Music InWallved – Orange Album

Music InWallved - Orange AlbumSome countries are just proving to be breeding grounds for talented post-rock bands. The US has its fair share, of course England and Japan do as well. Russia has made quite a presence over the past few years, and any list of countries spawning notable post-rock bands wouldn’t be complete without Iceland (even if only for Sigur Ros, though there are certainly others who are more than worth mentioning). When you go down this list of countries and the number of noteworthy post-rock bands (you know, the list that I just made up about 20 seconds ago), you don’t really see Lithuania on there. Like, at all. If “Orange Album”, the debut from Music InWallved (which has been in the works for 5 years!) is any indication, you might want to keep an eye on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.

The album tells the tale of a final night in your home city, before embarking on a journey to space. While space isn’t anywhere near a new concept in the realm of post-rock, I really enjoy the way this story is told, as stated by the band:

Orange City – A journey through the city, full of memories. Orange Beach – Last evening with friends, family. Orange Sea – A sea voyage with your favorite. Orange Island – The last night before the flight. Orange Base – Voltage and decreasing time. Orange Rocket – Start. Flight. The ultimate goal.

I don’t exactly know how the final track, ‘Phoenix’, fits in to this narrative (I’m assuming it’s tied in to the flight of the rocket, phoenix in flames sort of thing), but given how the final “orange” track goes, I’ve got my ideas (more on that later). Of course, given that the band calls ‘Phoenix’ a bonus track, it may not be tied into it at all. This is very keyboard driven post-rock, and it’s done really, really well. I think that the entire band should obviously be commended for crafting the songs, but I’m especially impressed with the keyboard playing of Edgar Sokolov. While it’s not necessarily very difficult music that he’s playing, it’s just done so well that it becomes the driving force behind each of the songs. That said, I have to admit that one of my favorite moments on the album comes courtesy of bass player Anton Avin at about 2:40 into the track ‘Orange Island’. I don’t feel like you often have the bass setting the tone for the crescendo as is the case here, and I love the way the rest of the musicians come together to pull it off.

By the time the story reaches it’s conclusion, you’ve definitely gained a sense of that last night pretty well. From enjoying the time spent with your friends and loved ones, to the realization that you’re leaving them behind, culminating in the darker, uneasy feeling on ‘Orange Rocket’, the flight of the rocket itself. The tone of this final song is definitely heavier than the rest of the album, as though perhaps there was a problem with the flight…

One of the things that is most striking to me about this album is that, according to the band, they didn’t “learn to play” post-rock. Instead, after creating these songs, they found out that the music that they had written could be characterized as post-rock, which is pretty awesome to me. If you’re not setting out to create a specific style of music, but rather just writing based off of your influences and ideas, I think the final product comes out much better than trying to cram what you want to write into a tidy little genre name. Now, the question is if they’ll be able to avoid that pre-disposed categorization and the trappings that come with it on future recordings. My guess, based off of ‘Phoenix’, is that future music will definitely be a bit more defined by post-rock, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress, and just hope that it’s not another 5 years before they release a new album!

Side note, I strongly encourage you all to visit Music InWallved’s website and poke around a little. Really, really clever.

 

Great Plains – Great Plains

greatplainsWhen I was a bit younger, and didn’t have pesky grown-up problems like bills and rent payments and stuff, I would occasionally go to the record store and flip through albums with the idea that I was going to pick something up based off of the cover art. The idea here was that whatever the art was gave me a pretty good idea of what to expect from the music. Sometimes it worked out pretty well, sometimes… well.. sometimes it was awful. I’d say that, in general, the results were more in my favor than not. I bring this up because the minute I saw the artwork for Great Plains’ self-titled debut EP, that old feeling came over me. Just looking at it, I thought “I bet I know what this is going to sound like, and I bet I’m going to like it”.

 

Fortunately for me, this wasn’t one of the situations where I was dreadfully wrong, on either count.

So, that said, the album art is pretty accurate in giving the potential listener an idea of what to expect – it’s foggy, it’s a little grey, but it’s pretty. Hell, there are even some sounds on the record that sound kind of like birds. It’s almost like the guys in the band looked at the picture and went, “So, this. This is what we’re going to sound like”, and you know what? It’s good. Damn good. It has the fog – the repetitive, droning moments; it has the grey – some of the moodier, atmospheric moments; and it has the pretty – the more “standard” post-rock moments. The beauty of this album to me, though, is the not so obvious influences. The bits of Sonic Youth that I hear in the songs is every bit as important as the Isis. It’s always a great thing to me when a band truly tries to incorporate all of their influences (and is also a great reason why I’ve never been successful in starting a band).

Allow me though, if you will, to sort of step away from talking about the music for a second. Well, not entirely, but sort of. The EP was recorded live, and being a bit of a music nerd (ya think?), I’m highly impressed. Far too often, even in post-rock, bands rely very heavily on recording layers over layers, tweaking things after recording them, and so on. When I discover that a band has recorded their album live, it gives me kind of a warm, fuzzy feeling. So, kudos to Great Plains for having the courage and talent to do such a thing.

