Post-Rock Road Trip: Day Five

Spanish post-rockDay Five brings us southwest to Spain and Portugal, where we find the sounds of Kermit, Catacombe and la flag.  It’s amazing how different three bands from the same region can seem, despite the fact they operate in the same narrow arena.  Unusual factors link them to each other and to other post-rock artists as well.

While post-rock often seems influenced by the mountains, in the case of these artists, the sea is a greater influence.  From the sea come ships bearing tidings and trade items from around the world.  The waves and tides are echoed in the ebbs and flows of each band’s music.

KermitKermit (no relation to the frog) bookends its new album with tracks titled “1926” and “1927”, sharing a love for the period with We Stood Like Kings, the Belgian post-rock band (with the same distributor!) whose recent album is named Berlin 1927.  While the latter band is referring to a film, the former band, hailing from Spain, is referring to the literary-artistic “Generation of 27” and the Spanish-language magazine Litoral, founded in ’26.  Perhaps we’re looking for too many associations, but “Samhain” contains the Ginsberg quote, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.”  When considered in tandem with Kermit’s last album, Autoficción (Self-fiction), it’s clear that the band brings a literary bent to post-rock, along with a little bit of jazz.  And why not?  Poetry and jazz share much in common, and it would not be unusual to imagine post-rock and poetry occupying the same smoky nightclub.  The languid “We tripantu”, which begins with a short female vocal, is one of the most appealing pieces, especially due to the creative drum work in the finale.  But the saxophone solo in the fast-paced “Magnitizdat” is also a selling point, as is the extended closer, to which the entire album builds.  Excellent, distinctive work throughout.

 

la flag - spargelzeit - coverI’m still not sure how I feel about the cover of la flag‘s debut album Spargelzeit (Asparagus Time), but the band is certainly committed to a theme. The creepy-cool lead video, “Zenith”, convinced me that something cool was going on and that the lads from Portugal had not lost the plot. With excellent production values, a beautiful woman, gorgeous ruins and a sense of darkness, the “Zenith” video highlights the band’s melodic nature, demonstrating that this is a band – and a genre – that one can dance to, given the right circumstances. Or one can jerk around like a new zombie. Listener’s choice! Surprising interludes like the salsa-inflected break of “antonov” (3:16) indicate that the album can be fun as well. La Flag can be serious, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Their music is filled with winks that alternate with head-banging nods. “Would you be angry if I died?” a narrator asks in “dama de espadas”. No, but we’d be sad, because post-rock needs more winks and hints of fun, even if they come wrapped in asparagus.

 

QuidamOkay, here’s where it gets weird.  What are the chances that two Portuguese post-rock/post-metal bands would release albums in the same week, and both name their opening (and best) tracks “Zenith”?  Pretty slim, but it happened.  Catacombe‘s Quidam (whose cover also bears a similarity to Celeste’s Misanthrope(s), is only six days younger than Spargelzeit, but fortunately that’s where the similarities end; each album has its own appeal.  Quidam is the more traditional post-rock album, in that the riffs are softer around the edges, more comforting than confrontational.  And “Zenith” is a smooth, melodic introduction to a subtle, engaging set.  The longest piece, “Ninho de Vespas”, is languid and expansive, but Catacombe proves that it can rock on “Shroud”.  The quiet parts offset the loud, and vice versa, amplifying the impact.  By taking four years between albums, the band has proven the value of patience.  This patience comes into play whenever the band decides to unfurl a crescendo rather than to simply throw one in.  This is their best work yet, with every step taken a confident stride in the right direction.

Richard Allen

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