully say that I enjoyed this album. That Banjo would take me right out of the music every time it made a sound. It’s a serious issue when it comes to this album. It’s supposed to be a conceptual album, and I’m pretty sure the Russians didn’t have a banjo to play during the cold winter nights. I’m just glad I only pre-ordered the digital album instead of the $22 vinyl. – Foofer


It goes without saying that this is a very important album in the career of Andy Othling. To date we’ve seen Andy, better known as Lowercase Noises become something of a virtuoso within the ambient kingdom. In the world of Melatonin simulating slow jams Lowercase Noises is absolutely the king of the jungle, the Mufasa if you will (that’s a Lion King reference, folks).

This album is important for his career because it is a bold departure from anything else we’ve seen in the past from Andy. And he’s not doing it alone this time either, as this album features eight other musicians lending their talents towards this magnum opus effort. What they’ve accomplished on this album is nothing short of impressive, making ‘This Is For Our Sins’ the most technically pleasing album in the Lowercase Noises discography. This album is glorious from front to back in nearly every aspect. The rich, vibrant cello work, the wonderful guitar tones, the sensual piano with just that itty bit hint of bass, and the vocals, well, they’re nothing short of these  heavenly heartfelt passages that garnish the rest of this musical feast very naturally and are surely going to be the most under appreciated part of this album.

Do you want to know another masterpiece ambient album that’s vocals went highly under appreciated? The 2013 effort of Olafur Arnold’s ‘For Now I am Winter’. That album is spectacular on every front and is the album I’m choosing to draw a direct comparison to as I try to convey to you just how magical ‘This Is For Our Sins’ feels to this reviewer. I’ll admit that even after a dozen or so listens and plenty of research on the Lykov family, I haven’t quite been able to tune into the conceptual side of this album.  But even if I still haven’t keyed in on the bigger picture that is being painted through the music, my ears are trained enough to know when they’re hearing something truly special, and that’s exactly what I feel as I listen to ‘This Is For Our Sin’ on repeat.

Just try to listen to “What Would There Be Out Here to Hurt Me” without feeling the music’s beauty. Try to tell me that there isn’t something magically triumphant about “The Hungry Years”. I dare you to listen to “Famine and the Death of a Mother” and not applaud the beautiful instrument arrangement and top-notch production values. There isn’t a single moment on this album that my ears dislike. This is an A+ effort through and through. Is this the peak for Lowercase Noises? I honestly have to believe so, because it’s going to take a truly remarkable effort to top this piece of art Andy Othling has created. A must listen that will absolutely be on my year end list. Oh and one final thing; Never stop playing that Banjo, Andy — It’s a signature sound that I love (sorry guys, gotta oppose all the banjo hate) – James


You’ve heard from us, now hear from what others are saying about ‘This Is For Our Sins’. These comments were taken from the chat during the album’s world premiere live stream on youtube hosted by Andy himself.

“Holy Sigur Rós that was magnificent!!!” – kaleidoscopicFILMS 

“This is the highlight of my day – thanks Andy!” – Michael D.

“I’ve listened to your stuff all day and found myself staring our the window just reflecting on life…your stuff has a way of inspiring deep thought because it comes from a place of deep thought.” – Ken K.

“Andy, this album is the most beautiful stuff you’ve ever written.” – Taylor V.

“To me, part of the beauty of this music is that it sounds very different from your previous stuff but feels very familiar to me. great work!” Jim B

“Wow. This is beautiful! I love the use of vocals in this album.” – Josh W.

“This is absolutely breathtaking and overwhelming. In a good way, of course. You sir are incredibly underappreciated! This is divine” – ptasiemleczkogurompt 

“This is just spectacular Andy. I’m almost at a loss for words ..” – Matt T.

“Great work Andy! You have a great ear for arrangement, and interesting melodies.” Zac C 


tags: ambient drone experimental instrumental post-rock Albuquerque

Roundtable Review: Moonlit Sailor – We Come From Exploding Stars

As we enter the thaw that is the end of the cold frozen months and march forward into those chilly yet bright sunny spring days, we leave winter feeling like it’s been a hell of a ride. The first three months of 2014 has seen the release of some extraordinarily great albums and definitely works that will top year-end lists in the months to go. In our third round table review this year we’ve chosen Moonlit Sailor’s ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’, released February 25th via Deep Elm Records as our featured album. This is the Swedish band’s fourth release and first since 2011’s ‘Colors in Stereo’.  It is also available at a ‘Name Your Price’ basis as Deep Elm has once again became trendsetters in the music world by being one of if not the first major label to offer their entire discography at this pricing point, a decision we all here at Postrockstar applaud. Without further ado, lets see what our staff had to see about the latest effort of Moonlit Sailor!

“Moonlit Sailor have consistently been one of my go to bands when introducing new listeners to the world of Post-rock. They make the genre very accessible with their upbeat songs that aren’t too drawn out nor are they too virtuoso or pretentious. With all due credit to the Swedish 4-piece, the majority of their catalog is incredibly easy to digest, fun to nod your head along with and occasionally pack that extra little bit of charm that can only be created by musicians who truly connect to and through their music.

‘We Come From Exploding Stars’ is yet another feather in the cap for the band and is an all around solid release from front to back. This is a Deep Elm release after all, so there isn’t any filler to be expected on this album, just ten equally quality tracks that create an album that flows wonderfully and create a really fun, relaxed atmosphere. “From Gemini to Lynx” and “Dollar Underwater” both stand out as my favorite songs on the album and are both gleeful romps through familiar territory.

While Moonlit Sailor’s fortay is cheery post-rock — and they do it as well as anyone, a part of me feels that ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’ is trying too hard to capture the special organic feeling I felt when I first heard “Colors in Stereo”. I could be and sure hope I am wrong, but I would like to see each album in a band’s catalog be its own work with its own blend of majestic moments, quirks and nuances instead of trying to capitolize off of a past high. If you feel as though I’m way off base here, simply choose to take this as of me saying I like ‘Colors in Stereo’ a bit more than ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’. Make no mistake however, this is a very good post-rock album from a talented band backed by the best label in the world. ” – James


“Not much needs to be said about Moonlit Sailor’s latest album; if you’ve heard any of their previous works, you probably already know what it’s going to sound like. Sure as a sailboat will feature on each new album artwork, there’s something secure and expected with the sound of a Moonlit Sailor release. You know it’s going to be bright and pleasant — and it is. You can have faith that each chorus will brim with beauty, optimism and fun. The melodies will once again be as catchy as in a pop song without any sacrifice to their integrity. And you know that it will be the album you’ll want to turn to as the first Sun of summer rises.

