Posts Tagged ‘Post-rock’

Horse Lords

Baltimore’s Horse Lords bring a constrained chaos on their fifth album, The Common Task. Built again on the hypnotic hurl of riff repetition that have cemented them in the halls of avant rock thus far, the band sets out to create one of their most cutting creations yet. The album opens with no pity, firing off heavy shots of guitar bounced through a maze of twisted glass tessellations on “Fanfare for Effective Freedom.” The song, tethered to the Earth only slightly by the lock-step rhythm section, is feeds melody and mechanics through the wood chipper and steps back to enjoy the spray. The tension on the song is shattered by the slide into the appropriately titled “Against Gravity,” which cuts that tether and slides into the stratosphere with some help from a humming sax and the celluloid slip of bass over the track. Its here that the band begins to make the album dig for blood. There’s still that hammerlock of repetition, but here the band begin to work the angles. Sax slashes from both speakers, the guitars still cycle into oblivion but it feels more dangerous and unpredictable. As the middle of the record looms, the band take post-rock punctuality and tie a tourniquet on the beat until it blackens.

Sharing a love for groove that begs some comparison to contemporaries like 75 Dollar Bill, the band tied together a work that’s diligently planned but still surprisingly unhinged. They delve deep into the tessellated inner workings of the spiraling mind. By the middle of the record the band push the listeners limits with the sonic scrape of “The Radiant City,” before diving again once more into the gnarled groove hammock of “The People’s Park.” The noise respite drives into bagpipe tones that threaten to slit the seams of the album before they interpolated Latinx funk with a political edged on the follow-up — a double punch that proves worth the wait. They cap the platter with a triple-sized dose that takes up 18 plus minutes on the flip, winding its way through simmering tones before smashing out the backdoor on a wave of Saharan funk and violin. The band’s been rightly heralded in the past for their precision and fire, and again they prove to be at the top of their class merging the desert, the basement club, the street corner, and the conservatory into one mindset shredded by an obsessive-compulsive chaos.



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Charles Rumback & Ryley Walker

Following up on their 2016 collaboration for Dead Oceans, Chicago drummer Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker head over to Thrill Jockey for a second set of skitter and strum. Again, tacking away from Ryley’s singer-songwriter impulses and into instrument folk that pushes beyond the boundaries that the genre might entail, the pair prove perfect foils for one another. Walker has ensconced himself in two forms over the last few years and his collaborations with Bill MacKay, Running, Rumback and most recently Steve Gunn have proven the artist’s prowess in mapping the more experimental mores of the improv terrain. Here, the set starts out warm and sunny, beset by fingerpicked runs and jazz sweeps through the kit. Opener “Half Joking” yawns with an early morning saunter, a song fit for the porch before the day takes shape.

As their work wears on the duo introduce a darker tone, replacing the burble of strings with more sawed and sore drones on “Idiot Parade” and letting the cloud cover choke out their earlier ease. The following, “And You, These Sang,” brings and air of consternation, a pang of hurt that’s moth eaten in places by fuzz and smeared with the handprints of white-knuckle tension trying not to seep its way to the surface. They toggle back and forth between air and void before tumbling completely into the latter on “If You’re Around and Down” a meditative respite that rolls with Rumback’s slow-motion heat-lightning patterns before the stormbreak relief of “Worn and Held” washes over the listener in liquid bliss. In some ways Walker’s dedication to the Chicago post-rock set that underpinned his last record rears its head here, feeling like the ghosts of Tortoise have inhabited the American Primitive. Walker’s been having a hell of a year live and Little Common Twist seeks to translate that energy into the studio setting as well.



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Kukangendai

Kyoto trio Kukangendai push minimalist guitar jams to their logical conclusion – crafting terse, clipped songs that are rooted in repetition and cut clean of any excess. The band works like a biological organism, laying down a heartbeat of guitar that hammers steady, removing almost any flash from the instrument’s aspirations. Guitar and bass work like left and right ventricles, on songs like “Mure” pumping a hypnotic hum that’s almost meditative in its consistency. They lace in the occasional sighs of a non-metronomic chord or a vocal moan through the nervous network, tracing stimuli ever so gently across the consciousness of Kukangendai’s beat, but for the most part this album is an exercise in control.

That leaves the drums to wind up the free will warrior in the equation. The drumming rolls and twists within the framework, still lock-stopping along with the rest of the band but also tasting the energy in the room with something less mechanical than the other players. While this likely sounds like a tightly regimented panic attack, the results are as engrossing as any of the flashiest forays into guitar histrionics. The trio’s pushing the needle through the soft tissue of math rock, jazz and post-rock to create something grand in its appreciation of austerity. Looking to realign the senses? This is the baseline yer looking for to calibrate to the eternal thrum.




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Greg Fox

So the backstory on this one has to do with Fox rigging up software (via Sunhouse) that reacts to to his drumming, breathing the life from his motion into virtual instrumentation. Frankly, we’re pretty much all out of our depth on the physics here, but the emotional response is much further reaching and harder felt. The Gradual Progression nods to the free flowing works of Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders while tugging at the the slightly more reigned moments of Sun Ra, but Fox doesn’t merely paint by erratic numbers in the shades of his heroes – he updates the free jazz workbook with a few moves that are distinctly his own.

