So far, 2021 has been an incredible year for rock. We’ve already seen some heavy hitters return with memorable albums; GY!BE, Mogwai, Fly Pan Am and Bell Orchestre were all featured on our pages earlier this year. This fall, they will be joined by Anoice, MONO, Explosions in the Sky, Jerusalem in My Heart and many more. Even without ArcTanGent and other festivals, the scene’s musicians have remained vibrant and hopeful. But the beauty of the music scene is that we never know where and when the Next Big Band will appear, and the fall slate contains some serious contenders. In December we expect veterans and newcomers to be vying for inclusion on our year-end lists, and it would be easy to come up with ten from the fall list alone. Let the battle begin!
Rich’s Pick #1: MONO ~ Pilgrimage of the Soul (Temporary Residence Ltd., September 17)
MONO really cares about their fans. Earlier this year, the band released the double disc Beyond the Past ~ Live in London with the Platinum Anniversary Orchestra, a reminder of the joy of concerts in a stretch when none were held. A few months earlier, they delighted fans with a surprise holiday single. This fall, they return with the immersive Pilgrimage of the Soul, an album even louder and faster than its predecessors. Credit the incorporation of electronics and the desire to provide light to a darkened world.
Rich’s Pick #2: Jerusalem in My Heart, Qalaq (Constellation, October 8)
As global turmoil continues to rise, Jerusalem In My Heart‘s music grows even more relevant. Qalaq decries the situation in the Middle East, and incorporate different collaborators on almost every track. Lucretia Dalt, Oiseau-Tempête, Tim Hecker and many more join an already dynamic collective, which now includes a visual angle as well. A limited number of box sets are available, which include film reels and a hand-stitched book (preliminary image above).
Rock, Post-Rock and Related Genres
Anoice continues to dance on the borders of post-rock and modern composition. The Hidden Forest is no exception: 17 songs for 17 paintings, available in a special edition that features art cards from Naoko Okada and a forest photograph from the band. The connection to nature is a reminder of one of life’s constants, a gift that helped many people through the pandemic (Ricco, September 17). Explosions in the Sky returns with an album well-suited to their name and location. Big Bend (An Original Soundtrack for Public Television) is the score for a PBS documentary on animals in the Texas desert. (Temporary Residence, October 1). Wander‘s Home was the earliest autumn announcement we received, and by now we’ve been enjoying the three exclusive bonus tracks for over half a year. Considering the fact that all of these tracks are stunners, we’re more than juiced for the full release. The band members may finally have exited their teenaged years, but their youthful exuberance is still on display (September 1).
By incorporating both brass and strings, SEIMS raises the excitement to stadium levels; now if only they could play a stadium! FOUR contains both instrumental and vocal tracks, but we’re already enamored by the driving force of lead single “Elegance Over Confidence” (Bird’s Robe, October 22). Heavy post-rockers Driving Slow Motion return with Adrift:Abyss, expanding the vision of their debut album. The moniker is a perfect descriptor, as the music is heavy, but seldom swift; a light ambient coating will help drivers stay under the speed limit (Post. Recordings, September 17). In contrast, the energy of Shy, Low‘s Snake Behind the Sun is a byproduct of a looming pandemic; the band rushed to finish the album before the lockdowns began, resulting in an added sense of spontaneity (Pelagic, October 8). If you’re looking for a lot of post-rock gathered in one place, we recommend the newest installment of A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters. Volume X is released on September 24 as a pay-what-you-want download and includes tracks from Glacier, Baulta, Pillars, BRUIT ≤ and more.
In Solastagia EitherWay‘s Morii EP draws on genres ranging from shoegaze to metal, as evidenced on lead single Opia. It’s another example of a solo artist who sounds like a band (September 17). The melodic post-rockers Transmission Zero explore worlds unknown on Bridges, the cover a taste of the album’s cinematic nature (September 24). Post-metal trio Glasgow Coma Scale returns after five years with Sirens, a heavy, sci-fi-influenced set ~ and when you see the opening image of the video, you’ll know why we put it next to Transmission Zero (Tonzonen, September 17). The lockdown lathes of Buried Treasure were “snuck out during the pandemic and sold out in minutes,” so it’s a good thing they are being collected, along with a variety of new and upcoming tracks from the label’s diverse roster, on Octocorallia. A 20-page booklet of alternative covers accompanies the release, but it’s hard to top that octopus (October 1). A harsh metallic fog descends on Variát, ironic given the fact that the album is titled I Can See Everything From Here. The album splits the difference between drone and metal, and is meant for adventurous fans (Prostir, September 10). In a similar genre-splitting vein, DROTT presents Orcus, dedicated to the underworld’s “punisher of broken oaths,” melding progressive rock and punishing metal (By Norse Music, September 24).
Closet Disco Queen & The Flying Raclettes’ Omelette de Fromage was inspired by a Dexter’s Laboratory episode and incorporates rock, surf rock, metal and more. It’s available in multiple vinyl colors, one that looks like cheese and has a hole in it, which is just what we expect from a Swiss label (Hummus, September 3). Another fun one and free download comes from Chafouin, whose Toufoulcan rocks and rolls, with touches of surf rock, occasional vocals and a title that we really like: “Post post rock” (September 15)! Retro-minded rockers may be interested in Black 7‘s Look Inside, which draws from the 80s and 90s heyday. Classic rock will never die! (October 8).
