Sunday, July 16, 2017

Favorite Post Rock Albums















1. STEREOLAB Dots and Loops

Though often left off of Post Rock lists and sites, this band is always mentioned whenever a discussion of the history and sound of the Post Rock sub-genre comes up. Therefore, I choose to include them in my Post Rock discussions and lists.

The reasons below that I list for "Why this album is one of my Top Five Albums of All-time," I've taken from another blogpost on that topic:
  • The music on Dots and Loops makes my heart soar with joy and good nature. There are very few albums that have this effect on me. From the first time I ever heard Dots and Loops (a brother loaned it to me back around 1999 and I've never given it back) I have absolutely loved the music here. From the stuttering radio-tuning noises of "Brakhage," to the funky bass, horns, strumming acoustic guitars and playful b-vox of "Miss Modular" ("Ooey-Gooey" we always called it), to the Burt Bacharach sounds accompanying the strumming guitar and slide lead guitar solo in "A Flower Called Nowhere," the methodical, jazz-trip-hoppy drum symposium of  "Diagonals," through the catchy bass and vocal chord sequences, amazingly beautiful French chorus and awesomely sparse background Farfisa organ of "Prisoner of Mars," to the incredibly exciting build of tension and hypnotic guitar strumming, bass, drum and xylophone play throughout "Rainbo Conversation" (my favorite song on the album), through the 17 and-a-half minute long psychedelic-cinematic journey of "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse," to the KOOP-like smokey jazz bass, organ and drums in the first half and astonishing (and ingenious) shift back to Burt Bacharach land for the second half of "Contronatura," to the BARK PSYCHOSIS-like drum rampage and catchy cheesy-organ chord sequence through the finale, "Parsec," Dots and Loops takes me on a musical journey like no other: full of adrenaline rushes, lots of smiles of amusement and astonishment, and pure aural pleasure.
  • The unusual mix of sounds with TORTOISE's John McEntire's array of tuned percussion (synthesizer, percussion, vibraphone, marimba).
  • The brilliant "unusual sounds" and sound effects contributed by MOUSE ON MARS members, Andi Toma and Jan St. Wermer.
  • The ancient keyboards! including Sean O'Hagan on Farfisa organ and Fender Rhodes piano.
  • The acoustic guitar work. About half of the songs are blessed with wild strumming on six- or 12-string guitars that make you want to get up and play along!
  • The odd sounds coming from the drum section:  odd rhythms, jazzy, trip-hoppy, electronic sounding, yet man-made. (Kudos, Andy Ramsay!)
  • The bouncy, upbeat female background vocals throughout.
  • I'm a sucker for female singers singing in French.
  • The overall upbeat, lightness of the music. The lounge and Burt Bacharach-type of pop influences are quite blatant but never nerdy or straight rip-offs; just brilliant and refreshing. Like Swing Out Sister on a psychedelic drug trip.
  • The consistency from start to finish. There is only one song on Dots and Loops that I don't rate with either a nine- or ten-out-of-ten.
  • It was a favorite of my daughters when they were pre-teens.

















2. LANDBERK Indian Summer
Reine Fiske is a genius. He plays guitar unlike anyone I've ever heard--on a par with maestro Jeff Beck and the late and, sadly, much obscured blues axeman, Roy Buchanan. Fiske and Beck are similar in the way that the two create astoundingly beautiful and totally unexpected soundscapes with the same implement that all other musicians who claim to play guitar use. The answer to the riddle: What makes them so different? must be that Reine Fiske and Jeff Beck must be gods--or, at the very least, not of the same Earth/human substance as all other guitarists. Seriously: Check out this player. He is a player of a totally different ilk. Indian Summer is my favorite Landberk album, despite some odd familiarity--especially in the vocals (at times I hear striking similarities to ICEHOUSE, THE CHURCH, INXS, and DAVID SYLVIAN). This album shows maturity and, yes, autonomity; they've really come into their own sound. It started with the end of One Man Tells Another--the brilliant "Tell." Indian Summer starts out by hooking you in with the catchy "Humanize" (8/10) but then lags a bit with the next two songs: slightly monotonous, Icehouse/Church-like. "I Wish I Had a Boat" (8/10) picks it back up again in a very David Sylvian-sounding 'avant-ambient'-like way. "Dustgod" (9/10) combines the earlier Icehouse/Church sound and feel with the Sylvian-ness in a brilliant way. "Dreamdance" (9/10) shows off some absolutely amazing guitar playing/styling (all songs on which genius Reine Fiske participates are worth a closer listen, but this one puts his uniquity right in your face). Then comes my favorite, the eight-minute gem called "Why Do I Still Sleep?" with its masterfully delicate guitar stoking and the surprise female vocalist pleading the song title to us at the end. Yeah, with all the crap going on in the world, why do I still sleep? Or, as Jonathan Wilson put it only this yeart, Can we really party today? The finale, the delicate Pat Metheny/New Chatauqua-like title song (6/10), is frankly a bit of a let down. While not a 5 star masterpiece of prog music, this is an excellent album that I highly recommend--especially as it is one of my favorite albums of the 90s and a brilliant example of the birth of the Post Rock movement. 

