Also familiar, though, is the way that the songs progress. Moonlit Sailor have always conformed fairly rigidly to a traditional (though not for post-rock) verse-chorus structure. This is a bonus when the choruses are so sensational (as they mostly are), but it can at times result in verses that are overly long and repetitive, almost crying out for some lyrical substance. If Moonlit Sailor did have a lead singer, they would make the must fun, catchy and dancable pop-rock album since Two Door Cinema Club’s Tourist History. But still I’ll gladly look to their instrumental choruses as goldmines for satiating melodies.” Shooter


“I came across Moonlit Sailor when I was downloading free albums from Deep Elm Records during their huge ‘name you own price’ sale on bandcamp. It was labeled as post-rock, so I decided to actually pay for something, instead of mooching off of Deep Elm generosity completely. I procrastinated and never got around to clicking play, but when James told us that this month’s roundtable review was Moonlit Sailor, it was the kick in the pants I needed to really sit down and listen to the whole album, beginning to end.

I wish I’d done it earlier.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this album. It’s not overly technical to the point where it turns off everyone except the math-rock fans, but it’s not too simple to become boring. Their sense of composition is very similar to Explosions In The Sky at some parts, and one song even reminded me of Set & Setting’s “Fear of Obtainment” piece from their album, ‘Equanimity.’ For the majority of the album, I was thinking “Man, this is perfect as a next step past the gateway bands like Explosions In The Sky and early This Will Destroy You material.”

And I still stand by that thought. It’s very entertaining as a whole, though I’d have difficulty telling you which song is which, because they tended to sound very similar. Whereas, other albums may have the same tonality throughout the album, or the same timbre or whathaveyou, but the pieces still retain their individuality. This isn’t the case for most of this album and I would mark that up as a weak point.

The only other small weak point in the album is the bassist, in my very personal opinion. At times it did seem to stand out and make its own melody or harmony, but other times it seems to be very subdued, nearly invisible. I know it’s a really small thing to hang on, but I think the bass is the true backbone of any band. Without it, you’re completely missing the low end, which makes the music underwhelming, and underwhelming music is bad music.

At the end of the day, I found myself humming bits of it to myself, and hoping there was enough time in the day for me to sit and enjoy this album again, beginning to end.”Foofer


“Ok, this album is a delight. I had not heard Moonlit Sailor before We Come From Exploding Stars, but I quickly endeavored to grab up their back catalogue, thanks to Deep Elm’s awesome “Name Your Price” promotion. I’m very glad I did, as it was worth it going through the past to get to the present with this fine release.

Moonlit Sailor seems to be more upbeat then the typical third wave “crescendo-core” of their peers. Peers that are the big names in third wave, which is exactly what Moonlit Sailor should be. Melodies are a tad more mysterious. Guitars don’t quite attack so much as chime, chant, and sing. In fact, this is an excellent album for anyone into guitar. Tones are spot on. The lines are deceptively simplistic. I mean, hell, they even used the E-bow well. That’s a hard thing to do because the device lends itself to overindulgence.

This collection of songs is just exceptionally well done. They are emotive but not overwrought. Narrative enough to build mountains of stories in ones mind.
It’s hard to even name just a couple of standouts because everything is so on par. However, I will say that personally “From Gemini to Lynx” is my favorite at the moment. This is for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it reminds me of the music that’s played in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” where the eponymous duo go forward in time briefly to the society that is founded upon their band.
Albums this solid and effortless sounding don’t just happen everyday. We’re all the better for enjoying We Come From Exploding Stars. Sail on.”Erich


tags: alternative emo indie rock instrumental post-rock postrock punk rock swedish

Roundtable Review: Mogwai – Rave Tapes

It’s the end the month which means it’s time for our second Roundtable Review of the year. This month we’re tackling a band who damn near is bordering on legendary post-rock status at this point. Needing no real introduction, this month we’re excited to examine Mogwai’s latest effort “Rave Tapes” , which saw a January 20th release via Rock Action Records (UK) and Sub Pop Records (US). With this being the 8th album in a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, our team took the album with a keen ear and anticipation for what these post-rock giants brought to the genre this time around.

We would love to hear your input and thoughts on ‘Rave Tapes’ so feel free to leave a comment and let us know if you loved it, hated it, or just didn’t care for the release in general.

“I got into Mogwai when a friend handed me a mix tape entitled, “Beginners Guide to Rock Action”. It was the only Mogwai compilation you could ever need and contained only the best tracks from their back catalogue all the way up to Happy Songs for Happy People. That compilation was a sound track to some great times and each one of those tracks was special to me.

I didn’t listen to an actual Mogwai album for some time. In fact it was 2006 when Mr Beast came out. From there I started to explore their back catalogue and found that Beginners Guide To Rock Action was the best of Mogwai and, despite some absolutely killer tracks across all these albums, I had already heard all that the band had to offer.

So I have always been cautious when Mogwai release a new album. I am always convinced that they will disappoint again and again. Not that they cannot write some incredible music, just that each album will, ultimately, be filled with filler tracks. So I was completely surprise when I played Rave Tapes and found their most complete album to date.

The whole thing fits together so well and each track stands on its own merits without standing too far out from the rest. Mogwai can be applauded that each new release brings a little something new to the mix, but never to the detriment of their sound. Rave Tapes is brooding; tracks are mid-tempo short journeys that, with each new listen, display the subtle nuances that show how incredible these guys are at composition.

I’ve heard people shrug this release off as, “too synthy”. Yes there is a lot of synth here, but each instrument has its place and there are still a ton of brilliant guitar melodies to write home about. Overall this album is so full of hooks that your head won’t know what you should be humming by the end of it and there are too many highlights to name them all. If you forced me to reel some off I’d instantly blurt out Remurdered, Deesh, and No Medicine For Regret; but you should really take in this album as a whole.

So the question is: Is this Mogwai’s best album? My answer is emphatically, yes! Simply because of the way it all fits together, unlike most of their previous work. It also has a handful of standout tracks that can stand alongside some of stunning tracks that are packed into their back catalogue.” – TenaciousListening


“I’m not ashamed to admit that Mogwai’s style of post-rock has never really clicked with me. While I appreciate what they’ve done for the genre, I’ve largely skipped around the majority of their discography to a very select few songs that I do find interesting. To be perfectly honest up until now the only Mogwai release I enjoy front to back is their 2011 4-track EP ‘Earth Division’. With all that being said, I’m pleased to say that ‘Rave Tapes’ has absolutely won me over and is a marvelous album, easily my favorite work to date by the Glasgow rockers.

