Good Weather For An Airstrike – A Home For You

a2731664477_2There’s a certain aspect in music that has always stood out as one of the defining qualities that makes this art form so special to me. It’s also something that lends itself nicely to my adoration of post-rock and progressive rock music. It’s the sense of traversal. Or the “Fellowship of the Ring” effect. Some albums convey this almost unexplainable feeling of traversal — of journeying across a vast landscape — and it tends to be those albums that captivate me the most. Explosions in the Sky’s 2003 and 2007 albums do this (particularly the song “It’s Natural to Be Afraid”); as does Echotide’s 2012 masterpiece ‘As the Floodlights Gave Way to Dawn’. There’s a sense of overcoming to wade through a long passage of ambient “nothingness”; to emerge squinty-eyed at the dawn of the bright light that gleams from the looming melody on the other side. Long, almost non-musical ambience gradually soothes and bewilders a mind slowly declining into semi-consciousness. It’s in these movements where my thoughts start to wander into dream-like territory. And then I begin to wake up, questioning where the last 10-20 minutes went, and giving up trying to figure out how many songs went passed or how i even got to this point.

This is what I think Good Weather for an Airstrike understands better than most. The music under this moniker is never over-encumbered with intrusive melodies and refrains, nor is it interminably quiet. There’s a balance struck that enables numerous transitions between the two states of semi-consciousness and apperceptive enjoyment. Truth be told I do enjoy the quiet, almost perpetual droning more than the lifting melodies that are found on this album (the closing track, “Welcome Home”, is my undeniable favourite here), but there is deserved place for the latter, with tracks such as the beautiful “A Song for Libby” serving as respites from the detached haze. There are definitely more melodies and standout moments here than in Good Weather for an Airstrike’s milestone album “Underneath the Stars”, although it doesn’t hypnotise me quite as profoundly as that album did and still does. But “Underneath the Stars” is a rare gem in the world of ambient music, and “A Home for You” justly manages to live up to the Good Weather for an Airstrikes name. This album lets your mind float away just far enough to explore the ether, before taking you back home.

   

 

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..

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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

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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

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“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..

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 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

The Sound of Rescue – Forms

Reviewed by Shooter

I’ve recently been getting into making some music of my own. It’s terrible so I wont share it with you here. What I’ve found, though, is that, as a fan of post-rock and shoegaze, the yearning to discover that dreamy, effervescent sound grows only stronger with each passing day. To be able to create lush, soaring swirls of ethereal goodness is a tantalising want. The guys in The Sound of Rescue must feel that too, because it’s clear that a lot of time has been invested in getting their guitars to move and weave in such the captivating way that they do. Their approach to music is one that fully encompasses the values of post-rock at its core — that is, to use guitars to lend texture and atmosphere to their craft. That texture is extremely dense, with many sounds and effects meshing together uncompromisingly; yet it manages to never clash, or feel overly-busy. They’ve nailed their guitar sound. 

What’s left, then, is the songwriting and percussion, and these are areas where I feel that The Sound of Rescue still has room to grow. There becomes a moment in almost every song on this 10-track album — anywhere from a second to a minute in — in which the same very rigid-sounding drums kick into action, usually following an introductory swell of ambient guitar. It’s a “here we go again” moment that finds itself a hindrance to the otherwise great flow engendered by the enchanting guitar-work. The drum beats vary only slightly between songs, they sit too high in the mix, and they hit with a crisp punch that conflicts with the moist and mossy guitars. The drums are not bad by any means, they just struggle to find unison with the rest of the music.

But despite the homogeneity of a lot of this album, there are a few tracks that stand above the rest as shining examples of what this band is capable of when they’re struck with inspiration. “IV” comes seemingly out of nowhere, delivering a beautiful and uplifting chorus of powerful, driving drums and a soaring melody. Though I love what this band does with wandering textures and drones, it’s when they embrace more traditional rock melodies — like in the simple yet soothing “VIII” — that their songs become truly memorable. Everything in moderation though.

