Today our post-rock road trip acts like a European backpacker, making its pit stops in Scotland, the U.K. and Greece, staying in hostels and taking in new music from The Gothenburg Address, Those Amongst Us Are Wolves and Sleepstream. We’ve been learning a valuable lesson along the way: that the scene is very much alive, albeit in flux. In fact, there’s so much new post-rock on the market that (if we had the time) we could start a sister site focusing solely on the genre and still find at least one new release each day to write home about. Just plug in “post-rock” on the Bandcamp genre page to learn the same thing: this scene is bursting. Of course, not all post-rock is of equal value; our challenge is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and that’s what we hope we’re doing here.
The Gothenburg Address is a Scottish post-rock band with a Swedish name, but with music this strong, the nation of origin is irrelevant. Suffice it to say that The Gothenburg Address gives that other Scottish post-rock band a run for its money, especially as that band has largely deserted post-rock as of late to concentrate on a moodier rock-based sound. This is the real stuff, the pure post-rock that fans clamor for. It can be summed up in a single word: intelligence. Careful thought has been given to the construction of delicate melodies amid crashing riffs. The mastering is deep and stereophonic. And most of all, the music weaves its way through alleys instead of stamping up the block. The initial breakdown of the title track isn’t even a breakdown, but an introduction of larger themes. By this we know that The Gothenburg Address is in it for the long haul, more interested in composition than cacophony (although there will be plenty of that as well). Even the track’s finale – a soft, sweet coda – demonstrates attention to detail. The same love is bestowed upon the remaining tracks, the strongest of which is “Tangents”. On the one hand, we’re sorry to see the EP end at 22 minutes; on the other, we’re glad the band didn’t wait to unleash this masked monster on the world.
We met Coventry’s Those Amongst Us Are Wolves last year, when we featured their EP Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behavior. At the time, we praised their classic post-rock sound, but encouraged them to widen their horizons. They’ve done just that on This State Is Conscious, which preserves what we liked about them in the first place, while adding new elements. Lead track “How to Level Water” is the obvious single, with a sweet melody giving way to emotive cello. But the santour breakdown of “At The End Of The Scene, The Walls Are Black And She Is Gone, And He Is Alone” provides the first indication that the band is putting in real effort, establishing a signature sound. Kamancheh (a Persian stringed instrument) also features strongly in the mix. Add the trumpet of “Placebo Affects”, and we’re sold. Those who still need convincing need look no further than the band’s 20-minute closer, “He Is The King Of The Tenuous Link”. Normally we’d ask, “Do you really want to do this?” When one track is half a band’s EP, it’s all or nothing. In this case it’s all. The track establishes itself with a beat-filled intro before descending into the magma, but when it emerges, it’s all eruption. The dual-stringed acoustic finale cements the deal; this band has caught fire.
Fluttery Records is one of the greatest supporters of post-rock, and Greece’s Sleepstream is one of their best discoveries. Like Those Amongst Us Are Wolves, the band is on their second release (the first being 2011’s “A Waltz With The Seventh Crane”, also on Fluttery) and incorporates strings in their sound, specifically violin and cello. These strings are the heart of the disc, the sweetness to offset the salt of the guitars. At times more gothic than classical, the string work recalls an earlier era in which musical boundaries were even more blurred, before terms such as “post-rock” and “post-metal” were bandied about. One might even make comparisons with bands such as Evanescence, whose breakthrough disc combined the same influences, adding vocals for crossover success. Not that we want vocals on this; but more than any other artist we’ve covered this week, Sleepstream has the potential to cross over in a big way, especially with shorter tracks such as “The Sail of Mary Celeste”. But the longer tracks remain the band’s bread and butter, or in this case χωριάτικο ψωμί and yogurt butter. The staple of live shows, tracks such as the title piece and “Lucy’s Dream An Overdose” lead their audiences through the requisite highs and lows, leaving them happily drained.