Everything about this album just free flows so flawlessly save for ‘Blues Hours’, which I feel should have been saved for a future EP. The keys, synths and elements of electronica shine brightly and are complimented with just the right amount of reverb and drone. Drums and beat patterns are infectiously intoxicating and the pacing really helps lament the mood. With each subsequent listen I find myself enjoying the album more and more due to the simplistic beauty of the whole package. There is never too much going on, everything feels spacious and meaningful.

The band isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here and I’m sure a song like “Remurdered” will piss some post-rock purists off, but you know what, Fuck em! Mogwai has nothing left to prove do they? I love “Remurdered” to death, but then again this is coming from the same guy who’s most listened to release of 2014 is Crystal Method’s latest self titled album, it being my favorite album to work out in the gym to right now. There is a little something for everyone on ‘Rave Tapes’. I hope that this electronic heavy styling is a direction they decide to pursue going forward. This album gets a solid B+ in my book (no, we’re not doing letter grades on this site now).” – James


“I wonder if Young Team was just a fluke. Mogwai has made some good songs since then — one, maybe two per album — but really, very little of their catalogue holds a candle to the greatness that was achieved on their debut. On ‘Rave Tapes’, most of the songs meander to nowhere, yet not for long enough for them to become hypnotic. “Remurdered” is fun, and “Blues Hour” is very endearing. The rest of the songs fail to leave any memorable imprint though, their hooks ranging from forgettable to tedious. I don’t think I’m a Mogwai hipster who only likes the old stuff because it’s old. Their sound was significantly different in 1997. And perhaps my favourite song of theirs is 2011’s “Drunk and Crazy”, so I’m hardly averse to the new. I just expect more from a group so acclaimed. I wish I had more to say about Rave Tapes, but to me it’s mostly an album of uninspired melodies and insipid beats.” – Shooter


“When a band like Mogwai puts out a new album, the expectation is always higher. They are one of the big names, that rare post-rock band that you could almost say has made it. Made it to where is a completely different topic. But here we are with a new release from one of the biggest names in the post-rock scene.

This album is consistent, solid, and very forgettable if you aren’t paying attention. The only track that really stands out is Remurdered with it’s epic sounding 80’s vibe like a track off the Drive Soundtrack. Outside of that the tracks stay pretty calm and subdued. They don’t cater to crescendos, but Mogwai never really have. They’ve always been a band with solid songs doing their own thing. Rave Tapes is no different.

The album would be easy to toss aside after a listen because of how subtle it plays out. My biggest gripe is that each track feels like it should weave into the others, but they just don’t. The album feels like it has a loose theme that connects these tracks with a tiny thread. It takes time to appreciate this album, and I feel as though it could have used just a bit more tidying up. A track like Repelish should have been relocated to Bonus Track status, and it would have been nice to see these tracks meld a bit more. However, after a few listens this has become an album to listen to while fixated on other things. It plays well in the background, but doesn’t hold it’s own for sole focus. A solid release by Mogwai that needs just a bit more to stand on its feet.”Bryan


“Oh Mogwai, how you bring me such joy. Again and again, album after album, you just put a smile on my face. Rave Tapes is no exception. What I think people miss about this band is the inherent humor involved with them. One gets the feeling that the only thing Mogwai takes seriously is the music they make. They’re just taking the piss out of everything else. The music industry, artistic context, and even the post rock genre itself seem to be a good laugh.

From start to finish, Rave Tapes is a solid record. Its more synthy overall then other Mogwai offerings, sure, but not overdone. Written and arranged with the competence one would expect, the analogue sounds really blend nicely with the warm production here.

Listening to Mogwai evolve album-to-album is fascinating and rewarding. There’s always a slightly different slant to things. Sometimes it’s quite subtle. Sometimes you get the feeling it’s just for a lark.

Highlights like “Remurdered,” “Mastercard,” and “No Medicine For Regret” are joined by slightly off kilter beauties like “The Lord Is Out Of Control.” My personal top pick here is the beautiful and darkly hilarious “Repelish.”

After several listens I started to wonder if maybe this whole album was made as a post molly club night come down record. It’s certainly languid and gentle enough.

Mogwai have deservedly earned their notoriety and the respect they’re given in the post musical world. Hell, they’ve come just as close as third wave darlings like Explosions in the Sky at being crossover successes. Rave Tapes is another great chapter in the very long book of Mogwai’s pantheon of enjoyable albums. It’s not the most essential, but it certainly put a smile on my face.”Erich


Click here to download Rave Tapes via Itunes

Click here to download Rave Tapes via Mogwai’s official online store

Roundtable Review: Alcest – Shelter

 It’s a new year and that means newer and bigger things here at Postrockstar. In an effort to bring our readers more dynamic and unique content, we are bringing back Roundtable Reviews, an open forum where our writers take turns speaking their mind about a highly anticipated or hyped album by some of the bigger bands that fall under our spectrum. This month we’re tackling French Black Metal turned shoegazegroup Alcest’s ‘Shelter’, their much anticipated follow up to 2012’s ‘Les Voyages De L’Âme’ , an album we gave an 89% rating to during the infancy of our earlier days.  Now the band is back with ‘Shelter’ which offers a starkly different sound than their 2012 effort. What do our reviewers think?

** A big thank you to Prophecy Productions for providing our team with copies of ‘Shelter’ to facilitate this Roundtable Review! **

    “I must say I’m a little conflicted by Alcest’s latest release. Shelter is a fairly compelling album when taken on its own. The songs are strong, for the most part, and it’s a very accessible listen. That being said, I’m still wondering what the hell happened to Alcest!

Bands grow and evolve, mostly for the better, out of artistic necessity. Usually it doesn’t feel contrived or forced, especially when the band is such a subgenre powerhouse like this one. Having been pioneers of the black metal/shoegaze/blackgaze/whatever stupid subgenre name that garnered them attention and admiration for years, I find it super quizzical that there is no cocoa in the puffs this time. Where’s the metal? Not here. At all. Don’t bother looking.

This is ponderous to me because I enjoyed Alcest’s past output a great deal, and I feel I’m one of the many who have benefitted because other bands used their influence and created some really great sinisterly shiny stuff. In a lot of fundamental ways, there wouldn’t have been such a critical darling like Deafheaven if not for Alcest infusing the chocolate and the peanut butter of blackened ambient and shoegaze/dreampop.