3. ULVER Shadows of The Sun
My first Ulver album and what an album! Definitely one of the best collections of songs, start to finish, from this, the 21st Century. And though this is a dark and pessimistic concept album, it does an amazing job of conveying the despair and hopelessness of our role as perpetrators and victims of planet Earth's demise. The use of piano, tympanic drums, Oslo Session String Quartet, deep breathy vocals, synthesizers and even trumpet and theremin all help to impart the heavy, tragic mood exquisitely, even beautifully, if that is possible. I am ever awed by the wonderfully unexpected and subtle turns and twists within each and every song--including the "extra" 2 minutes of recorded silence at the end of the album's last song (after the world and/or life on the planet has been extinguished). Though an inattentive listen may leave the listener thinking the album is just one song and one mood, the attentive head-phoned listener is privy to a very artful and intimate experience.
The first song, "EOS" (5:05) (10/10) sucks you into the album experience like light into a blackhole, while the other songs, beginning with the amazing "All the Love" (3:43) (10/10), entertain as you fall in--as light begins to fade--until, finally, when you reach the last song, "Whatever Happened?" (6:25) (10/10), you are spit out on the other side, into a fresh, new universe.
     There is a lot to ponder here--a lot of responsibility passed on to the listener in their message--if you're willing to hear it. A fantastic album. Definitely a classic of our time, for the ages. A masterpiece and one of my Top Five Favorite Albums of the Naughties.

















4. BARK PSYCHOSIS CodeName:DustSucker
Out of nowhere comes an album and group I've never heard of producing amazing music! I'm hearing Stereolab, Ben Watt, David Sylvian, Lunatic Soul, Ulver, Massive Attack, No-Man, Tortoise, XTC, Bill Evans, Koop, The Jazzmasters, Robert Fripp, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Beta Band, Adam Plack, Alain Eskinazi all mixed into one in a way in which the sum of all these parts is breathtaking! If this is Post/Math Rock, then this is my new favorite album from the sub-genre. And such diverse sounding songs! Though all the offerings could almost be considered low-key lounge music, there are so many subtle, interesting, brave, and virtuosic things going on within each song as to be totally engaging--no: engulfing! And it's so beautiful! And just listen to the wonderful drum work! And the power of the growly (à la Ulver's "Garm" and David Sylvian) male and breathy female vocals. All five star songs but two. Another modern masterpiece. Highly recommended as essential for any prog rock lover's music collection!

1. "Lazarus" (6:31) is a drummer's/drum fan's wet dream. I love when drums are recorded/treated with special effects (flange, wah, volume, chorus, pan, reverb, chorus, echo--NOT gated). This is just an amazing, enervating, and beautiful drum showcase. (10/10)

2. "Reserve Shot - Gunman" (5:46) is actually from 1994's EP Street Scene but somehow finds itself on my copy of Codename: Dust Sucker.  Kind of a continuation of the drum-as-lead showcase of "Lazarus" yet very different. (9/10)

3. "Miss Abuse" (6:18) is pure DAVID SYLVIAN from start to finish. As a matter of fact, were I hto have heard this song alone, without the Bark Psychosis name and reference, I would have assumed it was an obscure Sylvian song that I had never heard. The second half, when the synth melody starts to fly, and the background synths carry you away in another direction, is my favorite. I love all the incidental samples in the last minute. (9/10)