 

tags: ambient dream pop new york philadelphia post-rock wilmington drone instrumental shoegaze Baltimore

Shooter’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 .

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

“I really like fun. And that’s why I really enjoy this album. It’s the most outright fun I’ve had with any kind of music since Two Door Cinema Club released their debut album in 2010. I want to bounce around the room just thinking about it.”

EF – Ceremonies

“There’s something about the innocent sweetness of Ef’s first album that I never thought could be recaptured. The vocal passage in “Hello Scotland” made me feel warm and fuzzy like no other song did. I was wrong, because “Bells Bleed and Bloom” now has that effect too. On top of this, Ceremonies is a much more sophisticated work than any of Ef’s past releases, as it relies less on repeated crescendo-vocals-crescendo structures, and instead succeeding more consistently in its ever-intricate melodies and captivating flow.”

Lights & Motion – Reanimation

“It’s no surprise that Lights and Motion seems to have blown up in this, its monumental opening year. Lights and Motion’s music is inspiring, uplifting and immediate to the utmost. This is what makes it perfect for movie trailers and scores, so it’s also no surprise that Hollywood has been knocking at the door of Deep Elm in 2013. What makes Reanimation stand above the follow-up Save Your Heart, in my opinion, is the way in which the album seems to float through its captivating dream-like narrative, particularly in its final half.”

Explosions In The Sky & David Wingo – Prince Avalanche OST

“No matter the number of imitators or the media platform, Explosions in the Sky’s music has always has a distinct, heartfelt quality that shines through in everything they do. Whether it’s the reverb-soaked swells and melodies (“Dear Madison”), or the eruptions of sound that inspire parade-like celebration (“Send Off”), Explosions in the Sky know how to make me feel good. It’s hard to say exactly where Explosions in the Sky’s contribution ends and David Wingo’s begins — or even if there exists such a distinction — but regardless, this is a match made in heaven.”

Russian Circles – Memorial

“Though I’m partial to Empros’s more wandering structures, Memorial demonstrates Russian Circles at their most refined. There are walls of sound so dense and intoxicating that every riff is felt to be beating mercilessly at the chest. But it’s the impassioned, inventive drumming that steals the show.”

The World is a Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever

“Undoubtedly the poster child of the so-called “emo revival”, The World Is a Beautiful Place… with their debut full-length tap into that warm feeling of sentiment. Whenever, If Ever recalls Moving Mountains’s Pneuma, but with the distant, conceptual lyrics now supplanted by relatable, nostalgic imagery.”

Mooncake – Zaris

“Mooncake has always been enamoured with the “third wave” of post-rock, yet until now I felt as though they had never quite pinned down where they want to be. Their debut album Lagrange Points was beautiful in its own right but also at times lacked focus. With Zaris, it seems that Mooncake know exactly what kind of music they want to make — calming and beautiful post-rock that drifts and wanders as much as it soars. And they succeeded.”

Umber – Sunshine Young

“Sunshine Young is umber’s latest full-length, and it’s the perfect example of beauty in simplicity. This is an ambient album that can exist either in the background or as the focus of your attention. Unintrusive ambient wanderings bleed into delicate melodies and back again. My mind loves to get lost in this.”

Daughter – If You Leave

“Daughter are a band that seems to have been taken under the wing of the British indie scene, no doubt thanks to the accessible vocals and catchy — yet never overbearing — hooks. Daughter are different, though, in that they are clearly influenced heavily by the post-rock aesthetic. Guitar melodies and textures are drenched in reverb so delectable that every song is brimming with an enchanting atmosphere. The album is dark, too, and with its vocal and musical style it resembles a more cynical and bleak Immanu El.”

there_will_be_fireworks

There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright

“I can’t even remember the last time I was this floored by an album on first listen. The Dark, Dark Bright is, simply put, incredible. The vocals remind of Biffy Clyro, yet they’re laced over a beautiful and cinematic instrumental approach that recalls none other than Sigur Ros’s Takk… Combine that with the explosive and impassioned climaxes of Athletics’s Who You Are Is Not Enough; throw in the wistful and soaring passages of Gates’s You Are All You Have Left To Fear; and you might come close to imagining what There Will Be Fireworks’s sophomore album has to offer.”