Unfortunately, Shelter just doesn’t live up to the hype and lineage. While I commend Neige for so completely switching up his sound, I also find the final output to be a little too idol worshipping of Slowdive, while not doing them justice as an influence. Neil Halstead of Slowdive guests on the track “Away,” and it just sounds odd and out of place.

I know it sounds like I’m just not letting this band unfurl its new wings and fly. I can assure you good people that I am not someone looking to relive the musical past glories of Alcest or Slowdive.

Whatever the case, if I had no expectations for this album, I would have been pleasantly surprised by what is essentially a very nicely put together cloud of dreampop. It lacks some warmth and feels alittle sterile, which is ponderous because Birgir Jón Birgisson, of Sigur Rós fame, produced it, but it’s certainly not by any stretch a bad album. To label this shoegaze is stretching things, but all genres become meaningless descriptors if there’s no universal agreement about them. My green and your green may be different. Results may vary.”  – Erich


    “When I heard the single, Opale, back in December I knew that I needed to hear Shelter as soon as I possibly could. I felt that Alcest dropping the black metal influences was a great move. I enjoy their back catalogue, but it was time for them to try something new.

It is a shame that I was disappointed on the first listen. Despite the wonderfully uplifting first two tracks (Wings is really an introduction into Opale) I found myself bored until the brilliant final track Délivrance.

However, with repeated listens, I have really grown to like this album. The lack of black metal and the understated shoegaze influences delivers what is essentially a dream pop album with some post-rock guitar. It is gently uplifting with some wonderfully subtle parts that shine through in all of the tracks. However many of the tracks almost blend into each other and the album does warrant closer listening, but the whole experience is often more like background music.

Shelter is not the triumph I expected it to be, but I am happy that I gave it some time to sink in rather than disregarding it after the first listen. I’ll be interested to see where they go from here.” TenaciousListening


    “Oh where oh where has thy Black Metal gone? The decline in the presence of their black metal roots has been noticeable on each sequential Alcest release, but with ‘Shelter’ even trace influences are no where to be found. I’m OK with that because the album is littered with powerful guitar offerings almost completely derived from the post-rock realm and those same brilliant vocal melodies and harmonies that very few bands can deliver, but I feel like longtime fans could feel abandoned here.

To be perfectly honest, during my very first listen my first thought was, “It’s crazy how much I am reminded of Anathema.” I’ve since stepped away a little from that train of though but I do think a fairly straightforward comparison isn’t too far-fetched.

When you look past the dramatic shift in sound, ‘Shelter’ offers a very uplifting, powerful and spacious performance comprised of some of Neige’s best work in terms of song structure. There really isn’t a single lost moment on this album. And although a part of me really misses the powerful flairful dramatic chuggy guitar work found on 2012’s ‘Les Voyages De L’Ame’ , I’m smart enough to realize that their 2012 effort was likely not going to be topped by a follow up of a similar offering.

I would have liked to see the album feature more than one epic build up (which comes in the album’s closing track ‘Delivrance’), but that’s just personal preference. ‘Shelter’ is an album that I would put in the upper echelon of “very good”, bordering the territory of “excellent” in terms of rating. Will this album receive any year end awards or be on any top albums lists at Postrockstar? I’m not sure. Will I still be listening to it by the end of the year? Without question.” – James


    “I will admit I’ve never heard anything by Alcest until this. I still haven’t heard anything they released before Shelter. I have no idea what sort of journey they’ve been on, I can only see where they are now. And what I can see right now, they’re in a good spot. That being said, I can’t really just sit down and listen to this album, it’s not gripping enough for that, I need something to entertain me as I listen. I don’t know if this album is their best ever, or if they’re slowly declining. Either way, they’re sitting pretty with “Shelter”.

It’s a very relaxed album, I imagine them playing this while sitting down, with their eyes closed. The album as a whole is composed beautifully, and I find it very easy to enjoy as background music. I can’t find any other word for this album, other than Serene. Soothing vocals, strong usage of non-traditional instruments (I love the percussion instruments in Opale), and the overall sound is downright dreamy. I have no context for this album, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.” – Foofer


    “Alcest’s latest album, ‘Shelter’, was touted as a new direction for the band, with all metal elements now supplanted by an encompassing shoegaze aesthetic. This is kind of true — there are now no unclean vocals to be found in it’s 46 minutes. However even those with only a passing interest in Alcest’s former works will have come to realize that they’ve always aspired for a smooth and dreamy sound anyway, where even the growls seemed to glide without friction atop ethereal waves of guitar. So ‘Shelter’ is no different in this regard. What is different is the somewhat brighter tone delivered through a greater utility of delicate post-rock-esque melodies, but that’s about it.

The long, climbing song structures are still there ( In “Voix Sereines” it even seems as though it might transition into Neige’s signature growls at any moment). And for a so-called “shoegaze” album, there isn’t a whole lot of fuzz or smattering of whirry effects beyond what you might find in your average post-rock record. So for all intents and purposes, I guess, this is a hopeful post-rock album with accessible vocals. Like “Takk…” but with fewer sonic boundaries encroached upon. There’s a token cameo by shoegaze legend Neil Halstead. Many of the songs sound similar; most are beautiful and a few are forgettable yet harmless. “Opale”, “Voix Sereines” and “Délivrance” are undeniable highlights. This is an incredibly easy album to enjoy time and time again, but a difficult one to love. – Shooter


‘Shelter’ is available to purchase here from Prophecy Productions on CD & Vinyl here (europe) and here (USA)

Roundtable Review – And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures

Artist And So I Watch You From Afar
Album ‘All Hail Bright Futures’
Genre Post-Rock / Math-Rock
Buy/DL bandcamp
Web Facebook | Sargent House
Label Sargent House
Release Mar 19 2013
Rating Excellent

After a short hiatus, we’re back with yet another roundtable review. This time around  Shane, Shooter and myself (Iamhop) are taking a look at the much anticipated ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ by And So I Watch You From Afar, the band’s third full length.

Shane: Everyone’s favorite creepily named Irishmen are back with a new album, and oh, it’s a great one. They continue to defy easy genre classification, by just providing awesome, infectious, instrumental jams. They don’t have the crescendos, the build-ups, or any of the “cinematic” stuff, they don’t really have the math rock angle going on, they just play what they love, and it comes out awesome. I mean, they use a steel drum for crying out loud. Who else has the balls to do that?

