Thinking Aloud: The Lets Rant Edition

    Hi I’m James and I’m a reddit addict. One of the subreddit’s that I occasionally frequent is r/Postrock, a subreddit that I’ve found to be largely uninspiring when it comes to all things post-rock. While occasionally you can find good conversation or obscure finds, the real good stuff is hidden amidst sea of poor audio quality youtube links of the same 50 post-rock songs we’ve all heard a million times. Honestly, we all love This Will Destroy You, but if you ever feel inclined to link us to “Quiet” as if we’ve never heard it before, stop, just stop. Either be a man and link to a Tunnel Blanket song or find some obscure Nordic band on Facebook with 75 likes to link us to. Anyways, before I drifted off there, I was trying to tell the story of how I met our own Foofer.

    Foofer posted a rather extensive list of his favorite albums from 2013 and I was immediately sold on trying to recruit him to be a part of our team. Speaking with him, he immediately showed interest but informed me he had never written reviews before. I was more than OK with that because his posts were well written and he seemed very well spoken, a great fit for our tight nit group. Flash forward about eight months later and our very owner Foofer recently made his writing debut on Echoes & Dust , another post-rock site I frequent quite a bit that is also worthy of your readership. I’m really proud to see how far Foofer has come in a short time span.

    It’s been an insane last few weeks for post-rock and it’s about to get even crazier as we are in the full midst of autumn. With August releases from Maybeshewill, This Patch of Sky and Set & Setting, we’ve all had our hands a little full. Even with a new This Will Destroy You release on the horizon, my most anticipated release this year is ‘Sines’ by Jakob, due out on October 21st, marking their first release in nearly 8 years. If you haven’t heard “Blind Them With Science” yet, well, what the hell are you waiting for?

    One album that I didn’t get a chance to write a review of was Cory Johnson’s ‘Earthbound’, which we promoted a few weeks back. I’m not as familiar with the music to the video game Earthbound as I am with the music on his 2012 post-rock interpretations of songs from The Legend of Zelda, but I really enjoyed this release A LOT more than his last one. One particular song that stands out on this album is “I Am The Evil In Your Heart” which uses samples from pro wrestling villain Bray Wyatt, who plays this sort of Cape Fear “The whole world is lying to you” anti-establishment cult leader. Seeing two things I really have a passion for, that being post-rock and pro-wrestling, come together was an odd pairing, yet I was none the less thrilled.

    On a non post-rock related ending, I really wish Mikael Åkerfeldt would get his shit together and write a real Opeth record. I’m sorry, but even if ‘Pale Communion’ isn’t a bad record, it’s still not what most Opeth fans wanted and even the ones who tell you to just accept Opeth’s new style are just lying to themselves. If one day in the 70’s the Rolling Stones decided that they were just going to start writing  country western songs and radically alter their style people would have rioted in the fucking streets. So why do we let Opeth off so easy ? This is Opeth after all, who led the forefront of progressive death metal and paved the way for so many bands. Now we’re two albums into the new 70’s prog-folk Opeth and I think enough is enough and I’m just going to say what needs to be said. Have you ever read the story of the Sword and the Stone? We desperately need our King Arthur to come along and pull Steve Wilson’s influence out of Mikael Akerfeldt so that we can get a proper Opeth record.

Ok enough ranting. IamHop out.

 

Thinking Aloud: Heartbreak, Coping and Jakob

It’s certainly been an interesting last 30 days in my life. I’ve spent much of the last month deep in the emotional turmoil of post-relationship-rock, a fancy, sarcastically themed word I just coined instead of opting to use the more obvious term ‘break up’.

Before I continue any further, I want to give specific thanks to TenaciousListening for taking over the day-to-day operations of Postrockstar in my absence. Without him our site would not have been posting or producing the steady stream of content that it has been, so that’s all him, and I can’t thank him enough. I also can’t thank the Postrockstar writing staff enough either. These guys have continually cranked out rock solid review after rock solid review while I was away, producing nothing and feeling sorry for myself. I can’t wait until I get a chance to meet up with these gents in real life so I can buy them copious amounts of their favorite adult beverages.

The reality is that I lost something major in my life and in the midst of losing that I also completely lost sight of all the little things that were important to me as well. One of those little things is my persistent love for the post-rock realm. While I was dealing with heartbreak, I found myself passing the hours getting lost in the ambient-electronic likes of Tycho, Washed Out, M83 and Jon Hopkins among others. And when the pain in my heart got really bad and everything seemed bleak, I turned to the likes of acoustic and folk artists like Ryan Adams, Glen Hansard, Passenger and Alexi Murdoch. When I was angry about where my life had taken me, I angrily shouted the lyrics to the likes of Anberlin’s ‘New Surrender’ , All American Reject’s ‘When The World Comes Down’  and Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Futures’ albums. I’ve never had an album perfectly describe my entire range of emotions quite like ‘Futures’ . I’ve never cried harder to a song like I have to the song ‘23’ .

Although I’m extremely partial to the post-rock genre, I freely admit to liking nearly every type of music that has ever hit my ears. I can find enjoyment in nearly anything you throw at me with almost no exceptions (ok, grindcore was never my thing…). It felt good to spend a little time away from the genre that I’ve called ‘home’ for the last six or so years. It felt particularly good to dive into folk and acoustic, I really gained a new appreciation for what those artists can bring to the table.