De Beren Gieren‘s delayed Less Is Endless will finally see the light of day on September 10. The polyrhythmic first single “A Funny Discovery” first appeared a year ago, but then COVID crashed the party. Fortunately, the collective ages well (Sdban Records). Overrider‘s music is fast and furious, akin to 65dos but with few quiet bits. kill -9 yr idols is an EP of previously unreleased material, so powerful it’s sent us on a mission to play all their prior releases (September 3). It’s post-rock! It’s jazz! It’s electronic! Proving the power of collaboration, the disparate São Paulo Underground and Tupperwear find common ground on the Saturno Magico EP, albeit on an alien planet (Keroxen, September 17, art pictured right).
Komishe band Ashtray Navigations (can we call them komischeners?) resurfaces on Blue Tapes with the psychedelic vibes of Before You Play This, continuing an astonishing run of “180 or so releases since 1994” (September 24). Krautrock can be heard on Pas Musique‘s Amateur Radio, which contains one of fall’s best titles (“Don Cheadle Superhero”) and a Faust cover featuring a daughter of one of the original Faust members (Alrealon Musique, October 1). Drommon offers mystic psych-folk on Smote, an album whose very existence seems smothered in smoke (Rocket Recordings, October 1). Primitive futurists Pelt present two long tracks on Resistance Reticence, incorporating harmonium, banjo, bowls and bells. The live album uses raga, psych and trance to weave a hypnotizing spell (Three Lobed Recordings, October 29). Beats and shimmer are the hallmarks of Shavua Tov, the shamanistic solo debut from Red Axes’ Nic Arizona (Malku Tuti, September 3).
Roots and rock join forces on Lamplighter; Gerycz/Powers/Rolin may have been improvising, but the music sounds composed. A warm tone permeates the set, underlining the power of friendship and collaboration (American Dreams, September 3). Butter City Poster Boys present Your Guide to Love, a romantic-minded, slow churned set on Somewherecold (September 24). A Flora & Fauna supergroup of sorts, Virke is comprised of Billie Lindahl, Rickard Jäverling and Henrik von Euler. The reflective Hovsjö 80 is inspired by an old photograph and imagines coming of age in an area outside of 80s Stockholm (September 9).
The excellent four-part seasonal series from Jusell, Prymek, Sage, Shiroishi just concluded in August, the final disc selling out in a day. Fortunately, Cached Media has announced plans for a box set, with details arriving in November (just in time for Christmas, we hope!). Each set scores a different season, blending jazz and rock, a collaborative pandemic exercise that paid huge dividends. Krokofant w/Storløkken & Håker Flaten‘s Fifth is another jazz-rock explosion, a jubilant teaming of efforts on Rune Grammofon. On the same day, the label is set to release Sex Magick Wizards‘ energetic, freewheeling Your Bliss My Joy (September 10).
We receive so many traditional Norwegian electronic mouth harp albums that it’s hard to tell them apart. Just kidding! There’s only one. Those interested in an old sound made new are directed to the self-titled album from Naaljos Ljom, whose music stands out in a crowded field (Motvind, September 3). The oud is the secret weapon of Theodore’s Wild Ride, whose diverse, self-titled album straddles the worlds of folk, rock and modern composition. The trio includes members of Snowdrops and Oiseaux-Tempête, and their blended skills produce a set that is simultaneously contemplative and enthralling (Consouling Sounds, October 1). Maurice Louca collaborates with Lebanese improvisational group “A” Trio on the mesmerizing Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour), the tonal expansion responsible for the feeling of an all-night groove session (Sub Rosa/Northern Spy, September 24). Guy Buttery teams with Mohd. Amjad Khan (tabla) & Mudassir Khan (sarangi) on One Morning in Gurgaon, a vibrant album that teems with life (September 10).
Those who enjoyed SPAZA! will likely love On Our Own Clock, a cross-continental collaboration that unfolded over the course of COVID. A mix of vocal and instrumental pieces, the album is informed by South African and Senegalese rhythms and includes three interludes titled “How to Make Music During a Pandemic.” A film and fanzine form other facets of the project (Mushroom Hour Half Hour and Total Refreshment Centre, September 3). Miles Davis influenced groove and funk populate the space jazz of Lucid Lucia (formerly known as BRZZVLL). Stuck in the Well is the first single from their self-titled EP, which also sports some of the season’s best cover art (Sdban Ultra, October 8). Run Logan Run bursts with sax and drum energy, jamming with the joy of those set free from quarantine. For a Brief Moment, We Could Smell the Flowers is released September 17 on Worm Discs.
This concludes our Fall Music Preview, but here’s the kicker: these are only the albums we learned about before the end of August. Hundreds more are yet to be announced in the instrumental realm alone. As always, we’ll keep our ears on everything that comes in and curate what we hear as we give a precious percentage a closer listen. Thank you for reading and listening!