Where “Catching an L” hums with the same sax energy that would be roundly reminiscent of another age of dissocitative jazz, Fox’s beats crunch with a sound that plays to his post-rock connections, bludgeoning with precision and bite. And that song actually stands as an outlier of defined pound among an album riddled with drumstick bullet holes and cascades of rhythmic ripple that fling themselves far afield of anything that feels moored to solid ground in the stream of consciousness. Fox’s pieces aren’t just complicated drum primers for NYU undergrads looking to notch their way into a teacher’s field of vision. Fox wields rhythm and his associated action painted tones with a scientists aim and an artist’s heart.

The album is dazzlingly complex, but never suffers from feeling weighted down in technology. Far from it, the album’s synth tones breath with wonder worthy of OMNI documentaries, the percussion – even when electronically generated – tumbles in ecstatic bursts that feel alive with human emotion, struggling to contain the joy and pain that Fox channels to his chosen surface. In The Gradual Procession, Fox has created a modern mountain of emotional work that transcends the touchy tags of free jazz and experimental electronic to become simply essential listening.




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E

The year’s not over yet, and there are still plenty of captivating releases slipping in around the edges well worth your time. E is the trio of Thalia Zedek (Come, Uzi, Live Skull), Jason Sanford (Neptune), and Gavin McCarthy (Karate), creating a cacophonous blast of dark shadowed sound that leans into industrial and post-rock for equal measures of inspiration. The band’s debut is littered with craggy outcroppings of guitar, punctured with the lock n’ pummel drumming and an driven by an overt sense of rhythm on their eponymous record. Zedek has long been a force for experimentation within her career and she brings the same willingness to obscure genre boundaries as the basis of E’s backbone.

Though, as expressed by the band themselves, this isn’t just Zedek’s project. McCarthy provides just as much vocal heft as she does here, taking on a frantic tone giving some explosive performances of his own. There isn’t a track that doesn’t speak to the band’s collaborative appraoach, feeding off of one another over the course of E‘s two sides. Still, its hard to ignore Zedek’s guitar work, equal parts crunched aluminum and fluid mercury, mechanical but never without a beating heart. Post-rock may be a dirty term these days to some, but there’s plenty of life to be found outside of the swaying choruses, verses and strums. E is proving that a cerebral approach still knows how to crush.




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Soft Gang

Soft Gang’s name is one of those non-descript monikers that feel like you’ve heard it before a dozen times over, akin to any number of animal tagged bands of years past or the constant beach combers that never cease to pop up. But for as much as their name tends to fold into the background of a thousand soft namesakes, their sound stands them up and apart from the rabble. They find themselves perched in a din of noise and krautrock precision and an experimental attitude that permeated the late ’90s core of post-rock lock-steppers like Don Caballero or June of 44. Though don’t for a second think that an association with post-rock means that the band is in anyway buttoned down and checking their mathematics of riff. Though they have the length and repetition on lock they also tend to wander off into noise breakdowns and some squelch that reminds me of Afrirampo or Nisennenmondai.

The band’s got some pedigree coming in, Dahm Cipolla (Phantom Family Halo, Sapat) on drums and Charlie Hines (Dichroics, Sabers) on bass form a formidable rhythm section that holds the fray in place, dirging when necessary and ramping up to a full rumble at a moment’s notice. There are areas where the band’s eponymous album drags, but those are soon forgiven for the moments when they burn and crinkle, singe and repeat. A few more listens strip away some of the artful coverings and expose an album with a heart that want’s to dance, just not in a way that’s carefree. If you can give yourself over to full body convulsions and a constant rocking chug, then Soft Gang have a song or two to unlock your spirit. Its got teeth when it needs it and for that I’m enjoying the ride.



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Tangents

This one had me at the connection to Triosk, Aussie post-rock from back on the Leaf label that always used to make me smile. Ex-member Adrian Lim-Klumpes is on board here along with a host of other post-everything players who know that a good skittering beat and mash of jazz, electronic and folk can still nail down some import even past the meteoric rise of that ethos around the early aughts. Stateless embodies its title. It doesn’t seem to have a full allegiance to any of its disparate parts, but they come together nicely to provide an instrumental electronic album that’s got a nice sense of movement an that indebtedness to jazz that sticks just right. It always feels good in post-rock when that jazz element is just bubbling below the surface and not swinging wildly at the face. In that respect, the band’s been looser in the past, moving into a studio setup here, they feel buttoned down but not overly burdened by planning. This is one of those albums that’s great for getting shit done, its an active background, and honestly I mean that probably more complimentary that it sounds.

Sure you could crank the stereo and listen to Stateless in rapt attention, and maybe there are those that will, but this is the kind of album that headphones were made for; headphones meant to be taken out into the world. Its a blanket to wrap around the movement of others and a bed for thought. Personally, I’ve always appreciated an album like that. We all want someone to notice our nuances, but I’d say that its just as high praise to let others block out the noise and move brain cells in the right direction.



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Ensemble Econimique – “On The Sand”

Brian Pyle’s dark soundscapes have played their way out around here plenty of times but its been too long since I’ve checked in and “On The Sand” has me feeling remiss. On his latest track from the upcoming Blossoms In Red, he’s stripped things back to the minimal nature of doom. A vibrational core of bass rumbles through with the kind of foreboding presence that’s felt in the sweat on the back of your neck, Pyle’s guitar enters slow and menacing heralding only dread and that’s all before Peter Broderick lends his hushed, coldly threatening vocal take to the mix. The track seems like a breaking point, the moment that resistance is pushed aside and ground into the dirt. The accompanying video is appropriately stark, just shots of a woman haloed by the sun interspersed with Pyle and Broderick playing. Its one of the most crushingly heavy tracks I’ve heard this year and up there with Pyle’s best for sure.

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