Earlier on I mentioned losing sight of the little things in the wake of this trepidation in my life. Over the last month the things I loved in life seemingly lost their value. I found no happiness in the things that use to mean everything to me and as bad as that may sound, I feel like I’ll grow from this experience as a person. .A few hours ago I finally had a moment of clarity that made me realize exactly why I pour the passion and time I do into the post-rock genre and why it matters so much to me.

A spotify user contacted me based on my listening history and asked if I knew of any other bands similar to Jakob, one of my favorite post-rock bands ever who later this year is set to release their first album in nearly eight years. Of course I obliged and pointed him in the direction of the likes of If These Trees Could Talk, Leech, Toundra, JakeL, set & setting, Form and Fate and Psychotree. We both commiserated in the lack of bands capable of producing the raw and downtrodden sound Jakob produced and he thanked me for the suggestions and immediately fell in love with Trees and a couple others. It’s funny how a task as simple as suggesting post-rock artists reminded me exactly what post-rock means to my life and why I love it so much. That one moment brought a splash of color back to something positive in my life that I had let become gray.

Before I wrap up storytime, I’d like to retread to a band a I mentioned earlier, set & setting. This ridiculously talented Florida outfit won our debut album of the year award for 2013 and plan on following it up their masterpiece ‘Equanimity’ with their upcoming release ‘A Vivid Memory’ , due out September 2nd through Prosthetic Records . I’m really happy to see the band getting some much deserved exposure and it will only serve the post-rock genre well if they continue to be picked up and promoted by bigger named sites like Metalsucks.net . If you haven’t already, check out the first single ‘coping’ from their upcoming sophomore release.

People come and go in your life, sometimes in a moments notice without rhyme or reason,  but music is a persistent constant. Music is the only love I’ll ever need.

Still… I miss her.

Thinking Aloud: The Watermark High – Bright Black EP

By James

(Welcome to ‘Thinking Aloud’ , the latest weekly column on Postrockstar written by James (IamHop). Stay tuned for the future, I plan on using this column to not only review albums but to also share my thoughts on the music industry and the state of the post-rock genre.)

I was first introduced to The Watermark High via fellow Postrockstar writer Shooter, who nominated their “Slow Motion Clarity” album to be our 2012 Electronic Ambient album of the year. I was floored when I first heard the one-man Johannesburg outfit, the music was everything I was ever looking for in electronic music. The Watermark High presented complex and uptempo beats packed nice and neat inside these beautifully put together songs that never made your head spin. He produces his music thinking about both the ambient listener and the synth loving bass junky. Far too often I find electronic artists are unable to find the perfect balance when composing this sort of music. The Watermark High does it to perfection.

The ‘Bright Black EP’ is a 6-track 24 minute odyssey released earlier this year and available at a name your price right on bandcamp and free to stream via Spotify. The EP falls right in line with the rest of their discography, expanding on the more forward and experimental sound that we heard most recently from The Watermark High in the 2013 effort ‘Murmurs’. The EP kicks off with ‘Saudade’ which seduces the listener with an infectious beat that is easy on the ears despite being a very busy track. ‘Saudade’ is the water in the pool that doesn’t shock your nerves but still requires some acclimation before it truly becomes enjoyable. By the time “Muddle” rolls around you really start to get a feel for what ‘Bright Black’ is all about. Too uptempo and aggressive for the local coffee shop but clearly not the “sick beats” you’d expect to hear in a night club either.  I’m far more than ok with the happy medium here.

“Weak End” is the most catchy track on the EP and feels like a retro throwback to the songs from their 2012 ‘In Flux’ EP. You’ll have to forgive me for absolutely butchering electronic descriptions and terminology here, but the beeps and buzzes in this track are absolutely nuts, especially with a proper high-end audio set up. This song is night and day when I play it in my car and on my home set up. It can be enjoyed regardless of whatever you’re pumping it out of, but songs like this reassure me that dumping money into high-end headphones is well worth it. “(W)hole” features piano work around a beat that is more easily broken down by layer if you pay enough attention. The bass in the lower spectrum of the mix is eerily reminiscent of early Massive Attack and is something I’d love to see Watermark High utilize more of in the future. I don’t necessarily feel like this sort of music is in need of deep bassy textures, but it could certainly further complement their efforts.

“Welcome to the Resistance” is a little off-putting to me in that I feel it’s an extremely bold effort. While the song succeeds in feeling heavily culturally influenced (likely from the India/middle east region), I can’t help but feel it’s a little bit forced. It certainly stands out from the rest of The Watermark High’s body of work. The problem is that by standing out it also breaks up the good vibe and synergy found elsewhere throughout the album. Luckily the album finishes outlandishly strong with “The Outsider” which sort of encompasses the entire theme of ‘Bright Black’, representing a little bit of each of the other five songs within itself.

I’m very satisfied with what Paul van der Walt has given us with this EP. The Watermark High is still very under the radar when it’s clear the music they churn out continually proves to be worthy of being a focal contender within electronic circles. I’d really like to see The Watermark High get their day in the sun and get the recognition they deserve. As a post-rock lover more recently crossing over into electronic, I couldn’t be more thankful to have come across The Watermark High. They’ve really opened a lot of doors for me into other sub-genres.