2021 proved (again!) that post-rock is as strong as ever. We’re hoping that the momentum of the last year will carry into the next. While it seemed that every veteran post-rock band released an album last year, a few are overdue, led by World’s End Girlfriend (although a single was released in 2021), Do Make Say Think (whose Charles Spearin released an album in 2021) and Esmerine. But we also learned – to our delight – that the younger generation is more than happy to step up. We wouldn’t be surprised if the next great album is a debut!
Our cover image is the iconic photo of Switzerland’s Zermatt Valley and Matterhorn peak, which graces many a screensaver. That town sure looks cozy!
After suffering a brain hemorrhage and the loss of his father, solo artist The Glass Pavilion returned to post-rock and found comfort in the composition of When the Blazing Sun Is Gone. The album is surprisingly warm, but there’s a sense of the warmth being hard-won (January 7). Like most bands, Endless Dive was unable to tour during the pandemic, so they tried something different, adding drum machines and synth to their set. As a result, A Brief History of a Kind Human has a fuller sheen, although the heart remains solidly post-rock (Luik, February 11). Six years after their last release, Quebec collective Echoes from Jupiter returns with Le Grand Tour, a thick LP with beautiful additions, such as the trumpet on single “L’assemblage de la fusée relativiste.” Initial plans to record a 9-hour album were scrapped; we think this is just the right length (L’Excursion, February 18). Lights & Motion returns with the ebullient sounds of The World I Remember, a soupçon of melancholy offset by a generous helping of joy (Deep Elm, February 4). The post-rock/post-metal blend is represented by Shadow Universe, whose concept album Organism zooms from the macro to the micro, showing how all things are connected. Subtle piano passages are offset by thick guitars that often make the duo seem twice its size (Monotreme, March 11). Belgium’s Turpentine Valley delves into post-metal on Parabel, the energetic first single from ALDER, set for dual release February 25 on Dunk!records and Ripcord Records.
Prog Rock, Jazz Rock, Rock and Folk
Billed as “midwinter folk music,” Ben McElroy‘s How I Learnt to Disengage from the Pack may suggest a wide array of readings: the move from one home to another, social distancing, choosing one’s own road. The album is as intimate as a diary or a home concert in front of a fire (The Slow Music Movement, January 28). Acoustic and electric guitar mingle in the hands of The Phantom Band guitarist Duncan Marquiss. Prefaced by a ten-minute single ( ! ), Wires Turned Sideways In Time is a journey through the European outdoors, with plenty of time to stop and admire the scenery. In a rare instance of how-did-you-do-that, the vinyl is already available (Basin Rock, February 28). Split releases often pair disparate performers, but this is not the case with the complementary Hyacinth & the Central Office of Information. Their sounds are laid-back and languid, with tinges of light rock, jazz and electronics. We challenge listeners to identify when Passing Cars in the Rain shifts from one to the other (Subexotic, January 21).
The “hybrid jazz” quintet Black Flower enlists several guest stars for Magma, ensuring a vibrant sound. The international flavor of the album is a reflection of its influences, from Afrobeat to Asian melody (SdBan Ultra, January 28). Every once in a while, we receive a pineapple album; it’s rare, but it happens. The latest comes from Drone San, whose self-titled electro-jazz debut is introduced with a trippy video for Snob Pineapple (Horribly Loud, January 14). Orange Crate Art shares Contemporary Guitar Music on February 18: punchy and fun, with traces of krautrock. We only wish that the album title was as punchy as the track titles (Somewherecold, pictured right). Splitting the difference between post-rock and jazz, The Royal Arctic Institute presents a laid-back, smoky lounge sound on From Catnip to Coma, part of the winter slate from Already Dead Tapes (February 4), while darkjazz band TAUMEL introduces Now We Stay Forever Lost in Space Together, the second part of a musical series, with lead track we stay (Tonzonen, February 18).
Minorarc‘s cinematic sound is a blend of darkwave and electronic: snarling guitars balanced by passages of piano. Untold was released on January 2. One of the leaders of this sound is In the Nursery, whose fortieth anniversary (as well as the sixtieth birthday of its members!) is marked by Humberstone, a set that recalls the duo’s best work while hearkening back to early Pink Floyd (February 25). Die Wilde Jagd‘s moody Atem sounds as if it were recorded deep in the jungle, with yelps and howls from tree-climbing residents. The set is stuffed with organ and cello, but once it starts rocking, it creates its own sonic world (Bureau B, January 14).
Wasting no time, Dean Hamilton released his new solo prog album Limina on New Year’s Day. The set includes a copious amount of guitar and is intensely psychedelic from art to tone. Trees Speak goes wild with a 29-track double album plus a bonus 7″. Don’t be fooled by the name of the label (Soul Jazz) as the duo plays all-out prog, with an ambitious concept to match: Vertigo of Flaws is “a quantum leap into cybernetics, biology, anti-gravity, time travel, dream speech and transfiguration.” With three albums in a year, the duo shows no sign of slowing (January 21).
Air Show Disaster‘s Exodus is a concept album about a trip through the desert, more Torah than Marley. The music is loud, raucous and distorted, reflecting a physical and spiritual battle (January 7). Steamboat Switzerland had the luxury of a five-day residence in 2020, in the middle of COVID; the trio was able to turn it into an all-out jam session, preserved as Terrifying Sunset (TROST, January 28). Finally, we have an atmospheric sludge album hot enough to melt the ice; Kyoty‘s Isolation was written one track a week during lockdown, its pent-up emotion unleashed in the opening track “Quarantine,” as seen below (Deafening Assembly, February 25).