Foofer Friday: Civil Protection – Stolen Fire

a1959302305_2I love new bands. It feels like opening a new book, starting a new tv show, and meeting a new friend all rolled into one. Debut albums make me all giddy, and I always try to play the album in its entirety on my first listen, sometimes twice in a row if it’s not very long. It never feels like a lot of time until the album’s over and I realize I’ve sat alone for a whole hour with a look on my face that probably makes me look braindead.

After the album’s over, I like to think about it. I’ll think about how it made me feel, if at all. I’ll think about what I didn’t like and why I didn’t like it. I had to think long and hard about this album, and I still don’t know if I like it.

For a debut album, it’s just stunning. The way they portray certain aesthetics is astonishing. Sometimes you can almost feel a monster brooding in the music. Other times, you can almost hear the pain in the singing. The way they use lyric-less vocals as an additional layer is a most excellent to infuse emotions into their sound. And the sound itself is terrific. The production quality is better than 99% of all the other debut albums I hear, and the mastering is top-notch. There is no overshadowing each other during the loud parts, and no straining to hear the music during the quiet parts.

Outside of the whole debut context, it loses its shine. It feels like a bunch of crescendo-core after a while. It’s good crescendo-core, but it’s still crescendo-core. There are times when the song structure or the melody become too cliche and predictable. After playing the same two chords for eight bars in a row with no layers being added, it becomes less of a climax, and more of a bore. Being bored with music is something that should never happen.

So all in all, I find myself at a bit of a stalemate. “Stolen Fire” is a wonderful technical achievement for such a small band, but on the other hand it has some major issues in the musical aspect of things. The musical aspect is the largest and most important of an album, but the more technical facets of this musical jewel are what I enjoy the most. I thought about this until my head started to hurt.

So if you enjoy the cinematic passages and the metallic riffs, or the crystal clear sound quality and the attention to detail, I would say that you should give this album an earnest listen. If the nerdy parts don’t excite you, maybe something else will.

After you’ve given it a spin, let me know what you thought on twitter @Foofsies or via e-mail at fooferfridays@gmail.com

Next week I’ll be reviewing Appalaches’ “Mon” album, be sure to check it out here!

     

Before The Eyewall – Before the Eyewall

This record has been out for a while, and we’ve promoted it on the site before. I just feel like it needs a proper review to do it justice.

Before The Eyewall’s full length debut is a raging monolith. This Ohio three piece not only know how to build up a track, they know how to deliver the sludgy heavy goods like god’s own fist thrust into the sun. I find it kind of amazing that a band capable of such nuanced introductions and intermissions can slam down the doom so hard. I had to turn my subwoofer down! The psych influences here are just evident enough to balance out all the brash ball-stomping gnarl. Quieter moments fit right in, fleshing out the Gollum of rock.

These guys aren’t new to music, and BTE itself has been going on since 2010. They are road tested and seasoned. Post metal is always a crapshoot, but this is quality to the extreme. Songs flow well into one another, and the riffs are there, but there’s no overindulgence, just raw, intuitive song.

Production is more then decent. There’s a lot going on once in a while, but it sounds like everything can be translated (with the help of a looper at least) to a live environment. The guitar has just the right heft to keep it on the right side of overly chunky, while the bass is limber when clean, and a gorilla when fuzzed. The drums get a little buried once in a while, tonally, but the percussiveness and punch are still like kicks from inside a fog.

I am of the mind that this is well worth listening to for anyone into heavier post rock/post metal, or doom, sludge, and all those other bullshit names. The bottom line is that this is a straight up great debut. Do not sleep on Before The Eyewall.

 

Cinématique – Limbo

Reviewed by Shanexedge

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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’

Sleep Dealer – Imminence

When I signed up to review Sleep Dealer’s “Imminence” I’d only heard a few tracks in passing. I was too busy looking at pictures of cats to pay attention to what I was listening to. I didn’t know anything about this one-man band from Russia, but I figured that it isn’t too dissonant to be annoying, so why not?

Let me tell you why not.