They do slow things down a bit here and there, like on “The Stay Golden Pt. 3 (Trails…)”, and the following track, “Mend And Make Safe”. While the former is a short little mellow track, the latter is a little less bouncy version of classic ASIWYFA, which reminds me a bit of The Dismemberment Plan (in a very, very good way).

In an album so full of highlights (the chant on “Ambulance” is pretty damn awesome, for example), it’s hard to really find anything “wrong” with this album. If I had one bone to pick, I’m not that into the first 3 minutes or so of “Ka Ba Ta Bo Da Ka“, but the track finishes strong. The final track, “Young Brave Minds”, is probably the stand out track to me, which is a difficult thing to say given how great everything else on the album is.

Every time ASIWYFA puts out a new album, I wonder how they’re going to top it. Well, they’ve topped ‘Gangs‘ here, in my opinion, and of course, now I’m wondering how they’re going to top this. Excellent.


IamHop:  And So I Watch You From Afar is one of those bands you really need to see live to truly appreciate the energy that flows through the band’s barrage of musical insanity . While technically sound, the band really does thrive off the unrelenting energy they bring forth into creating a chaotic and rambunctiously fun sound. When I saw them open for Russian Circles last summer, I expected a solid show. What I didn’t expect was for them to completely tear the house down and take all the air out of the room in the process. At the end of the night, people were talking about ASIWYFA, not Russian Circles. I have to hand it to them for their ability to create highly catchy mathy post-rock that never settles  falls into grooves and is constantly out to surprise the listener. You truly never know what to expect when you listen to one of their albums.

Which leads us to their latest effort ‘All Hail Bright Futures’, released earlier this month. The album picks up right where their 2011 album “Gangs” left off. Everything you’ve come to expect from the band is present and there are no real surprises to be found throughout the album’s 12 tracks. “Big Thinks Do  Remarkable” is a fantastic jam that kicks things off and never quits as it pushes forward. It’s just too hard not to chant along the track. “The Stay Golden” blends crazy electronic elements with more chanting and guitar work that simply flows on all levels. “Young Brave Minds” is the only song over 5 minutes to be found on the album and is there to reassure us that all the members of ASIWYFA haven’t developed ADHD and suddenly lack the attention span to create a great song longer than 3 minutes. While it is the best song on the album, the shorter tracks are really what sells the whole thing to me. Obviously this is an album that flows brilliantly without a dull moment to ever be found.

In comparison to their previous two releases, ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ is a much more solid album from  front to back. While their other two albums are home to some truly epic tracks that are must listen to post-rock essentials, their biggest fault is that both tended to taper off in energy and had trouble maintaining my interest after the initial rush of musical intensity the first few tracks brought to the table began to die down. That problem is nowhere to be found on this album and is a highly enjoyable experience from front to back. Mark this one down as “Excellent” in my book.


Shooter: And So I Watch You from Afar channel Battles in their latest bid to become recognized as the most fun not-quite-post-rock band in the post-rock circuit today. ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ focuses this band’s pop sensibilities into one hard-and-fast ride, such that it’s incredibly difficult to not be excited by the infectious hooks that seep from the get-go. The riffs are quick and packed with energy as you’d expect, yet there’s also a sense of patience that was at times missing in previous albums. No longer do songs hurriedly shift from riff to riff — each melody is allowed to repeat for long enough for the hooks to really attach. The now-prominent use of vocals aids in making each motif more memorable, yet it also lends a somewhat cute and fun edge to the music. And So I Watch You from Afar have always stated their case that post-rock can be a blast, but it’s never been more convincing than it is here. ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ is like a dream pop album on a sugar-high. Aggressive metal elements that were once a distraction are now left by the wayside in the aid of a cohesive pop sound. I feel like this band has finally found its identity. Excellent

Roundtable Review: Lights & Motion – ‘Reanimation’

Artist Lights & Motion
Album Reanimation
Genre Post-rock / Ambient
Buy/DL Deep Elm Digital
Web Facebook | Soundcloud
Label Deep Elm Records
Released Jan 16 2013
Rating Very Good / Excellent

    In our first roundtable review of 2013 we are examining Lights & Motion’s debut album, ‘Reanimation‘, released January 16th on Deep Elm Records. Lights & Motion is the brainchild of Swedish musician Christoffer Franzén and tends to walk among the lighter side of the genre. Without further ado let’s get to our panel of reviewers —

    “I tend to prefer vocal music to instrumental music. I like stories and words and the emotion and nuance that can be communicated vocally. Furthermore, instrumental music has to try a little harder to sound unique; usually a singer has his own delivery, word choice, enunciation and timbre that sets songs apart. All of that said, Lights & Motion’ s latest, ‘Reanimation‘, is a good example of an instrumental album done well. It sounds like a mixture of Sigur Ros and The End of the Ocean but with acoustic guitar, dedicated string section and a piano holding the melody. Highlights include “Victory Rose” – mellow, pretty track, perfect for a night drive; “Fractured” with a cool piano melody, “Texas” a track that starts with crickets, acoustic and slide guitar, then builds and adds a xylophone; and finally “Dream Away” , which I was pleasantly surprised when the final track had vocals, and a pretty good singer to boot. It serves as a great bookend to the album. The acoustic guitar and prominent piano help to separate this from other post-rock bands I listen to, so I’d rate it as “Excellent“. Well done!” – Tim

    “Let me get this out if the way first and foremost – the debut album from Lights & Motion is a good album. It has all of the crescendos you could hope for, all of the cinematic sounds, and all of the classic post-rock elements. To me, though, that’s part of its downfall. There is literally nothing here that you haven’t heard before – this part sounds like Explosions In The Sky, that part sounds like The Album Leaf, etc. There’s enough of a foundation here to leave me somewhat looking forward to what’s to come, but there just isn’t anything new here. The songs are well executed, they just travel very, very familiar ground.” – Shane

    “I’d heard A LOT of hype around the Lights & Motion release ‘Reanimation.’ Generally I’m pretty wary of anything that’s lavished with excessive praise but I manage to crack this album with an open mind. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible, but I definitely wasn’t blown away. The 13 track-record has its moments. It’s easy to listen to and even edges on greatness, but it just can’t get there. All the songs are catchy in an “I-feel-like-I’ve-heard-this-somewhere-before” kind of way that leaves me wanting to listen to the songs I’m reminded of, not the L&M versions. The perfect example of this is “Aerials.” While arguably one of the better songs on the album, it’s eerily similar to “Your Hand In Mine” by post-rock pros, Explosions In The Sky.
    The production on the album is incredibly clean with all the instrumentation reaching your ears quite clearly but I felt it was lacking in raw passion. Perhaps L&M sacrificed intensity for certain cinematic clarity. I would rate this album as average/solid.  Regardless the album is still pretty enjoyable and worthy of a listen through or two. After that? Who knows.” – Jerome

