5 countries, 5 post-rock bands! Our last Debuts & Downloads feature of 2013 shines a spotlight on Besides, Children & Lions, Ending Satellites, Krobak and twincities. Learn their names now; these artists are seeking to make waves in 2014!
Poland’s Besides only formed last year, but one would never guess from the sound of its debut album. We Were So Wrong is classic post-rock, but done extremely well, as are the ten paintings that accompany the release. As early as the opening track (“At Night”), listeners are treated to swiftly-rising crescendoes and a keen sense of traditional post-rock catharsis. As the track tumbles without pause into “Beyond”, the pace slows to allow time for reflection. But by 3:21, the thick tones return, giving the fans what they want. With crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser, the band obviously knows its audience. The only challenge will be that of forming a distinct identity. It’s good to be good, but it’s great to be good in a different way. As a new band, Besides has already proven that it has the potential to reach the next level; for now, it offers what amounts to ten desserts in a row: nirvana for crescendo addicts, but overwhelming to those with subtler tastes.
Surrey’s Children & Lions is a quintet paired with a string quartet: a stage-filling presence that offers rich tones and sonic depth. The euphonium and trombone provide an extra boost. As they are somewhat rare in post-rock; their inclusion tweaks the ear. While the most memorable tracks are still built upon a base of guitar, bass and drums (“Keys & New Wires Part II”), the album as a whole benefits from the variety that is offered by the full ensemble. In fact, the music is so strong that the vocals are unnecessary, as first made apparent on the final crescendo of “Bridge Too Far”. On the brighter side, they tend to be tender and are used sparingly, in the manner of Ef. The string work is exquisite. Short passages, such as that found at the end of “Cold Knees” and the instrumental “Tsavo”, could be extended by at least a couple minutes for greater effect. Everything comes together for the closer, “Fuel to the Fire”, which is likely the encore of the live set. On this track, the band has the courage to sink into near-silence before making their final surge to glory. Crossover potential exists, even without compromise; this is a very strong start.
And so sing the black birds is Ending Satellites’ second album, but it’s his first instrumental album, which is something we always appreciate hearing. The decision to go vocal-free is a brave one, so we commend the artist – France’s Damien Dufour – on his courage. This same virtue is behind the choice to begin a 30-minute album with a 12-minute track; we call this “going for broke”, and it works. This title track begins with a mournful Midwestern vibe before adding whistles to cement the association. When the cello enters in the fourth minute, the piece enters a higher realm: no longer a song, but an experience. Then in the seventh, an organ. It’s clear that nothing else on the album will top this track, but that’s not the point. Ending Satellites has made the best first impression possible, and after this he is free to coast on a sea of good will. Of the remaining tracks, “A Floating Point” does the best job at repeating the vibe of the opener, although the surprisingly effective “Interlude 9”, at only 1:48, comes close. A b-sides collection is planned for 2014; we’re already interested in hearing what it may hold.
Five songs in fifty minutes: now this is post-rock! Kiev’s Krobak is an example of the new breed of post-rock artists making names for themselves in the former Soviet bloc. It’s been five years since the Ukrainian band’s debut appeared, and we’d all but given up hope in hearing a new work, but Little Victories is a clear reflection of its title. Streamlined and surefooted, the quartet of guitar, bass, drums and violin makes an intelligent racket, demonstrating great compositional strength. Strangely, the sound is most reminiscent of famous disappearing act Yndi Halda, who has yet to produce a second album. This is primarily due to the contributions of Marko’s violin, which always seems to enter at just the right time. It’s amazing how much of a difference one instrument can make, but the violin adds just the right touch of melancholy to reflect the idea of loss. A quick look at the track titles confirms the theme: “And there by the River I lost my Glasses”, “Last Days of Summer”, “Broken”, “It’s Snowing like it’s the End of the World”, “Amnesia”. The first and last tracks are the finest – no surprise for post-rock – but the entire album is recommended, especially to fans of widescreen artists such as Mono and the aforementioned Yndi Halda.
When one thinks of Taylor Deupree, one normally thinks of quieter music, but the 12k studio wizard provided the clear mastering for twincities’ debut album make a joyful noise. This connection already tells us that the work of this band will fall outside the norm, and these suspicions are quickly and gladly confirmed. Touches of ambient music, drone and field recording are evident (are those New York crickets on “maiden tributes to modern babylon”?), as are subtle electronics. While this is still a post-rock album, it sounds more modern than its contemporaries. If post-rock is to continue to defy prognosticators, it will need more bands like twincities who are willing to stretch boundaries, drawing new listeners into the fold. It takes over ten minutes to begin to sound like post-rock, which is its saving grace. After a few plays, the listener begins to appreciate the architecture and allow it to unfold at its own measured pace. Only then does one realize that it’s not about the build ~ it’s about the beauty of setting a mood. When they arrive, the crescendoes will satisfy as they always do. Yet in this case, one realizes that they are not the parts to fast-forward to; they are the parts to enjoy whenever they occur.