2013 Year End Awards

It has been a whirlwind year here at Postrockstar as we put the finishing touches on our first full calendar year reviewing and promoting all things relevant to the world of Post-Rock and instrumental music. This year we were able review 73 albums and promoted 150 other albums, constantly offering our readers fresh new music to feast their ears upon. As you might imagine dissecting and breaking down the ins & outs of 200+ albums for these year end awards was no easy task. The team has been hard at work researching, discussing and sometimes even arguing their picks for these awards right up to the last very weekend before they went live. At the end of it all, we stand firmly behind our picks and believe these are the very best offerings of the year from some of the most talented bands in their respective subgenres. Without further Ado…

Winner : Ef – Ceremonies

“The craftsmanship and attention to detail found on this album was the first thing that grabbed my attention. ‘Ceremonies’ has so many incredibly vibrant moments that picking a favorite song is nearly impossible. There is no filler here, each of the eight tracks are all the same caliber of material that I’ve come to expect from Ef.” – James

Click here to read our full review of ‘Ceremonies’

Runner Up: Lights & Motion – Reanimation

“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.”Shooter

Click here to read our roundtable review of ‘Reanimation’

 Winner: Deafheaven – Sunbather

“Deafheaven does their thing very, very well, and with “Sunbather“, have undoubtedly released one of the greatest albums of the year. I know, it came out in June with a full 7 months of music yet to be released, but I can say with great certainty that I’ll stand by that statement.”ShaneXedge

Click here to read our review of ‘Sunbather’

Runner Up: Light Bearer – Silver Tongue

“Silver Tongue’, as an album, is not something that is easily digested (nor are any other Light Bearer recordings, really). To me, that makes the mark of a truly great album. It’s not something that’s just going to be blurred background music – it demands your attention, and rewards you greatly for focusing on it.” – ShaneXedge

Click here to read our review of ‘Silver Tongue’

Winner: And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures

“‘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.”Shooter

Click here to read our roundtable review of ‘All Hail Bright Futures’

Runner up: Jardin De La Croix – 187 Steps To Cross The Universe

“Fasten your seat belts and secure your headphones tightly to your head because you are in for a hell of a ride. An excellent must-listen to release that is not to be taken lightly. Bands looking to melt faces in 2013 be warned: The bar has been set high.”James

Click here to read our full review of ‘187 Steps To Cross The Universe’

Winner: My Bloody Valentine – M B V

“It’s impossible to have any sort of discussion about shoegaze, as a genre, without talking about My Bloody Valentine, and as such, there were very high expectations and hopes surrounding this album. In my opinion, ‘M B V‘ lives up to the hopes..”ShanexEdge

Click here to read our full review of ‘M B V ‘

Runner up: The Fauns – Lights

“This British five piece take the best inspirational elements from all of the 90s shoegaze/dream pop giants, and churn out a masterpiece of an album (helped in no small part by Alison Garner’s incredible vocals). Though there were other huge, notable shoegaze releases this year, how many other bands released a single mixed by Clint Mansell?!” – ShaneXedge

Click here to download ‘Lights’ on bandcamp

Winner: Caspian – Hymn For The Greatest Generation

The post-rock world’s collective hearts sank for Caspian this past August with the sudden passing of bassist Chris Friedrich. In the wake of tragedy this talented collective of musicians pressed forward, touring and releasing ‘Hymn For The Greatest Generation’ , an EP that simply stood head and shoulders above the rest of the EP’s released in 2013. The acoustic styling of ‘CMF’ won our hearts as a touching tribute to their fallen brother, while the title track is simply Caspian reinventing their sound yet again.

