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.

   

 

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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

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“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

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“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

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“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.”