Debuts and Downloads: Post-Rock

GloriesWe’ve already featured excellent post-rock debuts this year from Crusade and Go! Save the Hostages!  Now it’s time to shine a spotlight on six other deserving groups: Be Water, Glories, Grey Storia, Oak, A Sudden Burst of Color and Wired to Follow.

Denver duo Grey Storia has had a great start out of the gate, as one of its songs was featured in a popular stop-motion boarding video this spring (see below).  The only problem: this lovely acoustic guitar track is not featured on the debut album, nor is it representative of the band’s full sound.  In contrast, the louder Martonic EP offers six tracks of instrumental rock and post-rock with metal elements.  “Invade” is the brief cinematic overture, packed with power chords, seemingly over before it has begun.  “Requiem” bleeds the first drops of metal, but bows out gracefully to the elegant opening melodies of the EP’s best track, “Escape”.  One of the strangest stories in post-rock is that the glockenspiel has finally found a home; it’s no longer surprising to hear, but it’s always welcome when it appears.  In the soothing outro, the melody is echoed on guitar.  Closer “Home” is another highlight, gentle yet worthy of repeat plays.  One can’t help but think how powerful the song might have been had some more acoustic elements been integrated, a la “Paper Shredder”.  Advice for the band: integrate the two on the next EP.

Paper Shredder from Paul Gemignani on Vimeo.

Strasbourg, France’s Oak has been plugging away slowly and consistently over the past few years, with a demo, a live release and a single now followed by a debut album.  The band falls more on the languid side of post-rock with melancholic phrasing and careful builds.  Most dramatic is the sample that stretches from the end of the fourth track to the beginning of the fifth: a key monologue from the movie The Fountain.  This inclusion pumps up the drama and joins in the beloved post-rock tradition of sampling.  The flip side is that it is also the most memorable part of the album; and how could it not be?  Our advice to the band ~ and by extension, to all bands ~ is don’t let your unoriginal parts trump your original parts.  In this case, Oak is strong enough without them.  The whirlwinds of “ER, 2am” are a prime example.  The bass holds the fort, as if stuck in the reality of a waiting room; the guitars swirl like unsettled emotions as the Angel of Life battles the Angel of Death.  As a concept album, Not Afraid Anymore deserves to be considered in its own right, rather than a reflection of Darren Aronofsky.  The double-time finale of “Things are getting bad” and the dramatic heights of closing track “…it has to end soon” prove that Oak can tell a compelling story without words.

sound cannot travel in a vacuum 
may be the first online offering from New Jersey trio Be Water, but the band sounds as if it’s been ready for years.  A few subtle tape loops have wandered into the mix to accompany the expected drums, bass and guitar.  “Robes, bad puns and cooking dance” are also listed, but not apparent.  The first sign that something significant may be unfolding is the full stop that arrives at the halfway point of  opening piece “a stampede”, evidence that the band is in no rush to plow forward.  This restraint – exercised by many of the best post-rock bands – is a wordless way to say, “Wait for it.”  As the phrase goes, good things come to those who wait, and arrive they do ~ those who miss the traditional loud-quiet loud approach will fill a familiar euphoria at 6:35.  After this, a tender piano interlude track is followed by one of the most obvious titles ever ~ “catharsis” ~ but the title fits the tone.  Here’s the patient beginning, eventually followed by a mid-piece pickup in the percussion.  The listener knows what’s coming, but is happy when it arrives.  There it is in the final minutes: yes, the glockenspiel!  Thank you, post-rock deities!  The only downside is the final track, which possesses a completely different timbre.  After being prepped to experience a second sublime conclusion, it’s a bit disappointing to hear that there will only be an afterglow.  Our advice: dump the ambient piece (1/3 of the EP), along with its sermonizing monologue; it’s a distraction.  A holier feeling is inspired by the previous three pieces.