“They never cease to amaze me because they never waver or falter, they don’t even misstep on occasion. Caspian’s career trajectory has been a clear path upward since 2009 and the band has transformed themselves into a pioneer at the forefront of a genre that desperately needs leaders. I never know what to expect from a Caspian release, but you can bet I’m going to listen to it the moment it’s released. ‘Hymn For The Greatest Generation’ is as emotionally charged as they come. You shouldn’t need any convincing why this EP is a must own.” – James

Click here to download ‘Hymn For the Greatest Generation’ on bandcamp

Runner up: Lavinia – Take Shelter EP

“The beginning seduces you, then proceeds to kick you in the balls, and you’re not even halfway through the first song. Lavinia’s EP is just too short, I wish it were an hour long.”Foofer

Click here to download ‘Take Shelter EP’ on bandcamp

Winner: Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

“..Hammock is a band that’s only true descriptor is unique. Of course, words like beautiful, ethereal, majestic, can all be used, but they fail in the most magnificent of ways. They fall short because they are just words. The music, the layers, the use of every instrument is what brings life to those hollow words.  Hammock is what people think of when they desire a soundtrack to their lives.” – TenaciousListening

Click here to read our review of ‘Oblivion Hymns’

Runner up: North Atlantic Drift – Monuments

“North Atlantic Drift’s Monuments is a powerful record that is both spacious, as ambient music is prone to being, and melodious. What wins it for me is you can drift off to this music, but you are compelled to do so with ears pricked lest you miss some of the bigger moments that almost nudge you to make sure you are still listening. The duo has blended beautifully elements of post-rock and electronica to create one of my favourite albums of 2013 and it is easily placed as runner up for the best ambient release this year.” – Bryan

Click here to download ‘Monuments’ on bandcamp

Winner: J.R. Alexander – Moments

“‘Moments‘ in many ways treads upon Alexander’s previous musical ideology except with an added presence of electronica, glitch and downtempo influence. By combining gorgeous string instrument arrangements, elegant piano work and rusticly smooth acoustic guitar work with electronic-inspired beats Alexander has created a downtempo sound that quite frankly has me struggling to find the proper way to describe it.  – James

Click here to read our review of ‘Moments’

Runner up: The Watermark High – Murmurs EP

“While ‘Slow Motion Clarity’ could be considered a more ambient, instrument focused album, ‘Murmurs’ flips the script, giving us a much more glitchy, aggressive side of Watermark High. Straight-forward post-rock fans will likely hate this pick and think that this EP has no place being anywhere near the site. Maybe they’re right, who knows, but if you can’t see the influence or parallels between post-rock and The Watermark High, your missing the entire point of what we’re trying to accomplish with Postrockstar” – James

Click here to download ‘Murmurs’ on bandcamp

Winner: Lights & Motion – Reanimation

“‘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.”James

Click here to read our roundtable review of ‘Reanimation’

Runner up: set & setting – Equanimity

“Warmth and delicacy permeate the production values of “Equanimity.” In fact it’s almost sort of intimidating. Nothing is fragile, but everything is very delicate of spirit, like a special memory from a long time ago. Even when set and setting kick into the heavier sections they leave room for breath, which keeps the whole album sounding imbued with life.”Erich

Click here to read our review of ‘Equanimity’

Winner: This Patch of Sky – Heroes & Ghosts

This category is always difficult because there are usually several bands well deserving of this spot and this year was no different. Although proper and well thought out cases were made for those other bands, This Patch of Sky was the voting council’s collective top pick. With ‘Heroes & Ghosts’ we witnessed a transformation through maturity and comfort of a band no longer interested in simply blowing away the listener away with raw power, but rather reward the listener through complex build ups, ranges of emotions and storytelling. The leap in quality from their 2012 effort ‘Newly Risen, How Bright You Shine’ and ‘Heroes & Ghosts’ is unmistakable and the band’s new found direction only excites us for what’s to come from this young Oregon band.

“‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is an impressive step forward for a band who could have chosen to play it safe and continued to carve themselves a nice little niche in the post-rock world. For them to willingly go out of their way to reinvent their sound and further themselves as musicians is a noble undertaking that has earned the band much respect in my book.” – James

Click here to read our review of ‘Heroes & Ghosts’

Winner: EF – Ceremonies

“To say that we’ve been ultra critical of vocals in post-rock on this site would be an understatement. Vocals have the ability to ruin even the best of albums when they don’t fit in and are overbearing or they have the ability to accentuate everything around them and add an incredible amount of depth when used properly and sparingly. The vocals in Ceremonies take the latter route and are absolutely adorable, heartfelt and shine in their limited role. While much of the staff agreed there wasn’t a vocal-centric release quite like Alcest’s ‘Les Voyages de l’Âme’ which took the award this year, the vocals harmonized well enough with the rest of ‘Ceremonies’ that we felt no other album was more deserving.” James

Click here to read our review of ‘Ceremonies’

Runner up: Jesu – Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came

“Again this is just another great example of when vocals can bring out the best in everything else around them. No one understands that better than Justin Broadrick and the vocals found within ‘Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came’ are very much what we’ve come to love and expect from him. Downtrodden, static-laced and optimistically bleak, Broadrick’s vocals are by no means nothing you haven’t experienced before, but than again, there’s probably nobody else who could do them any better either.” – James

Click here to download ‘Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I came’ on bandcamp

(Despite our best efforts we simply couldn’t pick a winner in this category and after lengthy discussion, it was agreed there would be dual winners for this category. The violin work found on ‘Ascendere’ offers the album an enormous range of depth and is really what sets it apart from the rest of the field by giving it an identity. ‘Ascendere’ is the quintessential example of how just one instrument can drastically alter a band’s entire sound. While on the other hand Ólafur Arnalds’ “For Now I Am Winter” is a testament of true classical beauty and simply in a class of its own)

Winner: Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter

“It would have been a grave injustice for us not to give this award to Arnalds as well, who’s latest ‘For Now I Am Winter’ embodies the very essence of this category. At just 27 years of age Arnalds has classical compositions perfected, each one of his works dripping with heartfelt passages, powerful emotion and an array of sounds that just blend perfectly with one another. ‘For Now I Am Winter’ is an important album in the career of the young icelandic virtuoso, showing he capable of much more than neo-classical and ambient pieces by incorporating looping electronics, hypnotic beats and offering a slightly more aggressive side to his work. This album is gorgeous.” – James

Click here to visit Ólafur Arnalds’ website and download ‘For Now I Am Winter’

Winner: Aesthesys – Ascendere

“I tend to think of post-rock with neoclassical influence and/or string instruments as noble and place it on a pedestal much higher than the more modern third-wave stylings of big guitar crescendo and distortion driven tracks. Whenever I review an album like ‘Ascendere’ I expect so much more out of them than a standard album. In that aspect, I think Aesthesys has shined at incorporating these elements into a more traditional post-rock sound. In another light, I feel like their best work is ahead of them and that this album is just a taste of what’s to come from a band who’s potential is as bright as sun on the album cover.”James

Click here to read our review of ‘Ascendere’

Winner: God Is An Astronaut – Origins

“It is unfortunate when a band releases an album that just doesn’t connect with  their fan base and in that respect we have to give this award to God Is An Astronaut for their ‘Origins’ album. Three years removed from ‘Age of the Fifth Sun’, the band opted to leave their dreamy atmospheric sound in the past, pursuing a much different and far less appealing distortion heavy dream pop hybrid sound that left us scratching our heads. GIAA’s contributions to the post-rock realm cannot be ignored and we believe that they are band that deserves the respect and attention from the post-rock fans, but we would like to see them get back to their roots in the future.”James

Click here to download ‘Origins’ on bandcamp

Winner: Arbor Lights – Hatherton Lake

In a new addition to the year end awards we wanted to recognize the artists who’s album covers are as unique and/or beautiful as the music they create. This year there was a whole slew of potential suitors for this award but the Postrockstar staff agreed it was Arbor Lights’ “Hatherton Lake” that appealed most to our liking. The artwork comes to us from Renée Sylvestre, who captures the album’s theme and focus all too well. From the messy water colors, the finely detailed diving suite and the elegant script font, the whole package feels perfect.

