2020 Winter Music Preview ~ Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz

Will 2020 be another good year for post-rock, or will the genre dissipate?  We remain confident that at the end of this decade, we’ll still be talking about the genre that wouldn’t die.  Our final winter preview contains a few solid contenders in that category as well as a wealth of selections from jazz to metal.  Reviews return tomorrow; we hope you’ve enjoyed our foray into the future!

Our cover image is a cropped Alaska stamp from 1959 ~ we’d love to identify the artist, so please let us know if you’re able to provide the credit!

One of the first albums to be released this year is the gentle folk score to the film Ghost Tropic.  The score accompanies the protagonist, a cleaner who has fallen asleep on the last train and has to walk home.  Brecht Ameel‘s tender themes offer comfort through the long, lonely night.  The name of the label could not be more fitting (Hands in the Dark, January 3).  Some lyrics are promised on Odd West, although the preview tracks are instrumental; this fingerpicking set is the solo debut for Jason McMahon.  While a few lyrics are in Arabic, others lie deep in the mix (Shinkoyo, January 31).


Bohren & der Club of Gore return with Patchouli Blue, continuing to explore their patented form of darkjazz.  Lead single “Sollen es doch All wissen” (“Everyone should know”) is more jazz than dark, while the cover is more dark than jazz (PIAS Recordings, January 24).  Guess how many musicians are in Mute Duo?  That’s right ~ two.  But if one were to hear the music without the name, one wouldn’t know it.  Each plays multiple instruments, the lap steel especially prominent, lending this project a warm post-rock vibe.  Elements of jazz and folk are also present, and yes, we think that’s a cowbell in the track below!  The digital version of Lapse in Passage is out February 28 on American Dreams, followed by the physical release on March 20.


Aidan Moffet (Arab Strap), formerly known as L. Pierre, returns as Nyx Nótt to present the nocturnal suite Aux Pieds de la Nuit.  The preview below includes a curious voiceover somewhat reminiscent of a John Constantine incantation, while the album nods its insomniac head to the goddesses of the night.  An additional 7″ is included with the vinyl purchase (Melodic, February 14).  Arms and Sleepers has changed timbres a few times, and by now can be considered a post-rock band on the edge of electronic, or an electronic band on the edge of post-rock.  Either way, their sound is intensely accessible, and Safe Area Earth looks to continue their winning streak among fans.  To sweeten the deal, the album is only the first salvo in a six-part series, all scheduled to be released in 2020 (Future Archive Recordings, January 17).  Lebanese band Kinematik also offers a blend of electronic and post-rock timbres; the ethnic stylings of sophomore album Murur al Kiram are a draw, along with a sense of political relevance (Ruptured/Beacon Sound, February 28).


The re-scoring of old classic films has become a small sub-genre in recent years.  Every time we hear a new post-rock score, we think of our old friends 3epkano ~ please come back!  In the meantime, we look forward to a dramatic new score for Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, presented by Toundra on the hundredth anniversary of the film.  Check out the sneak preview “I. Akt” below (InsideOut, February 28).  The key to Glories is melody.  Their melodic brand of post-rock is comforting rather than threatening, as they create music one might hum along to.  The quiet “Driftwood” is a kind interlude in the center of the rocking Distant After, their first album following the untimely death of founding guitarist Zach Cooner in 2017, to whom the album is dedicated (A Thousand Arms, January 24).  The Portland post-rock trio Violetera releases A Landmark, Not a Beacon on January 3; the album lands on the more accessible side, featuring a series of single-length tracks. Sunset Wrecks goes all-out with Trickles Into Gravity’s Maw, throwing in segments of drone, noise and electronics, along with surprising appearances from bagpipes and ukulele.  They try to mitigate the darkness by mentioning “hope and tranquility,” but it’s still pretty dark (January 3).

rýr is a Berlin band with an Icelandic name meaning “sparse, barren or weak,” which seems slightly odd considering their sound: pure post-metal, with an average track time of eight minutes.  In English, the word looks a little like “roar” or the growling sound “rrr,” but we suggest “sterkur,” Icelandic for “strong,” which sounds like “striker,” “stalker,” or “starker,” any of which might be a better fit.  left fallow is out January 10 on Narshardaa.  The Italian duo The Black Garden Circus is so loud even their press release refers to them as a band (although to be fair, they do include a guest bassist).  Guitar and drums scowl and roar at each other across a post-metal chasm, creating an exciting argument.  Everything is Different is out January 17 on Shunu Records.  Post-metal trio Soden returns with its sophomore effort Onwards… Toward the Tundra January 31 on Dirty Filthy Records, available in mint cookie vinyl.


Free-wheeling psych protagonists Och name-check Popul Vuh and Nurse With Wound, recalling a storied generation of crate digging and sonic exploration.  II (guess how many releases came before this!) creates a smoke-filled, trancelike atmosphere, and is released February 28 on Rocket Recordings.  Space rock and free jazz meet on Changing Shapes, a live set from Mythic Sunship.  These long jams seek to bring listeners to a higher state of consciousness, a bit harder in the home environment but worth a shot (El Paraiso, January 17)!

Sunny Jain is an outlier.  Joining Lil Nas X in theme (although not in timbre), the artist challenges images of the cowboy.  Wild Wild East is a meld of rock, jazz, Indian brass and even some hip-hop, recommended to fans of the Red Dead Redemption score (Smithsonian Folkways, 2/21).  More straight-up jazz can be found on Blissonance, from quintet Never Weather.  Led by drummer/vibraphonist Dillon Vado, the band presents an exuberant, upbeat brand of sunshine (Ridgeway, January 17).  We love the fact that The University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra is producing albums with original compositions by its members; Embargo is released January 10, and is just as lively as one might imagine given the age of the performers.  Trombone and electronics battle on Audrey Ochoa‘s Frankenhorn, with a pair of remixes from Battery Poacher (Chronograph, January 24).

Although vocal, we feel compelled to share news of the upcoming album from Automat, due to the fact that the trio includes Jochen Arbeit of Einstürzende Neubauten.  Their dub excursion Modul includes plenty of guest stars, most notably Lydia Lunch (Compost, January 31).  Another EN alum, Alexander Hacke, resurfaces with partner Danielle de Picciotto as Hackedepicciotto for The Current.  While the album is billed as “cinematic drone,” it doesn’t sound at all like drone to us; instead, it’s a series of rocking pieces with occasional squall (POTOMAK, January 31).

While this ends our Winter Music Preview, be sure to check our News page on a regular basis, where new releases are added the week they are announced!

Richard Allen

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