I decided to get acquainted with his work, comparing his previous releases to his latest. Saying that his sense of song structural is elementary is an understatement. Every song was over 2 minutes, and under 6. The songs that were under 3 minutes had no major change in sound, and they’re generally the more orchestral/neo-classical pieces. Every song over 3 minutes long had a very subdued and basic intro for the first two or two-and-a-half minutes, then suddenly shake things up and play a different set of minimalist segments over and over, louder and louder until it suddenly becomes quiet, and the song ends. It happens so many times, I stopped listening to the whole song, and started skipping to the two-minute mark and wait for the change in tone. It never failed. After 2 EPs and 2 Albums of this repetitious rubbish, I stopped to listen to something more professionally executed. I couldn’t comprehend that someone could really record 18 variations on the same theme, and give them all different names, on different EPs and albums. It was strangely infuriating.

I slept on it, (no pun intended) and approached “Imminence” with refreshed ears.

The first thing I see is the albums’ artwork, and I noticed that it looks exactly like all of his other album covers. Some low-fidelity painting or picture, the band name on top in big lettering, and the album name below in smaller lettering.

Lo and behold, the first track is adhering to the standard Sleep Dealer structure. Two minutes into the album, and I’m already bored. I think this is what happens when a man becomes an island. He has no band mates to bounce ideas off of, and all his albums sound, feel, and even look the same. He’s stuck in a groove where it’s playing the same songs over and over, and he has no one to bump his proverbial needle. I don’t know if this is actually the case for Sleep Dealer, but I think it’s a very reasonable explanation for his permanent stagnation.

The remainder of the album is more of the same. Solo intros and minor tonalities abound. Never once will you hear complicated syncopation, never once will you hear distant vocals, never will you hear anything other than his reverb, delay, and distortion pedals, and never once will you hear anything outside of his comfort zone. I think this poem describes “Imminence” rather succinctly.

A photo or a painting
His band name in big lettering
The album in small lettering
This is Sleep Dealer.

You know what he’s going to do
You needn’t a hint or a clue
He changes his tune half way through
This is Sleep Dealer.
 
You could listen all day
But his notes do not sway
Distortion, Reverb, Delay
This is Sleep Dealer.

I’m finding it difficult to find kind words for Sleep Dealer and his work, other than the fact that he’s reliable. It looks like he won’t ever change style, and that’s a very good thing for his fans. You won’t hear any sour notes, and the production itself isn’t terrible, either. They’re all very professional recordings, so if you’re looking for a lot of music to fluff up your collection, or extend your studying playlists, Sleep Dealer might actually be something you’re looking for.

But if you’re looking for albums that break the mold or pieces of music that push the envelope, you’d better avoid Sleep Dealer altogether.

 

tags: rock ambient classical experimental rock instrumental post-rock город Москва

The Shaking Sensations – Start Stop Worrying

(IamHop note: The reinforcements have arrived! Please welcome Foofer to the Postrockstar family. Foofer will be writing reviews for us going forward and joining the staff just in time to partake in our year end awards.)

By Foofer

I really love Start Stop Worrying. I really do.

The Shaking Sensations really set the bar for themselves when they released their first conceptual EP, ‘This Is Your Hellfire Religion!’ in 2010. Showing off their compositional prowess, and their knack for making an album with smooth transitions between tracks, they made a very loud entrance onto the post-rock scene.

The following year they released their first full-length album, ‘East of Youth’. While it’s a bit more subdued than their first release, it still shows their innate ability to make an album that flows smoothly from beginning to end.

Nearly two years later, out comes ‘Start Stop Worrying’ – Six pieces of musical excellence, bookended by two 10-minute epics. More Aggressive than their self-titled EP, and more mature and developed than their first full-length, ‘Start Stop Worrying’ is an excellent example of how a band can grow and flesh out their strengths while still making an enjoyable album.

The opening track, ‘Rocket Summer’, draws you in with a quiet trio of guitars, and then turns it on its head and starts blasting away with startling change of pace.

From that point on, you know that you should be paying attention.

The album isn’t a technical achievement by any means, it’s actually quite straightforward in terms of instrumentation and song structure, the composition is what makes this album superb. Whether you’re looking at each track individually or the album as a whole, the flow feels natural and organic. Every song is in the right order, and it usually winds up in the direction you want it to go. From the constant e-bow usage in ‘We Ourselves Alone’ to the percussion in ‘Gild the Lily’, it all just sounds like it belongs there, as if the song would be incomplete without it.