The EP itself climbs and descends the way you would expect a lone post-rock song to do. Even a cursory glance at the track times will show you that – short, medium, long, medium, short. Given that this was recorded live, I tend to think that the track listing was intentionally laid out in such a way, but maybe I’m reading into things a bit too much. Regardless, the composition of the songs work fairly well together. My two gripes are the endings of ‘Colder/Brighter’ and ‘Drive About You’. While the ending of the latter just seems a little misplaced, the finale of the former is just really anti-climatic to me. Of course, as with most EPs that I enjoy, I wish that it was a bit longer, but so it goes. In an age of being able to binge watch great TV shows in a fantastic display of shunning your social life, we’re kind of accustomed to wanting as much as possible as quickly as possible. I’ll be more than content, however, to enjoy this EP while I wait for more music from these guys!

 

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.

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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

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https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/ONcH7LM.jpgJames 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

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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

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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 turntable.fm 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

   

Winds With Hands – (untitled) **Must Listen**

Reviewed by: Shanexedge

By this point, anyone that is even remotely well-versed in post-rock/post-metal is aware that Russia is steadily turning out a staggering amount of great bands (see the recent review of the newest Show Me A Dinosaur album on here as proof). Even with the internet being the Great Spreader of Things, there’s undoubtedly a ton of bands from Russia that we’ll likely never know about (along with a million bands from everywhere else in the world). Thankfully, Winds With Hands is not one of those bands that will remain unknown. I can’t recall how I first stumbled upon this trio from Stavropol, but once I saw that their influences included not only names you’d expect like Isis and Pelican, but also Fall of Efrafa and Amanda Woodward, I knew I had to check out their debut release, (Untitled).

The Isis/Pelican influence is definitely felt throughout, though that’s certainly not a bad thing. Not once during the entire duration of the album did anything feel like a rip-off, it just gives you an idea of what to expect, musically. The opening track, “Into the North Sea” sets the atmospheric tone for the album – the whole thing feels very cold and isolated. Though the city of Stavropol sits nearly 2,000 miles from the shores of the North Sea, it’s a mountainous area, and given that the album was recorded in winter… it’s pretty easy to get that feeling. So dense is that feeling, in fact, that the next track being titled “Eternal Winter” doesn’t feel like a stretch of the imagination at all. There’s a good bit of the Fall of Efrafa influence here, which of course I love. Overall, a very moody, dark track, and probably my favorite on the album.

Given the tone of the album, even the “prettier” moments, like the first few minutes of “Closing Date”, feel a bit uneasy. Winds With Hands have come out swinging and made their presence known as a band that can masterfully craft a story without uttering a single word. I know that’s what a lot of post-* bands strive for, but frankly, a great many of them fall short. That’s not the case here. There’s almost a cinematic feel to the whole album, though certainly not in the way that bands like Yndi Halda and U137 are doing things. The build-ups and climaxes are there, sure, but they’re much less joyous. Certainly not any less beautiful, but not in that warm fuzzy feeling sort of way. By the time the closing track, “Decline of the Empire” hits, you feel it. It’s bleak, it’s ruined, and it’s unforgiving.

One thing to note about the music on this album – there’s nothing technically astounding here. Each instrument is played with relative simplicity, though it’s a very deliberate simplicity. I really get the feeling that while any one of the three musicians that make up this band could churn out music that is more technical, this deliberate simplicity is, to me, a sign of very talented songwriters. They understand that you don’t’ need intricate guitar solos and complicated drum fills to make a moment sink in, and that sometimes the exact opposite is what best does the trick. This is a really, really fantastic album that I think fans of the Isis school of post-metal will greatly enjoy. Hell, I think most people that enjoy post-rock will enjoy it.

Finally, seeing as how most everything that I can find about the band is in Russian, and Google Translate is about as useful as cooler in Antarctica, I can’t tell if Winds With Hands is a side project of members of One Day Of December (as the two bands share all but one member), or a band formed from the ashes. All signs point towards the latter, though if you enjoy this release, I’d say that the lone release by their other (former?) band is absolutely worth checking out as well.

    

tags: experimental atmosphere atmospheric instrumental post-metalpost-rock Stavropol

Cinématique – Limbo

Reviewed by Shanexedge

Gather ’round, readers. This is a story of a band from Vienna, Austria, and a video game created by a Danish company. There’s technically no connection, just that the newest album by the former (the 4 piece Cinématique) was inspired by the latter – both are named Limbo, and the atmosphere present in both is hugely similar. Having really enjoyed Cinématique’s first album, I was a bit curious when the band said that the new album would be “way darker and more ambient”.  Given that both of those things are elements in music that I definitely enjoy, I wasn’t hesitant, but rather just sort of wondering what they would do with that direction.