4. "400 Winters" (5:47) is the most blatantly poppy but also my favorite song on the album--one that leaves me singing, humming, haunted by the b-vox for hours after. A song that displays the amazing diversity of song-writing and performance abilities of leader Graham Sutton. Amazing lead and background vocals (Anja Buechele) and love, love, love the combo of acoustic guitars, JANSEN-like drum rhythm, and vibes! Great song! (10/10)

5. "Dr. Inocuous/Retarded" (1:04) really a piano intro/flow through to the next song. (9/10)

6. "Burning the City" (6:12) Miss Buechele's presence is again hypnotic and appreciated, but, alas! only counting numbers in the beginning. The male Sylvian-like vocal sings a fascinating song about a girl obsessed with flying (suicide?). (8/10)

7. "Inqb8tr" (7:10) is another STEVE JANSEN/DAVID SYLVIAN-like piece, this time right down to the whisper/sung male vocals. (But also incredibly similar to Mariuz Duda's LUNATIC SOUL sound.) What an dreamy mood-setter. (9/10)

8. "Shapeshifting" (6:02) again has that kind of DAVID SYLVIAN/MONO/DIDO feel with the amazingly sultry vocals of Rachel Dryer, the Fripp-like wild cacophonic guitar solo, and the very odd Prophet 5-like sound/effects throughout. (9/10)

9. "Rose" (5:50) begins with a solo oriental (perhaps Chinese or Japanese) stringed instrument playing. After over a minute it is replaced by synth wash, electric piano, and incidental samples (including a woman repeating a single German-sounding word intermittently throughout the song.) (8/10)

(Not on the version of Codename: Dustsucker that I own, but amazing as well, coming in in the #1 and #2 slots in the place of "Lazarus" and "Reserve Shot Gunman" are "From What I Said to When It's Read" [5:28] [10/10] and "Black Meat" [6:57] [9/10]. The former has a kind of 70s soul vibe mixed with a spacey DAVID SYLVIAN, CSN&Y, COCTEAU TWINS feel going on while the latter, with its presence of a jazzy trumpet throughout, is more pop-jazzy, though still with a COCTEAU TWINS-like feel and sound to it.)

















5. CICADA Light Shining Through The Sea
A stunningly beautiful collection of songs released in September of 2015. This album has really connected with me--much moreso than the band's last two albums. I attribute this fact to the new level of maturity in both composition and instrumental contributions of each of the band's five. Veering more and more away from the repetitive Post Rock/Math Rock stylings that the band has been pigeon-holed with since the release of their 2010 debut, Over the Sea/Under the Water, this album sees much more variation in styles, transitions, moods and while still maintaining--no, far exceeding the high standards of composition and musicianship established by all of their previous albums. Light Shining through the Sea even shows some experimentation with expansion beyond the usual quintet form. But more, the contributions of violin, viola, cello, and guitar are all much more unique and individualistic instead of feeling as if they are just part of composer Jesy Chiang's mind (and more than substantial heart).

1. "Sunrise" (7:03) opens the album with (surprise!!) guitar picking, drums, and a kind of Western United States acoustic jazz feel. The interweavings of the strings and piano really jump out at the listener with individual melodies that all somehow work magically as one beautiful tapestry. I would like to go to this movie!
     At 2:10 everything shifts to a piano foundation while the strings and guitar all take turns equally distributing their bursts of melodic input--again creating quite an extraordinary tapestry. At 3:40 we take another turn, piano, guitar and percussives take on a three-part weave with violin, viola and cello sneaking in with their own beautifully harmonized melody lines. The big peak beginning at 5:25 is perfect. But, wait! It's not over! A wild-West kind of ride ensues at the six minute mark to ride us out of the waves and across the prairie in the sunrise. (9/10)

2. "Ray of Sunshine" (2:24) is an upbeat, spirited song with the unusual feature of having a melody line (at first presented by cello) central and fore to the song. Another example of the amazing growth this band has undergone. (8/10)

3. "Over Coastal Range" (5:32) is another upbeat, almost chimerical and childlike song of beauty and delicacy--this one more of a quintet weave as is more typical of the band's previous albums' songs presentations. (8/10)

4. "Deep Blue Shadow" (2:35) opens with Jesy's rather pop piano chords played out in arpeggi to establish a melody. Then, surprise of surprise! Electronically treated instruments! A veritable flood of reverb á la BRIAN ENO/HAROLD BUDD, COCTEAU TWINS, and Japan's excellent Post Rock band, MONO. (9/10)