    “There’s not a lot that i need to say about this album, because if you’re a fan instrumental rock post-Explosions In The Sky then you already know what this sounds like. It’s beautiful, dramatic, powerful, to-the-point, explosive and uplifting. The culmination of everything that post-rock (or a certain school of post-rock) has been trying to achieve for the past decade. It picks your spirits up where all else has failed. It inspires feelings of awe and wonder. It’s music for stargazers. It’s the sound of your first crush and your last love. It’s crescendo-core through and through, but crescendo-core at its finest. A polished and perfected homage to everything that came before it. Is it derivative? Yes. Repetitive? A little. Contrived? Probably. But for any other band to revisit this style of music now would be futile — ‘Reanimation‘ just wont be topped. A must-listen to album.” – Shooter

    “After being bombarded by hype (thanks Deep Elm, bang up job again), I spun ‘Reanimation‘ a few times to get a feel for this ‘breathtaking’ and ‘magical’ release by EITS, GIAA, Lowercase Noises, Dorena, The Best Pessimist, Aerials, I mean Lights & Motion. Does changing your band name, as a solo musician, still allow you to use ‘debut release’ in marketing? Odd. Well, each listen left me unimpressed. I’m more of a fan of energetic, progressive, guitar-based instrumentals over the more emotive, piano-driven offerings but even so, this album provided nothing I haven’t heard on at least twelve other albums over the past seven years. Sure, it’s pretty, well produced and inoffensive – but it isn’t innovative or even noticeable in anything other than the fact it is a new release.  I must have heard that same marching, building drum beat thousands of times over the past few years. You know the one, EITS uses it on every other track. It failed to meet my number one criteria: “Can I recognize the band by the music, without looking?” I’m sure this album will end up on years’ end best of lists, because Deep Elm has excellent marketing skills and a choke hold on mid-major ‘post-rock’ releases. For me, I’ve rated it as a Solid Release – it’s OK, but don’t get your hopes up too high.” – Bothra

    “The first grievance I can see anyone listening to this album having will be that it’s formulaic and derivative. I can’t argue with that point. The first few times I listened to the album, I was ready to walk away calling it an unabashed homage to Explosions in the Sky, M83, and Sigur Ros. But I kept at it because the music has an undertone that deserves recognition. While almost every track is the formula of slow build to giant explosion, this album seems to almost perfect it. Over the course of thirteen tracks, this wears thin, but it still managed to captivate. The songs take hold when the piano is given more time to shine and the thumping drum beats stand off to the side instead of slapping you in the face. Two great examples of how this formula is done so well are “Drift” and “Reanimation“. This is a debut album and I can see this act evolving well over the next few years. Hopefully our next outing with Lights and Motions is more refined and less capable of being slapped on a movie trailer.” – Bryan

    “Deep Elm’s lineup of post-rock talent never ceases to amaze me. The label just seems to have a knack for finding some of the best talent around and ‘Reanimation‘ by Lights & Motion is just further proof of that. ‘Reanimation‘ is chalked full of cinematic flair, ripe with over the top emotion and has those captivating indescribable elements that carry it to its place among the higher echelons of post-rock releases. With top-notch production qualities and fine tuned craftsmanship, I can safely say this is the first truly brilliant post-rock release of 2013 and I think that it sets the bar high insanely high for in that regard. It’s crazy to think that at just three weeks into the new year there is already an album that will undoubtedly be found on many year-end lists and for good reason. ‘Reanimation‘ is an hour plus long magical journey that explores the depths of the soul by seamlessly transitioning between moments of glory, triumph and heartbreak. After dozens of listens I still find myself impressed at the musical mind of Christoffer Franzén (Lights & Motion). That no one particular instrument stands out as clearly being dominant or “better” than the rest speaks volumes to Franzén’s talent.
Prior to the release of this Roundtable Review, I’ve read early rumblings and criticism from those who were quick to dismiss this album as simply another third wave crescendo-core ripoff and I just don’t hear it honestly. There is a difference to me between common similarities and straight up reproducing another band’s style. Sure, there are inspirations found on ‘Reanimation‘ from EITS, and probably more so from Dorena than any other band, but they are just that, inspirations. What sets Lights & Motion apart is the fact that they’ve taken a successful formula and mastered it to include their own artistic interpretation and flair. Obviously there is going to be a little overlap in sound amongst instrumental artists of a specific style within a genre, but I think it’s far too easy to get swept up in trying to point to specific similarities than it is to simply enjoy an album for what it is. Sure “Reanimation” might not tread upon much new ground, but sometimes that’s ok and it shouldn’t detract from the fact that simply put this is an excellent album that needs to be a part of any post-rock fan’s collection.”  – IamHop

Round Table Review #3 – The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals & Departures – 80%

   In installment number three of our ongoing Round Table Review series we take a look at the new album ‘Arrivals & Departures’ from Texas natives The Calm Blue Sea. The album is the band’s first release in four years and the follow-up to their debut self titled in 2008. Before we began, Postrockstar gives a huge thanks to the band and their label for offering this album to our writers free of charge so that we could complete this Round Table Review.

Shooter ‘Arrivals & Departures’ should be everything that I want in an album. It melds pretty post-rock guitar lines and piano melodies with the kind of delicate vocal delivery akin to bands such as Immanu El, Kyte, or the softer side of Athletics. The sense of texture and atmosphere once perfected by Explosions in the Sky is rarely ever traced with this amount of sophistication (“Pont des Mouton”, for example, sounds so indebted to Explosions in the Sky that it’s uncanny — not a bad thing). But for the first few listens to ‘Arrivals & Departures’, I felt like something was missing. The music floats, but not quite as gracefully as Immanu El‘s ‘They’ll Come, They Come.’ It’s emotional, without quite evoking the level of sentiment conveyed by Dorena‘s ‘Holofon‘. ‘Arrivals & Departures’ is fundamentally mid-tempo, and this serves to ensure that it never offends, yet it never quite excites either. Devoting your full attention to this album might render it a forgettable experience. Take it simply as music to accompany other activities such as reading, however, and you might find it will grow; its melodies and crescendos gradually latching themselves onto your subconscious. Patience is rewarded. Hopefully with their next release The Calm Blue Sea will play more to their strengths, averting focus away from explosions of sound and with a penchant for their softer, more pensive moments. The vocals, too, should be given more space to explore, as they’re certainly one of the stronger constituents of the band’s sound. – 81%