It’s been a few years since I was first introduced to Cinématique, and they became one of those bands that went so long between releases that they sort of slipped form my mind, after a decent bit of time spent wondering if they were going to release anything else. In the 2 years+ between releases, the band was still playing shows and writing music, but post-rock being the somewhat sporadic beast that it is, you never really know if that’s going to amount to anything. Fortunately, it did amount to something in this case. Something that is definitely worth the wait, and something that really shows the amount of effort that was put into making it. Having finally had the chance to sit down and listen to Limbo, I’m definitely not disappointed.

Cinématique have created an absolutely fantastic album, and if you’ve played the video game, the influence is undeniably apparent. Muscially, the album is very much an ambient record, with flourishes of post-rock here and there, not unlike Hammock or This Will Destroy You. However, one of the most impressive elements to me is the way the vocals are used, blending in flawlessly with the music, becoming more of an instrument than something layered over top of other instruments. In this regard, there’s a definite Sigur Ros feel, and Cinématique is every bit as successful with the vocals-as-instrument approach as Jonsi and company are. If you’re not really paying attention, and are just sort of lost in the beauty of the songs, it may take a bit for you to realize that those are actually vocals at all.

Typically, when I review an album, I tend to look at it from a track by track point of view – how does this one transition to the next, does this one fit stylistically with the rest of the album, etc. What Cinématique have done with Limbo is record an album that flows absolutely perfectly from start to finish. There is no question of transition from track to track, everything just flows. No abrupt changes, nothing that seems out of place at all. The final track, “White Light”, is undoubtedly the most “typical” post-rock sounding track on the album, and in a way, the preceding 7 songs feel almost like a 44 minute build up. That build up, if you will, works amazingly to lead the listener into that final track, and every single part of this album works in cohesion to create something that sounds absolutely awesome. Knowing the visual elements and amount of artistic presentation the band puts into their live shows, I’m sure that any performance of the songs on this album would be breathtaking.

What this band has done so well is take elements and influences from other bands (as well as other outside influences, the video game in particular), and string them together in a way that creates something rather unique. Are there other bands doing the ambient post-rock thing? Absolutely. However, I think very, very few are doing it as well. Given the progression between their first album and this newest one, I’m incredibly excited to see how the band moves forward from this point. With Limbo, Cinématique have proven that they deserve a position amongst the more well-known bands in the genre, and hopefully they’ll get that due recognition.

    

tags: alternative art-rock post-rock alternative ambient art-rock post-rock vienna wien Wien

ShaneXedge’s Top Picks of 2013

 Welcome to Staff Picks week here at Postrockstar! This week our writers will be going over their favorite albums of 2013.

Please click the album art to go to the artist’s Bandcamp/Website/Facebook/etc .

Deafheaven – Sunbather

“No real surprise here for anyone that knows me at all (or read my review here of this album). This album has continued to impress me with each listen, and is easily my most listened to record of the year. “

Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty

“If I were to do a tie for first place, this would be side by side with Deafheaven. An absolutely incredible record, and (in my opinion) a big improvement from previous releases. I can listen to this whole album on repeat for days.”

The Fauns – Lights

“Speaking of big improvements, The Fauns really outdid themselves on this release. SOme of the best shoe gaze/dream pop I’ve heard in years. “4 AM” is very easily my favorite song of 2013. Here’s to hoping for a US tour…”

Lumbar – The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

“I won’t get too into the details of this record here (as I could go on and on), but it’s absolutely crushing. Lyrics and music born from the pain that one of the members (Aaron Edge) goes through as a result of MS, it’s NOT an easy listen. Unbearably heavy, both musically and emotionally. Definitely worth a little searching online to find all of the details.”

Light Bearer – Silver Tongue

“I don’t know that I’ll ever not be a fan of the music that these guys put out (whether it’s as Light Bearer, or in any of the various associated acts). That said, I think this album fell a little from the greatness that was Lapsus, but it’s still an incredible record.”

Touché Amore – Is Survived By

“I don’t listen to nearly as much hardcore as I used to, but Touché Amore certainly isn’t textbook hardcore. This is a gorgeous record, everything from the music to the lyrics to the artwork is stunning.”

Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

“2013 had a couple of very notable bands reemerge from their slumber, and in my opinion, none did it better than Mazzy Star. Granted, the band never technically broke up, they just stopped releasing music. Whatever the case, Seasons of Your Day is a marvelous return.”

Locrian – Return to Annihilation

“Lociran is not an easy band to pin a genre on – black metal, drone, electronic… who knows. With that in mind, don’t expect an album that will play in the background while you go about your day. This is an incredibly complex, attention grabbing record, and should have your full attention.”

Volcano Choir – Repave

“I’m typically a sucker for most things that Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) does, but even with that little tidbit, this album is fantastic. Gorgeous indie rock with touches of folk (of course), and even a hint of post-rock here and there. The guitar work is sparse at times, but absolutely awesome.”

Celeste – Animale(s)

“Another band that’s hard to place into a neatly laid out genre, Celeste is a French “black metal” band that certainly doesn’t fit the mold (none of the band had even listened to any black metal before people started mentioning the supposed influences to them). Heavy, dark, and beautiful, all the hallmarks of a Celeste release.”