This entire region is rich with post-rock, where it is sprinkled with many other influences: electronics, modern composition and even pop. The region is hungry for these sounds, and in some locales the excitement is just starting to take off.
As we cross the border into Lithuania, we find Without Letters waiting for us at the gate. After three single releases in a row, the band is finally releasing an EP. The vocals of prior releases are gone, but the influence of new wave is still present, along with a more modern, 65dos flair. These four tracks are radio-friendly, yet complex enough to attract the post-rock ear. “Arch” is particularly memorable, thanks to a bird whistle and drum breakdown that might with some luck become a dance. The video begins in abstraction before it begins to introduce more recognizable images. In like manner, the remainder of the album is a mixture of the familiar and the odd. The second half of “Inverted Cycles” does just what its title promises, veering from post-rock to techno without a single jarring moment. An original EP launch plan – a reel-to-reel exhibition, plus a live video stream – demonstrates the band’s creativity. This is exactly what post-rock needs: new ideas for a new generation. We love this new direction, and look forward to hearing what happens next.
Lithuania’s northern neighbor is Latvia, and we would not be at all surprised to find Without Letters setting out on tour with Audrey Fall someday. Mitau was one of the year’s first post-rock albums, and it remains one of the year’s best – yet another surprise considering the fact that it’s a debut. The band has spent four years honing its sound, and the hard work and patience have paid off. With track after track of post-rock/post-metal stunners, this quartet wastes not a single second. The lead video (seen below) is so well-shot it even makes one like clouds and mountains in post-rock long after their popularity should have faded. The use of such images shows us two things: first, the geographical ties of the quartet, and second, their willingness to co-opt the tropes of the past and reboot them for modern audiences. Extra credit for the use of Zoso-like symbols; they should look great on a t-shirt. The massive riffs of “Bermondt” will get heads banging and sweat flying, but the album closing one-two punch of “Priboi” and “Medem” may knock listeners out. This is the sound of a surefooted band already on its way to the summit, preparing to plant its flag.
As we move north yet again, we find the air growing thinner, the temperatures growing colder. To honor the northern climes, Estonian quartet Ocean Districts has recorded a post-rock, post-metal, post-life tribute to famous explorers. Expeditions is powerful and punchy, a testament to the dedication of Shackleton, Scott, and others similar to them, including those brave and/or foolhardy enough to tackle the Seven Summits. The timbres are as dangerous as the terrain. Ocean sounds drift in the background while guitars battle it out in the front, like sled dogs desperate for a scrap. “Arctic Circle” is unforgiving, determined to make it to the top even if it kills the band. “Vessels” is a respite of sorts, an interlude featuring a quote about migration and trade winds. More of these would have been welcome – why not go for broke? “Endurance” explodes with such force it might have freed the ship from the ice. The song is only three minutes long; at that length, no buildup is necessary. Many post-rock bands are vying for the summit; by delving into the past, Ocean Districts has learned about the tenacity it takes to succeed.