All good things come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the ending itself is any good. As soon as I saw how long the last track was, I knew it was going to be similar to how most albums end: One giant crescendo, ending with this wall of sound that attempts to leaves you dizzy as soon as it ends. Sure enough, that’s just what happened and I didn’t like it one bit. The song by itself is fine, it’s quite the musical achievement, but I think the album ends on too familiar a note to be outstanding, in the most literal definition of the word. This is an infinitesimal problem to have with an album, but it’s really the only problem I can find.

Overall, it really is an exquisite album. It’s a labor of love and it shows. From the artwork, to the music itself, to the vinyl packaging (how can you not love black/white/red vinyl?) it is gorgeous, no matter how you look at it.

 

tags: alternative rock atmospheric rock experimental instrumental post-rock psychedelic postrock start stop worrying the shaking sensations Denmark

Snöhamn – Snöhamn

I’ve been somewhat obsessed over the last six weeks or so with the self-titled debut album that Snöhamn released back in October, yet I’ve been relatively hesitent to write this review. This album has sort of been my mental safehaven if you will, a place for me to stay close to familiar territory while feeling on the outside looking inside. I just kind of kept brushing this album aside in favor of promoting or reviewing other albums because I liked that every time I put this album on I didn’t have to ponder how it stacked up to the rest of the genre or try to draw comparision lines between Snöhamn and more established bands. Nowadays I’m guilty of jotting down a few keywords or early impressions when I listen to an album for the first time. To be blunt, Snöhamn is the first album that I let myself enjoy as a post-rock fan and not a post-rock reviewer.

Closing in on only 600 likes on facebook and relatively low publicity, now is the perfect time to give Snohamn their much deserved spotlight on Postrockstar. Despite a respectable online presence, there isn’t too much information on the band itself online. From pictures on the band’s facebook we can safely assume that they are a five piece and are actively performing in their hometown area, even picking up a nice supporting spot for The Appleseed Cast last month.

As I’ve said earlier this is album that really puts my mind at ease and peace. At five tracks and just under 40 minutes, it’s an extraordinarily polished record that shines at creating these extremely tight sounding refined ambient soundscapes and then occasionally blowing them to smithereens with inspired moments of raw build ups that leave you awestruck in their wake. “I huset I Ett Hjartslag” (or “In The House in a Heartbeat”) is a perfect example of the band’s ability to really dial up the volume and prove that they are just as every bit as dynamic as any post-rock band out there. Still though, Snöhamn’s calling card is clearly their ambient offerings and “Du Vilar Nu” (“You Rest Now”) is most likely the song that will win the hearts of many listeners. Building ever so slowly upon a wide open soundstage, the listener is lulled on a peaceful journey of minimalist synths and guitar work. The real treat here however is the jazzy free flowing saxophone that makes my ears melt.

I have to believe the band feels as though the 10 minute long “Genom Oss I Natten, Katarsis” (“By Us in the Night, Cartharsis”) is their best work, as they’ve saved it for last. The song has everything you could ever expect in an epic finale. A long build up of mild mannered spiraling guitars that lead into their heaviest material on the album. After peaking halfway through the song we are treated to a moment of peaceful clarity including some very understated but beautiful cello work. With one final great lunge forward the song ramps up for it’s final chance for glory. You can just feel the guitar breaking through the glass ceiling and ascending to unheard levels of high pitched squeals of emotion, desire and passion. A final hurrah that lives up to everything you could hope for.

With everything this album has accomplished, I think the one thing I take away the most from it is that Snöhamn treats their music like fine art. Every layer of sound serves a purpose, there is not a single wasted second to be found on this album. I’d like to believe this record was a labor of love and every minute is heartfelt and genuine. Like a three hundred year old painting, their work leaves much interpretation to the listener, allowing them to draw their own visualizations, ideas and conclusions to the medium presented to them.

From the band themselves:

“Snöhamn is a collective of souls translating its voice into musical and visual landscapes, taking the hearer on inward and outward journeys.”

If the band’s intention was to shroud themselves in mystery, letting their music do the talking they’ve succeeded. It would be a shame if the post-rock world never got to put names and faces to the musicians responsible for something so beautiful save for the lucky few who live in the same hemisphere as the band and get to witness their live act. I know we say it a lot on this site but again this is just another band poised to go far in the post-rock world if they continue to produce material of this expert-level caliber. Forgoing all of the studio gloss, Snöhamn is a product of artistic creativity meeting musical prowess. This album takes me back to that feeling you get as a kid jumping in mud puddles while wearing knee high rubber boots. I’ve listened to and appreciated a lot of albums this year, but none have put me at ease the way Snöhamn’s has.