5. "Seashore of Endless Worlds" (2:10) is a guitar-centric song in the style of WINDHAM HILL founder and artist, William ACKERMAN. Gorgeous cello and string accompaniment enrich this brief song to deeply moving levels. (10/10)

6. "Rolling Waves" (6:53) is the my favorite song on the album and The Best Song of 2015. Each time I listen to it I am struck by over 20 occasions in which my mind and emotions are caught unaware by the mood, instrumental, and tempo changes rendered by Jesy and crew. Each and every instrumentalist is seemingly let free to contribute their personal magic. (11/10)

7. "Ocean Foam" (6:56) is one of the more simpler, stripped down songs on the album--a kind of George Winston with accompaniment, but is quite beautiful and powerful in its simplicity. (9/10)

8. "Diving Into Pacific Ocean" (3:32) Very much a Jesy Chiang piano-based song (a very cinematic song, at that), I am truly impressed by Jesy's strict adherence to background/foundational work while the other instrumentalists shine and embellish with their subtle magic. The bow work on this song is extraordinarily powerful--as is the guitar's work with harmonics! (10/10)

9. "Light Shining Through the Sea" (8:35) is another gorgeous chamber weave adventure that Jesy and the gang take us on. The opening is so inviting, so engaging, that I'm almost let down when we're forced to "get off the bus" and look for ourselves during the third minute. Thankfully, our chaperones gradually surround and comfort us with their wisdom and love again--but only briefly! A flugelhorn and its stark guitar accompaniment grab our unshaken attention for a minute or so before they bow to Jesy's gut-wrenching finger play on the piano. Viola, cello, and violin each take their turn expressing their feelings (gratitude and sincere joy, I think) before the flugelhorn signals another shift--in which violin, viola, and horn take turns . . . saying goodbye.
     I feel so blessed to be able to witness such beauty from the art form of music like this.  (10/10)

93.33 on the Fish scales= five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music. I am so impressed with the huge leap in creative and diversity represented on Light Shining through the Sea. Cicada have finally begun to truly realize the tremendous potential I heard in them those six years ago. One of my favorite albums of 2015 and definitely one of the best albums of the year.












6. MAGYAR POSSE Random Avenger
The Post Rock sound on this album is so light and refreshing, much closer to the STEREOLAB and TORTOISE styles of the early PR years in the 90s than the heavy, murky stuff of the Naughties.
1. "Whirlpool of Terror and Tension" (5:50) Staccato based rhtyhm structure with drums, rock instruments and percussives and keyboards along with the use of female vocalist Noora Tommila as a kind of horn section is brilliant. The simple, 1960s cinema-style guitar leads and use of string orchestra and is high tuned percussion instruments to accent the syncopated melody is all equally uplifting--adding much to this great song. (10/10)

2. "Sudden Death" (8:56) the initial melody line of this one was later stolen and developed differently into JAGA JAZZIST's wonderful "One-Armed Bandit." Kind of a keyboard/harpsichord sound developed by several instruments weaving the melody together. The long, sustained, deep wah-pedaled synth growls are awesome as are the drums and guitars throughout the opening, 'introductory' two minutes. Violin, electric guitar and synth then begin presenting another, slower melody line over the top until everything slows to a stop at 3:20 to allow for a piano-based interlude. Drums, bass and sensitively picked & strummed electric guitar also participate in the foundational aspects of this section until high register violin melody line and, later, Post Rock electric guitars brimming with potential energy, join in. Another quiet down at 5:55 allows piano and electric guitar to return the dynamic back to a gentler place--until that is, a strum at 6:40 announces the start of the final release. First electric guitar, then bass and second electric guitar, then drums and screeching/scratching violin announce their positions while building a beautiful MONO-like collective melody weave. Until the final 20 seconds of recapitulationof the opening riffs. Incredible song! And they never really got to the peak of their climax! (They didn't have to!) (10/10)

3. "Black Procession" (2:52) piano, strings, synths, singing bowls, and violin provide the lead for this slow, beautiful weave. (9/10)