Bothra – With their 2008 self-titled release, The Calm Blue Sea rose quickly to one of my favorite new acts on the scene. “We Happy Few” was the perennial top request in the Post-Rock & Beyond channel that a couple other Postrockstar writers and myself regularly frequent and “The Rivers That Run Beneath This City” absolutely blew me away on several occasions. It is an understatement to say that I eagerly awaited their next installment. We were teased a few months ago with “Mary Ann Nichols“, and it piqued my interest but did not strike me at the same level that several songs from the previous LP did. I figured they were saving the real meat of the new album, ‘Arrivals & Departures‘, for release. On release, I sat with this album several times before forming an opinion on the progression between the two solid records. What I found was that my expectations got the better of me. On this album, we get more of the same – but not in any sort of innovative or comforting way. Sure, there are standout tracks such as ‘Pont Des Mouton’ and ‘Tesoro‘, with their clear melodies incorporating light intricacies of piano, subdued vocals as well as shining guitar work. I just feel that the overall emotion is lacking the punch and subtlety of the first record. The listener is left to meander half-heartedly, accompanied by background music that occasionally morphs into cacophonous crescendos. Still, TCBS does many things well. Their use of vocals in the mix is velvety and discreet, their piano work feels welcomed and they have moments of excellent song structure and effective building of emotion. Ultimately, I’m underwhelmed due to my high hopes for the album, and I feel that many bands have put out similar overall quality over the past few years. What was my pre-release favorite for album of the year ends up in the middle of the road. 83%

James – In so many ways I consider The Calm Blue Sea‘s self titled 2008 debut to be something of a perfect storm. Here you have a band coming from the backyard of one of the biggest post-rock bands of all time (Explosions in the Sky) that just happens to debut with one of the most breathtaking emotional roller coaster ride albums of all time. The album immediately put the band in rarefied air with timeless songs like “This Will Never Happen Again” and of course “We Happy Few”. To say the band set the bar high would be an understatement in my estimation. Some four years later the band has returned with ‘Arrivals & Departures’ and while I will say that it doesn’t reach the mark the band set with their debut it certainly doesn’t disappoint either. The band retained much of the formula from their debut album including the deep piano intros, the sweeping build ups and their ability to make each peak feel like a monumental moment. While some of the piano work such as the short opening track didn’t particular speak to me on the same levels the work in their earlier songs did, the guitar work is as stellar as ever. One thing I do like much more about this album is the much larger vocal presence. The vocals found within “Samsara” are beautiful yet not overpowering and feel well meshed within the rest of the instruments of the song. With its flurry of guitar layering of various styles, “Pont Des Mouton” gets my nod as best track on the album. I also have to mention the album’s closer, “To Approach the Vivian Girls” where the band manages to hit the absolute sweet spot in combining lush guitar tones and elegant piano work with minimalist vocals. All in all it combines to create a relaxed closing track that is a proper ending to the album. Overall I find ‘Arrivals & Departures’ to be a great album to drift away to the back of your mind to that will continue to grow on me as it racks up plays on my ipod. – 89%

Drew R. – To best judge an album, after the first play through I ask myself, “would I play this again and under what circumstance?”. Unfortunately for this Texan band once I have finished this review I will not be listening to it again. Whilst on the whole this album is inoffensive, there is nothing here that hasn’t been done before and done to a much higher standard. The build ups are predictable and pedestrian and sound like tracks that EITS have left on the cutting room floor. Musically the rhythm section is functional, providing a stable base for the guitars to play over but nothing is willing to take a risk. Sadly the greatest tool I can use to engage with albums, emotion, is sorely lacking here leaving me unmoved and apathetic – 55%

Bryan – After listening to ‘Arrivals & Departures’ for the first time, I walked away feeling like I hadn’t listened to anything. Nothing seemed to stand out. When I perked my ears up, the reasons as to why I could tune this out became apparent. The problem with this album is that the transitions between heavy riffs and slowly plodding piano parts are abrupt and sloppy. Right as I was sinking into a track, the guitars would start blaring and the drummers would beat the hell out of his set. Of course, this is the post-rock paradigm, but we’ve begun to move on from such easy progressions. Many will love this album because it stuck to the roots of post-rock: quiet, build, explode, restart. If that’s what you want, other bands have done it and done it better. I look forward to seeing how this band continues to evolve because there are moments that I still revisit. “Samsara” is a wonderfully slow build that breaks without unnecessary intensity. The title track emphasizes a minimalist but gorgeous piano that doesn’t devolve into unnecessary noise, and the quiet vocal line still gives me shivers. This band has some good ideas, but they need to move away from the post-rock cycle and embrace their sound. 81%

ShanexEdge – Let’s face it, when any post-rock band releases a record, it’s going to get compared to the heavyweights of the genre. That’s a given, really, in almost any genre. The Calm Blue Sea, hailing from Austin, TX, get it two-fold, as they share their hometown with genre titans Explosions in the Sky. While I can understand making the comparisons, since both bands (and many others) are big fans of the build-up, I don’t think it’s really fair. On their newest release, ‘Arrivals & Departures’, The Calm Blue Sea have delivered an album that, while carrying familiar elements of post-rock, really sets them apart from a great deal of their peers. Sure, the build-up is ever-present, but it’s delivered in a way that strikes me as more cinematic than anything else. This isn’t really a stretch for the band, considering that between the release of their self-titled debut album, and this one, they wrote a score for the 1924 silent film Siegfried, performing it live in a one-off showing off the film in their hometown.

One of the first things you notice after listening to this album all the way through is the increased presence of vocals, though I’m certainly not saying that as a negative. The majority of the vocals here, especially on tracks like “We Will Never Be As Young As We Are Tonight” and “To Approach the Vivian Girls”, are performed in such a way that the vocals themselves become an instrument, and aren’t delivered in the standard verse-chorus-verse layout. This also works well on “Diaspora“, a shorter, almost interlude track, where the vocals are the only thing accompanying a beautiful piano line, creating a wonderful atmosphere to lead in to the following track, “Mary Ann Nichols“. As wonderfully as this track starts off, it really hits its stride at the 4 minute mark, with a build-up that leads into one of the most explosive moments on the album. Showing their mastery of writing a full album, rather than just a collection of songs, this in turn leads right into “Tesoro“, my personal favorite track. What begins with a rocking first two minutes, a la The Appleseed Cast (I know, I know… comparisons), leads to a beautifully droning segment of the song, slowly building up to another explosion of melody at around 5:30. The crafting of this song is so brilliantly done, I almost feel like saying when the build-up hits should be preceded by me saying “spoiler alert!”