 

tags: alternative post-rock ambient art music drone post-rock Gothenburg

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

Aesthesys – Ascendere

Ascendere cover art  My first exposure to Aesthesys came last year when I stumbled upon their 2011 album ‘Camera Obscura’ while doing some research on post-rock bands in Russia. Last year Postrockstar had a firm policy that we wouldn’t be reviewing any albums released prior to 2012 as to not open up our site to a sea of older content, instead focusing on newly released albums in order to only promote bands actively releasing material. So while ‘Camera Obscura’ was a gorgeous album that made a blip on my radar, it never made it to the site. Now that we’re up to our ears in 2013 music as you might be able to tell from the more frequent posts as we wrap up 2013 I’m glad to finally be able to tackle Aesthesys’s latest album, ‘Ascendere’ which came out in September and I’m absolutely in love with.

This is the seventh release by the band that began as a one man project in 2007. Five years later this Moscow gem has evolved into a full-fledged six member band and this is their first studio release together. The thing I love the most about this album is just how varied each of the five tracks are. At 31 minutes this album is the perfect length to easily digest and get into. One of the first things I was drawn to was the excellent production on this album. ‘Camera Obscura’ had excellent production as well, but ‘Ascendere’ just feels so rich and full of layers on top of layers brilliantly harmonizing and working in tune with one another, creating reach ambient soundscapes with a post-rock flair.

Deep bassy synths and fluttering keyboards welcome us to ‘Ascendere’ with the opening song “Moving Forward.” Electronic beats push their way forward into the mix before the track really opens up with a couple guitar layers; one softer and one distorted, before we are played to a finish of keys and well placed violin that compliments the bands styling impressively. One of the things that Aesthesys does well here is the ability to free flow from softer ambient passages to heavier post-rock offerings and back again without really creating any waves in the pattern. “Arise From Dreams of thee’ is a much differently composed track, this time opening with beautiful piano amidst ambience before being joined by a low-key bass line and a steady yet prominent beat. The intensity of urgent violin work against the aggressive drumming makes for a very unique and memorable track. A finale sees spiraling crescendo guitar work loom in the background as the track comes to a close.

The song that’s really stuck with me the most on this album is ‘Anemoi’ which starts off at a much quicker pace than the previous tracks with repetitively soothing piano, dashing synths and violin work that plays opposite of more spiraling crescendo guitar. It’s oddly refreshing that the two weren’t mixed in separate channels as most post-rock bands tend to opt to do. This track evolves into a full fledged post-rock jam that sees the band’s full spectrum of potential really come to life. Every layer of guitar, percussion, bass, synths, keyboards and violin just meshes extraordinarily well to create this violent explosion of sound like no other. Moving forward, I’m really not quite sure what to make of “La Torre Del Silenzio” except that it’s very different than anything else found on this album and I find it quite charming. I am eerily reminded of the distant digital land of Spira in Final Fantasy X, because that is exactly where this keyboard dominant ambient track leads my mind. This song is one that could easily be dropped into any Playstation RPG video game as an overworld or background music and it would be right at home.

The closing song of the album “Sailing to Constantinople” is also the longest track at nearly 8 minutes. A slow build up of percussion rumbling, somber violin and elegant guitar work sets the mood. A Smooth bass line really does wonders in complimenting the rest of the instruments around it and is the real understated star here.  This is the only track on the album that feels remotely of Russian influence, which tends to be easily identifiable to me on most releases from that part of the globe. I would have liked to see a much stronger finish  to close the album out, but I’m picky and the band already proved capable of really ramping up their sound in ‘Anemoi’.

At the thirty minute mark or so and featuring five extremely different tracks, I don’t find my mind wandering much throughout this album, unlike ‘Camera Obscura’ which clocked in at almost an hour and almost always induced thought-provoking daydreaming with each listen. 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. After seven albums and six years, Aesthesys is better than ever and I’m really looking forward to seeing where their ship sails to next.