Guitar!  Guitar!  Drums!  Bass!  A simple lineup works well for Motherwell, Scotland’s A Sudden Burst of Color, whose back-to-basics approach pays major dividends.  More instrumental rock than post-rock, but with clear post-rock flavors, the Reborn EP spends no time tinkering around, but gets straight to the heart of the matter.  The introduction to “Afterglow” is only 20 seconds long, after which the percussion establishes the pace.  In early breakdowns, one can hear the ghosts of early U2, but by the start-and-stop riffs of the second minute, ASBOC has left such references behind.  The song provides concertgoers with a wonderful series of jumping and thrashing opportunities.  As expected from the title, “Zen” is more sedate, although not entirely peaceful; the song offers a hard-won peace rather than a couch-bound placidity.  The title track tones things down to an even greater extent with a quicker tempo, but a less crowded sound field.  Have the band members been reborn, or does the title refer to a sense of each day, born anew?  Whatever one’s interpretation, A Sudden Burst of Color matches its moniker with an aural reflection; our only advice is to add an element that sounds like ASBOC and only ASBOC, and to choose a cover that looks more like Scotland.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Glories seems well aware of this adage, and Merrilee Challiss’ cover art is what drew us to this disc in the first place.  As a quintet, this Birmingham, Alabama band already has an edge on its competition, and its music is as good as its cover, or even more so.  Attention to detail is important: the way we can hear the tambourine at 5:09 of “Mechanical Mariner”, a track otherwise dominated by the guitar, is a prime example.  (See also 6:52 of “Pagan Holiday” and 2:59 of the closer.)  Each of the half-dozen tracks is thick with uplifting themes, yet is willing to delve into crannies to investigate sub-themes, like a snorkeler unafraid to leave the surface.  The band members are well aware of each other, as is apparent by their instinctive interplay.  And yes, Virginia, there is a glockenspiel, as first heard at 4:37 of “Far From Houses, Far From Doors”.  But the track doesn’t rely on the instrument to carry it; soon the mallets are gone, and the entire track shifts to an entirely different level for the finale.  Smooth transitions are a hallmark of the band.  The songs don’t jump into cacophony, they stride toward it, step by step.  Piano provides welcome dynamic contrast on “At This Depth”, another highlight of this powerful post-rock album. Ironically, the last track is titled, “Let’s Not Rush Out and Tell Everyone”.  We disagree; let’s.

Liverpool’s Wired to Follow offers something a little different on its debut EP.  By using rock, post-rock and electronics, the band produces something it calls “soundscape rock”.  This seems a fairly accurate term, as the four pieces here flow as much as they progress.  If not for the lone dialogue sample on “Lucy”, the music might wash right over the listener, producing a sort of glucose trance.  The sample itself inspires a sense of wonder, although as mentioned in the Oak review above, the strongest music shouldn’t need such adornment.  To paraphrase, if one doesn’t like the sample, one won’t like the song, which is a bit unfair to the music.  In this case it works, due to the fact that the sample is unfamiliar, drawing comparison to The Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” and Slacker’s “Scared”.  I am one with what I am … I can see everything in colour … I’ve never seen so much infinite beauty in life.  The words seem positive, but the tone is nervous, prompting an interviewer to ask, “Is all this pleasant or unpleasant, or aren’t these the right words?”  Wired to Follow seems to use this sample as a thesis, leading into an expository phase of piano interlude (the beautifully sedate “Unix Epoch”), rocking, 65dos-esque floor filler (“Abort, Retry, Fail?”) and statuesque conclusion (“I Wish I Could See in Technicolour”).  This last piece contains the EP’s biggest build and most satisfying payoff; the title references Lucy’s words, intimating a calm envy of her altered state.  The music produces the high without the drugs, a safer alternative that one can return to without trepidation.

Richard Allen


  1. Pingback: A Closer Listen - Grey Storia

  2. Enthralled stole their music from Tyler Krug. Check out this article explaining the whole story:

  3. Note: This article initially contained a review of an EP by a Costa Rican band named Enthralled, who submitted an EP by Atlanta’s Tyler Krug and claimed it as their own. This reprehensible behavior was caught by the author above ~ we thank him for calling it to our attention. All of Enthralled’s contacts have since disappeared from the web. Please check out Tyler’s music by following the link in the above post.

  4. Pingback: Be Water – EP | Ontario Street Catalog

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