“Hatherton Lake is a lake in Walsall (UK). Named after Lord Hathertonits, lore includes a story of a diver, who died in a search for the body of the Mayor of Walsall; who had drowned. With that in mind I can tell you that this track, “The Mayor and the Diver” (an extended version of “Coda” from the band’s self-titled EP) conjures the panic you could associate with seeing the light fade through the ever stilling surface of the lake as you sink, seemingly peacefully, to your death.” – TenaciousListening

Click here to read our review of ‘Hatherton Lake’

https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/jkcqYx7.jpg

Runner up: EF – Ceremonies

“Ef has once again teamed up with Staffan Larsson to create the album artwork for Ceremonies. Larsson manages to capture the emotional highs and lows of Efs sound through his artwork. The interconnectedness of this artwork to the sound is what makes this stand out to us as the album artwork of the year.” – Bryan

Click here to read our review of ‘Ceremonies’

Winner: set & setting – “Essence of Paradox”

Post-Rock is a genre built on slow build ups, grand finales and tracks that routinely push the 10 minute mark. Not all ‘epic’ songs have to push the double digits mark nor do they have to be a brooding masterpiece of layered crescendos and false finishes. Truth is there are probably close to 50 songs that could easily contend for this award but “Essence of Paradox” by set & setting stood just taller than the rest. This song is a near 14 minute marathon of a track that packs an enormous punch, never slows down, never gives an inch, and continually builds to a finale that is well worth the wait. A true masterpiece.

“The band’s final song was “Essence of Paradox“, their  13 minute long magnum opus that felt like it was never going to end. And none of us wanted it to end either. Louder, faster, harder. Louder, faster, harder. The build up continued as a crowd in awe witnessed a band playing endlessly like the world was crumbling around them. There are few things in this life that are true and pure. Being in the band’s presence as they performed “Essence of Paradox” felt like an honor and a privilege. If set and setting was a drug, I would have overdosed and died with no regrets.”James (on “Essence of Paradox” performed live in Seattle)

Click here to read our review of ‘Equanamity’

Runner up: Cloudkicker – “A weather front was stalled out in the Pacific–like a lonely person, lost in thought, oblivious of time.”

Better known as Cloudkicker, Ben Sharp has consistently reinvented his sound with each new release to his catalog, offering his faithful following new glimpses into the mind of possibly the most complete sounding solo project on the planet. But with 2013’s ‘Subsume’ came something I don’t think any of us could have imagined: a 16 minute destroyer of worlds that completely changes everything the way we view Sharp as a musician. While 2012’s ‘Fade’ did give us one 10+ minute track, “A Weather Front…” just goes to show that Sharp’s Djentbased prog-metal (Post-Djent?) is more than capable of standing toe to toe with epics from the likes of GY!BE, EITS, Sigur Ros, etc.

“Sharp has outdone himself. After looking into Cloudkicker’s back catalogue, it seems he makes a habit of this. This time, however, He’s gone to the pinnacle of this post-metal mountain and basically established post-“djent” as not only a viable subgenre, but something so refined yet spirited that I don’t think Subsume’s legacy will ever be in question.” – Erich

Click here to read our review of ‘Subsume’

Moving Mountains – Moving Mountains

Reviewed by: Shooter

So I’ll address the elephant in the room. Moving Mountains are not a post-rock band. This is why this review is going to be a short one. That it’s even here is merely to pay some service to fans of this band’s past works. Moving Mountains is a band with such celebrated and diverse albums under their belt (such as the groundbreaking post-rock/post-hardcore hybrid ‘Pneuma’), so it would be a misstep to overlook the way in which such a band has chosen to mature and adapt.

Speaking of past works, then. I have never agreed with much of the disdain leveled towards Moving Mountains’s last LP, 2011’s ‘Waves’. It may not have been an outwardly “post-rock” album (a point belabored by many) but still it had an atmosphere and craftsmanship that hinted of a group with a proud back-catalogue of forward-thinking, experimental rock. It was an accessible post-hardcore record experienced from behind a veil of dense, muddy and beautiful fog — one that I happened to love. The band’s post-rock leanings were tangible, if subtle; but even that is beside the point. That ‘Waves’ harbored any aspects of post-rock at all is inconsequential to its quality. I’m not going to slate an album for not being “post-rock” enough. I will if it’s poor. ‘Moving Mountains’ — the band’s purportedly final album — is poor. Yes I have now joined the ranks of the nay-sayers.