4. "European Lover/Random Avenger" (12:32) opens with a bit of a "Tubular Bells" sound and feel--though bass, guitars and strings are in accompaniment of the bells sound from the opening. When the drums and lead violin enter they take over the melody delivery. Noora Tommila's voice is present again, this time in a single track, mixed into the background--which serves to add to feeling that this cinematic song is very much from a soundtrack from some 1970s European suspense-thriller. The break down at the 5:30 mark opens up and extended space in which distant and near guitars are gently plucked and strummed, respectively. This section could be straight out of any song from BARK PSYCHOSIS's debut album, Hex. Gorgeous yet moody, even nostalgic. As the song enters the ninth minute it is building in intensity and, though it enters the realm of "ordinary" Post Rock, it loses none of its interest or allure. The final minute contains "distant" sounding accordion and percussive stringed instrument--as if one were present at the end of a circus/fair. (10/10)

5. "Intercontinental Hustle" (7:37) opens with a sound and style quite similar to that of the album's opening song, but then smooths out with sustained violin notes soaring above the staccato rhythms beneath. Synth takes a turn mirroring the violin's melody as the presence of percussion instrumentation amps up. At 2:50 everything quiets for a few seconds before the full force returns with its continued onslaught of volume and breadth of instruments presenting both the foundational rhythm and the melody track. Things quiet a little again with about three minutes to go to allow for the violin to try some inverted variations of its original melody themes. The sixth and seventh minutes find the melody fixing itself on one note, within one chord, for a bit before a cacophonous melee of free-form instruments (violin, guitars, synths) shred their instruments to the end. (9/10)

6. "One by One" (3:13) presents a laid back, almost campfire-like acoustic guitar-based song. Two guitars, a male voice in the background, and a little keyboard action, also in the background, give this song it's sleepy-time shape and sound. Nice, pretty, and unpretentious. (9/10)

7. "Popzag" (7:38) opens with organ providing another syncopated staccato rhythm track around which other instruments join and build--first a breathy keyboard synth, guitar, rolling bass, straight-time drums and Noora Tommila's "la, la, la, la" vocalizations. It's like a slowed down version of the opening song. Violin and electric guitar begin asserting themselves at the end of the third minute while the organ repeatedly bounces down a descending chord sequence. Guitars then take a turn with keys and violin moving into background support. The melody of the lead instruments at the 4:40 mark remind me of an ALAN PARSONS PROJECT song from their debut album. Just before the beginning of the final minute the song returns to its foundation while Noora's vocalizations turn to repetitions of downwardly stretched, "Haa-aah"s. Not a bad song, just a little more subdued and sedate than the previous highs. (8/10)

A true masterpiece of progressive rock music. According to my calculations, Random Avenger is the new Best Album of 2006 and certainly one of the top ten Post Rock albums I've ever heard. I attribute this to the wonderful contributions of violin, two keyboard players, and voice of a siren--as well as to terrific compositional sensibilities.













7. OCEANSIZE Everyone Into Position
A drummer who "refuses to play in straight time signatures." How fun--and challenging--is that? Music that sometimes sounds like 90's grunge ("You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down,"), TOOL's post-grunge "The Charm Offensive"), like THE CURE ("New Pin"), Math Rock ("Music for a Nurse"), like SIGUR RÓS's Post Rock ("Mine Host") or rages with the greatest Shoegaze-Grunge-Metal artists of all time ("You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down"), straight Metal ("A Homage to a Shame") and Death Metal ("No Tomorrow"), and even contains a retro song sounding as it's from the 60s era of stoner-psychedelia ("The Last Wrongs").

1. "The Charm Offensive" starts the album off with an edgy, grungy sound that builds as each lyrical stanza is sung. Nice rondo of interwoven, harmonizing vocal lines in the last two and a half minutes. (8/10)

2. "Heaven Alive" starts with a very strong U2 sound and feel to it--like the "Joshua Tree/Rattle and Hum" era. As it builds it shifts into a more metallic sound. The 3:30 b-vox blows its cover, bringing it back into the realm of progressive rock. (Kind of like THE REASONING or WEST INDIAN GIRL.) Overall a decent, pretty interesting song--thanks to the bass, keys and b-vox. (7/10)

3. "A Homage to a Shame" is the album's metal song. Sorry, "Back in Black" and "Second Life Syndrome" are great, but Metal is just not my cup of tea. (5/10)

4. "Meredith." A true classic of rock and roll music. The repetition of lyrical lines is used so effectively over the simple, beautiful electric guitar arpeggios. And the "I wanna cut you to the bone" lyric is so chilling yet engaging! Great use of effects to treat the vocal--and what emotion-packed singing! Awesome low, low bass throughout. Simple drums. And those two guitar arpeggios in different octaves! Music doesn't get much better than this! (10/10)

