Posts Tagged ‘Post-rock’

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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