‘Moving Mountains’ is an acoustic-centric rock album with conservative dynamics, some moments of pretty instrumentation and lots of warm production. Never does it edge even remotely close to the extremes of anything. For one the screams are gone, along with any breadth to Gregory Dunn’s vocal capacity. What we have here is 40 minutes of adult contemporary music. It’s inoffensive, and the sort of thing that you’d play in the car when you’re giving your mother a ride to Zumba. There are elements to be enjoyed, of course; this is a band of talented musicians who know how to please the ears. The song “Eastern Leaves” comes together in a really satisfying way, with evolving layers of vocal motifs overlapping a gratuitously singable melody that subtly references “The Cascade” — a standout track from the aforementioned ‘Waves’. “Hudson”, too, features one of the smoothest and more satisfying changes in tempo and rhythm that I’ve heard in a while. It is a moment that gives some clue as to what this album could have been had the band embraced their heritage a little more. But that’s about it. Two songs that I have any notable memory of after having heard this album many, many times. It’s pretty a lot of the time, but bland for most of it.

Bands can either end their career with a bang or a whimper. ‘Moving Mountains’ signaled a band that was running out of steam, their passion waning, with an undeniable demise being worn upon the sleeve of their last hurrah.

 

tags: Ambient / Rock / post-hardcore

Sigur Ros – Kveikur

https://i1.wp.com/wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/diffuser.fm/files/2013/06/Sigur-Ros-Kveikur-Cover1.jpg

Artist Sigur Ros
Album Kveikur
Genre Post-Rock
Buy/DL Sigur Ros Store
Web Website | Facebook
Label Parlophone/XL
Release 12 June 2013
Rating:

It’s been a little while since Postrockstar last held a Roundtable review.  While our table might be missing a few members, here is what our writers had to think about the Post-Rock legends Sigur Ros’ latest album.

Shooter — My opinion of ‘Kveikur‘ is one that is difficult to articulate. This is nothing new for me, as I have always had a struggled relationship with Sigur Ros albums. I loved ‘( )‘ from the very first note of “Vaka“, however I could never appreciate ‘Takk…’ to any extent beyond passable enjoyment. ‘Valtari‘ I found boring at first, yet after many, many listens it opened itself up to me as one of Sigur Ros’ most entrancing releases. ‘med sud…’ is fun and beautiful, and ‘Agaetis Byrjun‘ is at times transcendent and at others, to me, irritating. I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here by saying that my opinions on this band tend to contradict most others’ and often my own, so take what I say with a pinch of salt. That said, Sigur Ros is still one of my favourite bands, and one that I love to talk about.

Kveikur‘ continues ‘Valtari‘s’ trend as being once more the band’s most confident and well-crafted album to date — this is quite comfortably the most that I have ever enjoyed the production on a Sigur Ros album. ‘Valtari‘ was, despite its softness, Sigur Ros‘s most dense album, with its layers upon layers of lifting melodies and textures. ‘Kveikur‘ is just as dense but in a different way; it will rattle your bones with its aggressive, deep and grinding sonic attacks. The opening to “Brennistein” is the perfect example of this, and it stands as one of the highlights of Sigur Ros’s career. It shows a different side to a band once seen by many as nothing more than sweet and gentle sound-makers. Sigur Ros channel Nine Inch Nails‘s industrial vibe on this song, yet it still finds the time to soar beautifully in its extremely singable bridge.

Beyond the aggressive opener that is “Brennistein“, Sigur Ros still manage to explore many other spectra of sound and genres of music on ‘Kveikur‘. “Hrafntinna“, the second track, recalls the band’s most earthy and triumphant moments from the likes of “Takk…”, yet it innovates and molds itself to the tone of the album with its glistening percussion. Then there’s “Isjaki“, which will not only become known as Sigur Ros’s definitive “pop” song but also by many (me) as their best in over a decade.