5. "Music for a Nurse" is a classic example of pure Math/Post Rock in the MONO/MOGWAI/CASPIAN vein--except for the Jeckyll & Hyde ROBERT SMITH/BONO vocals singing over the top. Great song with a fantastic, crescendoing climax around the 6:30 mark. Fades out with some odd 'nuke the computer' sounds. (8/10)

6. "New Pin" begins with a computer sequenced of computer noises before THE CURE's bass, drums, and guitar rhythm section from "Disintegration" joins in. The vocal is also rather ROBERT SMiTH sounding--at least until the very pretty chorus with rather cheery background singing similar to something like STEREOLAB or IVY comes in. Great song--surprisingly original sounding. (9/10)

7. "No Tomorrow" begins like a pleasant TRAFFIC song before shifting to a near-death metal song for its chorus at the 1:34 and then a little more permanently at the 2:40 mark. Metal sound continues to dominate both musically and in the singing pretty much through to the end. Fitting for the lyrical content, I suppose; just not my choice for 'listening pleasure.' (6/10) 

8. "Mine Host" begins with some voice sample sounding like Steven Hawking's computerized voice repeating numbers over a very engaging three-octave keyboard arpeggio which is soon joined by pickings of a dirty electric guitar. At 2:15 drums, bass and a very quite BONO-like half-spoken singing voice begins singing almost beneath the music. Very dreamy, mesmerizing song. (9/10)

9. "You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down" RAGE! I said, RAGE! If you want to jump up and down, scream, break things, bash your walls in, then THIS IS YOUR SONG! (10/10)

10. "Ornament/The Last Wrongs" begins very sedately, gently (especially as compared to the super-adrenaline pumping from the precious song), until at the 2:50 mark the alarm goes off in the form of heavy guitars--which then just as quickly recede while two guitars, a keyboard, and some light drumming play, note-for-note, very gingerly--as if uncertain or afraid to disturb the silence. 5:00 sees a return to heavy guitars until at 5:20 there is a discernable mound and sound shift (must be the transition to the "The Last Wrongs" part of the song). At 5:30 an odd (for this group) kind of early YES- or MOODY BLUES-like chant of harmonizing vocalists sings over both the heavy and soft parts. Ends with a very eery-sounding, 60's-ish organ. (7/10)

Despite the sometimes lean toward the grunge-metal sound, this is a great album: very diverse, very creative. OCEANSIZE has a very original sound and IMHO has created a very distinctive sound and niche in the prog world for itself. They are, in my opinion, one of the few groups pushing the music envelope into new and fresh directions. And Praise Be Odd Time Signatures! A flawed 4.5 star album that I'm going to bump up because of their bold innovativeness, their amazing lyrics and vocal presentations (and I am NOT a lyric person), and their contribution to the true spirit of 'progressive rock' music. Definitely one of my favorite 25 Albums of the Naughties!











8. BATTLESTATIONS The Extent of Damage
With The extent of damage, Battlestations have put on display the fact that they have become masters of painting pictures--moving pictures--adventures!--with music.

1. "Necro" (12:38) The first five minutes of slow, ominous music sounds like a soundtrack to a French mystery film of the 70s or 60s. Then the music shifts into atmospherics and odd eerie background noises and voices until at 6:35 things kick back in with heavier synth washes, lead electric guitar and loud eerie wind/voice noises. At 7:39 everything cuts out again only this time we are presented with some different deeper synth 'voices'. It's like the sounds our imaginations would play upon as we're walking alone through a large wooded cemetery in the middle of the night! At 9:35 you'd think we were just accosted by someone or something jumping out from behind a tree. The ensuing 'battle' or 'flight' does not end well, methinks! At first listen I did not think much of this song, but as I think of it as a soundtrack--and such vivd imagery passes within my consciousness--I am convinced that the band did their work admirably! Scared me through and through! (8/10)

2. "The Lies We Share" (9:46) the introduction of the VANGELIS-like synth wash minor chord at 3:30 is awesome! Then heavily treated guitar power chords. And the choice of percussion sounds that soon join in are equally great. The chord progression that takes over at 5:55 is absolutely heart-breaking! You've won me over, boys! I am at your mercy! But then you let it fade away at the eight minute mark and then we slowly shift and drift into a more somber, almost sad chord progression--equally gut-wrenching but sad! Amazing song! You have mastered the art of toying with your human listeners! (10/10)