   

tags: ambient electronic rock ambient electronic neoclassical post-rock Russian Federation

This Patch of Sky – Heroes & Ghosts

Heroes and Ghosts cover artJust 15 months ago I sat down and penned (or rather, typed) a review for This Patch of Sky’s 2012 effort ‘Newly Risen, How Bright You Shine’. It is still sort of crazy to me that Postrockstar has been alive and kicking long enough to the point now we are starting to review the albums of bands a second time around. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into when I started Postrockstar nor did I expect my opinions to reach the far corners of the world that they have. However today my voice won’t have to travel that far at all, as I’m taking a look at the latest offering from This Patch of Sky, who hail from Eugune, OR, about 250 miles from my hometown. Despite this, I’ve yet to catch one of their shows and that is something I’m definitely looking to cross off the bucket list in 2014.

The five-piece Cinematic Juggernaut released their third album in as many years just a couple of weeks ago and to say it is detour from their previous works is an understatement. They didn’t just take a detour, they ripped the map up, put the machine in drive and started hauling ass down backroads until they ended up somewhere they liked. ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is a far cry from both ‘The Immortal, The Invisible’ and ‘Newly Risen..’ and I like it, a lot. The band’s mission with their first two releases was quite clear: Create killer, catchy in your face riffs and blow you away with raw power and aggression. This time around the band isn’t out to overwhelm, just to impress with a more reserved third-wave post-rock sound that builds upon itself, inviting the listener on a journey to experience the beauty of a rebirth of sorts for a band looking to push themselves to a new place.

Before I really started to delve into the album, I asked guitarist Kit Day why the band opted for this change of direction. In his own words:

“Heroes and Ghosts was written during a time when Chris lost his mom, Austin lost his Grandpa, and Josh lost his dad. This album was written to interpret the process of losing a loved one and to take you through the journey of loss, pain, sadness, and eventual healing. This album included a lot more emotions than our previous releases which I think is why it more builds upon itself. It’s suppose to take you through a journey of loss, pain, sadness, and eventual healing. We also wanted to write something different than our last two albums to push ourselves as musicians to become better at our art.”

Kit’s words are reinforced strongly with the powerful track ‘Selah’ which is mostly ambient drone with an accompanying spoken verse later in the track:

“I think we spend so much time promising never to leave, not because we think we would, but because if we never leave them, they never leave us.”

Death and loneliness is something that we must all cope with at certain stages of our lives. To translate these powerful emotions into musical form takes a deep level of self-consciousness and awareness as a person and a musician and the more I listened to the album the more I feel the message that is being conveyed. Maybe I made the connection because of where I’m at in my life or maybe it’s because I tend to look beyond the music and spend too much time analyzing titles of songs with no word. I’m hoping that others will also get to experience the much deeper themes of the album the same way that I have.

This is an album that takes you on a journey through a range of emotions. From the opening moments of “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” we are met with a feeling of impenetrable sadness and pain. A slow, brooding build up of distant cymbal crashes and keys is followed by a brutally heavy wall of distortion and waves of layered spiraling crescendo guitar. Following the intro track we have “Ten Thousand Hours” which gives off healing vibes of inspiration and reason for hope through gorgeous synths. One of the strong points to this album is the drumming and this track is a prime example of the expert caliber drumming of Nate Trowbridge. Not only is the percussion work top-notch, but the production involved in making them to life with such power and tightness really compliments everything else going on around them, and trust me, there is  A LOT going on around them.

Despite being slotted as the ninth of ten tracks on the album, the album’s title track ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is the centerpiece of the 54-minute album. Simply put, it is the best song the band has released to date and good enough to take home the honor of ‘post-rock song of the year’ at our year-end awards. I’m not a person who tends to get wowed by one song in particular, I prefer the package deal of a great album rather than an average album with one or two standout tracks. But to not highlight ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ as the albums magnum opus would be a grave mistake. When this song explodes into a vibrant array of agonizing guitar and cymbal crashing after a five-minute plus build up you can’t help but be taken back by the beauty and the brilliance. It is a special moment that has given me goosebumps on multiple occasions.

‘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. This is a superb late year release and a perfect companion for a cold winter evening. You would be doing yourself an injustice to not check it out.

   

tags: ambient instrumental post-rock rock cinematic rock postrock Eugene