Debuts and Downloads: Post-Rock and Post-Metal

Those Amongst Us Are WolvesAfter the success of our last feature, we’ve expanded our parameters to include a few harder-edged releases. Post-everything is not dead, as proven by these debuts from Caves of Glass, Envoys, Mandelenda, Mobility Chief, Secheron Peak and Those Amongst Us Are Wolves. The post-family continues to grow, and we couldn’t be happier to encounter so many new bands keeping the home fires burning!

Coventry’s Those Amongst Us Are Wolves announces itself with the sound of an emergency siren on Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behavior.  This alone tells us that their album will be immediate and full.  “And So You Thought, ‘The Sky’s the Limit” possesses a classic post-rock title and delivers a classic post-rock sound, but instead of unfolding as quiet-loud-quiet, it goes from medium to loud to medium, which is fine by us.  Even the soft landing contains rolling drums and the re-entry of the siren.  The five minute “The Speed of a Life”  is short enough to be a single, bearing a simple glockenspiel melody and an ever-growing wall of guitars.  While this might seem formulaic, the quartet then proceeds to insert an ironic vocal sample:  “The formula works, it’s why formulas are written.”  This leads directly into the album’s top track, “Strange Attractors Pt.2”, which combines a series of summer-like melodies with the sound of ocean waves.  Not even the nine-minute “Jakob’s Ladder”, featuring a host of additional drone and progressive elements, can beat a summer track in the middle of summer.  Our advice to the band: continue to stretch the genre’s boundaries, and you’ll move from solid to spectacular.

Returning stateside to Tennessee, we intercept Search Beneath Earth, the debut from Mobility Chief. This is a much more relaxed album that the above, perhaps due to its laid-back, Southern vibe.  One track is even called “Existenchill”.  While the music is never staid, it unfolds at a relaxed pace.  The guitar lines enter when they are ready, like Southern gentlemen engaged in polite conversation.  In the “Immersion” breakdown, a sweet groove develops over languid drumming.  It’s good time music, tailor-made for a backyard barbecue.  Even when the pace picks up on later tracks, it remains within the head-nodding range.  Mobility Chief does rock out, but not enough to populate a mosh pit.  Their guitar interplay is instinctive and at times intricate, and one can imagine that they have an engaging stage presence.  Elements of math rock abound (especially on “Tailfeathers”), but the band will still need something special to distinguish them from the crowd.  The easiest way to start: a less generic album cover.  We suggest a well-known Knoxville landmark to take advantage of the already invested home crowd.  Then focus on the sax (the most distinctive element), sit back, and enjoy the acclaim.

has made great strides since its self-titled 2011 EP.  The Long Beach, CA band’s debut album preserves the party atmosphere while pumping up the strings and offering a more mature and enriching experience.  Evidence can be seen as early as the cover art, which has shifted away from the generic to the specific.  Kudos for picturing a man-of-war, which can be found in Long Beach (warning to readers: never touch one!)  The album title, Micropsia, refers to a condition that makes things seem smaller than they really are; ironically, the band’s music does the opposite.  Mandelenda’s brand of post-rock is full, positive and life-affirming.  The violin on “Nomura’s Bloom” (referencing another type of jellyfish) even brings to mind Yndi Halda, the famous post-rock band who toured for years on the vapor of a single album.  We hope this doesn’t happen to Mandelenda, because their net has been cast wide enough to include progressive rock, Spanish guitar and modern composition, making them stand out in what has become a very crowded field.  Especially noteworthy is their grasp of how to handle climactic moments: satisfy, retreat, and return in a different way.  The finest of these are found in in the first big melody of “What a View” (2:22), the squalling center of “Aperture! Stop!” and the violin swirl of “Nomura’s Bloom” (4:00).  Big moment after big moment may translate into a big career; California is a big state, but it may end up being too small for this quintet.

Next we travel to the shores of Melbourne, where solo artist Damien Clarke (Secheron Peak) has uncovered a different phylum of post-rock, inflected with electronic and industrial beats.  The music is part 65dos, part Tympanik, and its harder edge is its primary selling point.  Post-rock for dance floors – who knew?  “MK2” provides the first impression of crossover potential, as jungliest patterns merge with swirling synths.  If post-rock sometimes takes a back seat to ambience, it’s in the service of a higher cause.  This is fun stuff, and fun is needed to attract people to a genre.  The pace slows down on occasion, but overall the b.p.m.s remain in the body-moving range.  “Grid Arp” in particular seems to channel the spirit of Front 242.  But on pensive tracks such as “Cascader”, a clear post-rock skeleton can be seen protruding through the skin.  Our advice: steer away from anything that sounds like drum ‘n’ bass (too retro) or dubstep (too popular) and concentrate on the harder-edged IDM, as best used on “Nought Location”.  Keep the excitement high, and be open to the idea of remixes!

Members of multiple bands (Amanita, Anatomy of a Lost Soul, Lethargy, Qualia, Varuna, Zora) have converged to create the self-titled debut from Caves of Glass.  Don’t be alarmed by the opening track: the screamo doesn’t last, although it pops up again in brief intervals.  In fact, the album is primarily instrumental, taking in aspects of ambient, post-rock, prog and even sludge on a wild journey that deserves to be heard from beginning to end.  Even “The Hollow” dies down at 5:15 (of a total 9:30), allowing room for a post-rock interlude and a vocal-free, surging climax.  The twain clear/growled vox of “Gone from Oceania” call to mind the work of Underoath, but that’s where the comparison ends.  For the next half-hour, the music is the main story.  On “Mariana”, ambient tones lead to thoughtful guitar passages and rustling electronics before plunging into a whirlpool of guitar and drum.  The nearly 13-minute “Barren Earth” moves from post-rock to sludge in vintage Earth fashion.  The segment that begins at 7:54 is a morass of feedback and distortion. Then it’s left to the peaceful post-rock of “The End” to pick up the pieces, which it does calmly and completely.  Our advice is to flip these tracks around a bit (3, 4, 1, 2, 5) – it’s better to build to the screamo than to start with it.

ViolescentI’m checking out the video teaser for Envoys‘ debut to get a taste of the band.  Wow, that’s a lot of drums and cymbals.  Oh, cool, a cello!  And a trumpet!  Wait a minute ~ are you singing?  Are you screaming?  I hope you won’t be doing too much of that (they won’t).  Violescent falls on the harder edge of post-rock or the more accessible edge of post-metal, whichever you prefer. It’s packed with riffs, ranging from polite nodding to head-banging, which makes for an extremely engaging listen.  The title seems to blend violent and adolescent or luminescent, perhaps both, but we tend toward the latter interpretation since this is a mature album.  The band’s best quality is its power; as another early reviewer has commented, the music is comparable with that of Russian Circles, albeit with fewer down moments.  The vocal tracks rest in the center of the album and may attract metal and alternative fans, although to be fair, some may complain that there are not enough vocals, as they often disappear for minutes as a time (especially on “Admonition”)!  The best tracks, “Bread & Bullfights” and “To Serve Three Masters” (the opener and closer) succeed by creating a mood and then completely demolishing it.  By the end, the listener feels as if he or she has been put through the wringer, but happily, with the dirt sloughed off and the excess drained.

Available here July 29

Richard Allen

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