As 66 bands and 5000 fans prepare for ArcTanGent 2015 (August 20-22), post-rockers everywhere are scouring the internet for new music. We recommend recent releases by Jon Carolino, Dumbsaint, A Shelter in the Desert, SPOIWO and We Lost the Sea, presented here in order, from quiet to loud.
We kick things off with the gorgeous and tender EP Home, the conclusion of a trilogy Jon Carolino wrote for his daughter Isabella Faith. Woven was written while she was in the womb; Ruins followed after her life on earth had ended; Home is the sound of healing grace. The timbres still sound sad, especially the plaintive piano; but the tears are for this life only. Home is evidence that the genre can offer more than simple entertainment, and that musical peaks and valleys can symbolize real-life struggles. Post-rock has the ability to make listeners feel, but the emotions are normally not this specific. In this instance, the listener is led gently to a place of peace, a final track in which Carolino finally – after so much sorrow – sings. In his voice, we hear the weight of years lifting like the balloons on the cover, like incense, like prayer. As the tone shifts from the dark shadow of loss to the bright light of redemption, one can imagine the clouds parting for only a moment, just enough for a soul to enter.
Poland’s SPOIWO makes a great start with an intriguing cover (by Elena Kalis) and concept: Salute Solitude. The title choice is ironic in light of the fact that the band members are lifelong friends, but their sound is as vast and expansive as an Arctic landscape. After a pensive beginning, the band finds its footing in “Skin”, drums and guitars emerging like bears looking for berries. It’s clear that SPOIWO has the cinema in mind. The snowy video for “Years of Silence” plays with perspective, but also demonstrates the band’s fun side; it’s hard to see so much snow and not to enjoy it. Out of solitude grows inspiration, and in certain places the band seems particularly inspired: the double ending of “YOS”, followed later by the comforting crescendos of “Call Me Home” and “Flare”. The latter hides a hint of horns, and as a result is the album’s most appealing track. It’s almost enough to make one want to walk out into the wilderness; but for that, we’ll have to wait for the winter to come around once more.
A cinematic sound is also apparent on Pequeñas Hiroshimas, the new album from Mexican quintet A Shelter in the Desert. They’ve made great strides since their debut EP in 2012, and are now bold enough – and capable enough – to tackle a concept album. Translated as small Hiroshimas, the title refers to the disasters of life, and is billed as “five postcards for those who explode and bloom”. Thick guitars and avid snares are joined by emotional synths as the band travels from disillusionment (“La vida no tine cura/Life has no cure”) to hope. The penultimate track references the Oleander, the first flower to bloom after the explosion; and the final track, the only one with an English title, is “Healing”. While the band’s strength is in its dense crescendos (which on “Y dormir, por primera vez, con el alma al lado” achieve a Mono-like grandeur), it also excels in subtler moments: the solo piano of “Y dormir”, the unexpected trumpet of the finale. In the end, the music reflects the band’s name, existing as an aural shelter for desert wanderers.
We have Echoes and Dust to thank for leading us to Australia’s We Lost the Sea, whose album Departure Songs is available in multiple formats, including clear vinyl and CD, along with accompanying t-shirts and prints. The band has gone all-out with this album, and we’re happy to say that it deserves this treatment; it’s one of the best pure post-rock albums we’ve heard in some time. It’s also the sextet’s first instrumental album following the passing of its lead vocalist; it’s no stretch to say that the album is haunted by loss. Conceptually, the set hearkens back to Petrels’ Haeligewielle and iLiKETRAiNS’ Progress • Reform, drawing on noble, yet heartbreaking historical events for inspiration. The best of these is the 17-minute “The Last Dive of David Shaw”, which pays tribute to the deep sea diver whose efforts to recover the body of another diver eventually cost him his life. The grandeur of this piece cannot be overstated. From the opening breaths, to the enthralling midsection, to the broken conclusion, this piece affects the listener at every measure. Close behind it is the two-part “Challenger”, whose subject matter is more widely known; We Lost the Sea takes over half an hour to get it right. Tragic, tasteful, and ultimately enervating, this piece stands as an accurate aural reflection of the events that took place on January 28, 1986. On lead single “A Gallant Gentleman”, the band even brings a choir. Unlike the subjects of their songs, We Lost the Sea reaches for great heights and depths, and returns safely to tell the tale.
Oh no, a suitcase! Dude, don’t pick up that suitcase! You know it’s going to be trouble! *Sigh.* On Panorama, in ten pieces, Australia’s Dumbsaint continues to offer much more than a cinematic sound: they also bring the cinema. The album is again accompanied by a series of videos. The full 60-minute film can be ordered along with the music (available in all four formats) and if one wishes, a t-shirt. Again, the visuals are mysterious and disturbing, but one can’t look away. The biggest change in the band is that its music seems even fuller and punchier than it did last time around; midway into the opener, a metal influence already makes itself felt. Just as one senses the strings are about to emerge, the bottom drops out, not once, but multiple times. This is the sound of a new confidence, a desire to try new things, not only visually, but sonically. One track in, and the second album is already better than the first; and we really liked that album! The excitement continues throughout the 10-track effort, with distorted guitars, dark bass and ominous drums creating a sense of menace. Highlights include the rapid-paced first single, “Cold Call” and its evocative, two-minute lead-in, “(Partition)”. But the alternately melodic and crashing “Of No Return” is the track that most makes us want to see the video; we’re excited to see what Dumbsaint has in store for our eyes.