If you really must have a comparison between The Calm Blue Sea and their more famous Austin neighbors, here you go – to me, ‘Arrivals & Departures‘ rivals damn near anything Explosions in the Sky has released, and should rightly cement this band as one of the best in the genre, hands down. – 93%

Final Score – 80.3%

Available digitally through Itunes for $8 here:

or grab the CD for just $11 here:

The Calm Blue Sea:

Roundtable Review #2 – Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Alleujah! Don’t Bend Ascend” – 85%

In our latest installment of roundtable review, we tackle the legendary Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s  ‘Alleujah! Don’t Bend Ascend’ , their first album in 10 years. Our writers were highly divided on this album and this will definitely be one of the more controversial installments of the series.

Shooter:  With ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’, Godspeed You! Black Emperor make 55 minutes feel like 20. This could be a good thing. Time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s certainly no point during ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘ at which I am anything less than thoroughly entertained. From the opening sample to the clanging of the pots and pans, “Mladic” is dense and entrancing. The strings are at times jarring and at others elegant, which is nothing less than what you would expect from a Godspeed! song. The Middle-Eastern vibe is subtle but ever-present, giving an impression of how Grails might sound had they reigned in their tempo. It’s a great track, but there’s just not a lot there to justify its duration. The same goes for “We Drift Like Worried Fire.” One shouldn’t expect a creative machine like Godspeed! to keep checking their watches as they craft their songs — that’s fine — however it’s hard to feel entirely satisfied with categorizing this as a complete album as opposed to an extremely long EP. As such, ‘Allelujah! feels like a single, directed idea that, although coherent, exhibits little in the way of variety or exploration. It all sounds great, but there’s just not a lot there. – 79%

Drew  R:  I must confess that GY!BE have passed me by. I have heard several of their albums but they’re not my ‘go-to’ when I’m in the mood for post-rock with politics. Their 10 year absence has done nothing to make their mark on my consciousness, which, with hindsight, is entirely my loss! ‘Allelujah!..’ is heavy on the drone; mesmerizing and hypnotic combined with a lush middle-eastern flavor. ‘Allelujah!..’ combines everything they’ve done before and takes it to another level. The first track ‘Mladic‘, named for the war criminal, starts eerily and builds, weaving in and out of the initial theme. Track number two, composed entirely of violins, cellos and electronic noise utilizes the sawing violins to add spookiness to what is already an uncomfortable feeling album. The third track is where we get our first taste of the more traditional post-rock sound but you have to give it some time before it gets there, swinging in and out, uneasy then hopeful by turns. The album’s closer is entirely drone; drawing a line under the anxiety of the rest of the album. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this album. Seeing as they are one of the genre’s leading lights I should have expected greatness and they have produced an album worthy of their reputation. – 90%

Erich – It seems that this release, being so long coming, was lauded by many people before they ever got a good chance to listen to it.  GY!BE rightly deserves to be held high in the echelon of post-rock heroes, as their contributions to the genre, and music in general, are beyond denial.  That’s why it saddened me to cast my ears upon this abysmal LP.  From the lack of inventiveness and obvious Sonic Youth and Lou Reed rip-off sounds and dynamics to the sub-par production, I was disappointed for most of this record. While there were some good moments, such as the last half of “Mladic” and the ending movement of “We Drift Like Worried Fire,”  I felt for the most part like I was listening to a contrived Anglo Teutonic version of The Master Musicians of Joujouka. While this would have been fine as some stop-gap jam room dickery, it’s not up to par for such a respected and capable band.  This is simply not worthy of the rest of GY!BE’s discography or, frankly, anyone’s money. – 68%

JacobMoss – I’ve followed Godspeed You Black Emperor! ever since the album ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’. Since then I have listened to just about every album of theirs on repeat. I hear a different sound each time with different cuts, and yet it always remains quintessential existential post-rock. For me, it is GYBE! and different albums by A Silver Mt. Zion which really capture the essence of what post rock is fundamentally all about. The album for the soundtrack ‘Angels of the universe’ by Sigur Ros and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson captures that as well. Through listening to ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ the visual semblances from such intensity is projected in my mind. It becomes great inspiration for an aesthetic pen artist like myself. This is because the rapid extremes of guitar and drum instrumentalism excite the nerves and through tangents help a person cerebrally venture into exciting and intense future understandings of what it means to be alive and truly feel human! It is a Mecca of chaos in a universe so comfortable to exist in. Even in multiplicity of moments it seems to the mind like it will never end. And for that matter, why would you want it to? This immense energy is freedom bursting from the seams inside you, and with each harmonious rhythmic pulse of rock-based schemata you lose yourself in such a debris of the world happening. Changing. Losing control. Lifting.. to a next degree i.e level of perfection! Alas, Godspeed– No one speaks in such a language of exotic beauty! Truly taking the stage with each and every incredible album of built up virtue and suspense. Light some candles, turn off the lights, and visualize. No ticket purchase needed, void where prohibited. 97%

IamHop Godspeed You! Black Emperor essentially paved the way for what the post-rock scene has become today through their dramatic cult rise in the late 90’s. Treading upon rarely crossed musical territories back than, their music helped shape the post-rock genre with every release. And while there are those who will tell you that “Lift your Skinny Fists…” is the greatest post-rock release of all time, I’m not so sure I agree. I think that it’s a monumental album that’s certainly left a lasting legacy in the post-rock realm, but I could never call it the best. And now they’re back with their first album in 10 years, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘ , which features four tracks, two of which that are 20 minutes each in classic GY!BE fashion. “Mladic” is doom and gloom heavily distorted grayness that feels overly dramatic and is a welcome addition to the band’s catalog. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” feels like the polar opposite of “Mladic” as it feels much more colorful and full of life, continuously building up and breaking down in all it’s glory. I feel a certain amount of helplessness trying to explain the magic behind an album like this. It’s really something that must not just be heard, but experienced as well. “Allelujah” is the type of music that speaks directly to my soul. 93%

Available digitally for $8 at Constellation Records

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