Unfortunately, for me the album misses almost as much as it hits, and this is almost exclusively due to the vocals. ‘Kveikur‘ is, instrumentally, Sigur Ros’s greatest achievement, and the vocals themselves are just as controlled and transcendent in their performance as they have ever been. But hitting the right pitch with an angelic sound is not all that is needed to make vocals work — they have to suit the music. Many times on ‘Kveikur‘ do Jonsi’s vocals feel disconnected to the music; lacking any memorable melody and failing to meet the rhythm of the instruments. On the title track (a great song, admittedly), Jonsi can be heard cramming extra syllables into a single beat, and on the following “Rafstraumur” his voice lacks any poetic rhythm and the lyrics (although their content unbeknownst to me) sound hamfisted, during the opening verse in particular.

This gripe with ‘Kveikur‘s vocal melodies does not ruin an album that is otherwise impeccable, but it does at times take me out of the experience. Regardless, ‘Kveikur‘ still contains many of Sigur Ros‘s most sublime moments, and it would be foolish to not give a listen to the latest in the discography of one of the most creative and forward-thinking bands of our generation.

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Erich — While I’ve always enjoyed Sigur Ros, I’ve never joined the cult of die-hard fans that they’ve rightly gained. I own all their albums and I’ve listened to them steadily over the past ten-ish years but I never got caught up in the hiatus drama, and I wasn’t ever afraid that they were “over.”  All that being said, I’m really glad Jonsi and co. returned, and even more glad that after a slight false start with “Valtari” they released “Kveikur.” I feel like the sound has finally evolved in a significant way since the Flood produced  “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust” in 2008. The more percussive, digital, and almost out of place rhythmic  figures are what really make “Kveikur” stand out for me.

I respect Sigur Ros for always being themselves, despite the successes and trials they’ve dealt with. As a big Cocteau Twins I was never put off by the “Volenska” vocals, since I was used to voice-as-instrument styles. I do find it interesting when Sigur Ros has something to say, even when I can’t understand it.

All in all, this album may alienate some fans…which is probably a good thing for an honest band that happened to get trendy a few years ago.  While I won’t be listening to “Kveikur” 24-7, blasting it out of the back of my vehicle (despite the fact that I think Jonsi would be a great name for a rapper) I enjoy them just a bit more then before. If that’s not an endorsement of “Kveikur” I don’t know what is. I say Very Good.

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James — I’m going to forgo the long spiel where I don’t say a single bad word about the album and show undying favoritism because Sigur Ros is beyond being just a band to me.  Instead, I’m going to opt to run down where I think ‘Kveikur‘ belongs amongst Sigur Ros‘s catalog of work.

1. ( )
2. Takk
3. Valtari
4. Ágætis byrjun
5. Kveikur
6. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
7. Von

Gasp! I showed my true colors and revealed I’m not a big fan of ‘Von‘ .  I think Kveikur is amazing for what it is, a stark departure from the norm and a step in a different direction for a band who largely went back to their ‘Ágætis byrjun‘ and ‘( )’ days, satisfying a large chunk of their fan base in doing so. I don’t think the album has the same timelessness qualities as my favorite Sigur albums, but it will certainly stand out just as well if not better. There will be those who swear that this album is Sigur Ros’ attempt to reinvent their sound and set trends, but I don’t think that sort of thing has ever appealed to the band. Shrouded in mystique and mystery for their first few albums, we’ve really had a chance to see the band open up musically and personally the last three years and ‘Kveikur’ is an extension of that. I don’t think that the guys would have been comfortable enough to release an album this daring near the ‘Með suð’ era of their career. I firmly believe that the Heima documentary and Jonsi’s solo success did wonders for the band in terms of the band losing that ‘untouchable’ status and opening up as people and not just virtuoso musicians. For that, I celebrate the release of Kveikur as a fantastic addition to their accomplished discography. Excellent.