3. "The Great Divide" (9:27) opens like a sunrise on an empty parking lot. But then at 1:40 the city seems to come to life: cars and traffic trickle onto the streets, begin flowing with early morning rush hour regularity. At 3:10 the view shifts, and we are suddenly looking skyward--at cloud, wind, and air traffic. Is this the last day? The end of life as we know it? The sky view is so ominous and confusing. What are we seeing? 5:10. What? What was that? Is there something to give us hope? Something to give us strength and resolve? Cuz that's what the new key and chord changes are making me feel. Until at 6:38 reality bursts our bubble. It is the end. We are all going to die today. The slow but insidious devastation of the surface of the planet is in progress. We can only watch in total helplessness--we can choose to revel in the glory of the cleansing that Mother Earth is receiving as its parasitic humans are scoured from her skin by the consequences of their own hubris. Awesome journey. Awesome song. (10/10)

4. "They Sleep While We Burn" (9:33) opens with some industrial sounds creating percussive rhythms upon which other incidentals flit in and out. The first four minutes kind of build, kind of take me nowhere, but then a shift to an unusual (for Battlestations) chord sequence (kind of a Blade Runner theme sequence and sound) brings us to the private home and research offices of Tyrell Corp--oops! Misdirection! At 6:10 we are halted in mid-air turned around to look at a more beautiful version of what is possible--perhaps some of Roy's memories from his off-world adventures--while we are numbly, humbly forced to watch. AT 8:10 a new chord and sound sequence segues us into a remorseful, conciliatory mood. Perhaps we can live in peace and harmony, after all! (9/10)

5. "The Extent of the Damage" (3:56) feels kind of like a medium for re-entry, re-integration into the normal human life that we were used to before entering the soundscapes of this album. And boy is it appreciated! It's like the walk out of the theater while the credits are rolling--getting used to light, one's body, movement, and negotiating through the 'real' world again. But, What a show!

The key to the stunning success of this album is in the band's growth in engineering/mixing as well as in timing. The mastery of knowing when and where to shift the song's themes and sounds is so difficult to achieve but boy have you guys found it! I love the visual stories I'm sucked into as I listen to these songs! This is exemplary of some of the most magical potential that music contains! The power to transport! Mega kudos, Boys from Bruxelles!












9. JAKOB Sines
Flawless, sophisticated Post Rock from New Zealand, this is such an odd and welcome Post Rock album for the use and presence of a strings section on almost every song. Very worthy of your attention.
Five star songs: a soft, almost country/classical song due to its lavish strings arrangement, 2. "Emergent" (5:08) (9.5/10); a very catchy, melodic chord progression grows in a MONO way with tremolo guitars and great drumming before strings arrangement takes over the final third, 4. "Harmonia" (6:05) (9.5/10); atmospheric layers of guitars with insistent drums and bass, 1. "Blinded Them With Science" (6:57) (9/10); a spacious, spacey keyboard-filled soundscape with gently rolling tom play and bass lines builds gently, in a kind of ROBIN GUTHRIE-HAROLD BUDD way, 6. "Darkness" (5:37) (9/10), and; a really perfect soundscape with an awesome drum and bass play to go with the atmospheric guitars that flounders a bit in the second half--maybe didn't need to be this long, 5. "Resolve" (9:11) (9/10).

Four star songs: until the final two minutes, this rondo-like song is very formulaic in the standard PR tradition, 3. "Magna Carta" (6:15) (8.5/10) and the final song which sounds a bit like a slowed down, slightly edgier version of the first half of #3 "Magna Carta," 7. "Sines" (5:27) (7.5/10).

A near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of the better Post Rock albums I've ever heard.


















10. CICADA Over The Sea/Under The Water


The debut album from a young Taiwanese "ambient/neoclassical/post rock" chamber ensemble consisting of a female piano player, Jesey Chiang (the main composer), a male acoustic guitar player, and three female strings players (violin, viola, cello). They play what appears to be in the Post Rock/Math Rock style, though, in reality they are probably a little more of what might be considered "neoclassical." Absolutely beautiful, heart-wrenchingly emotional songs, beautiful compositions. Definitely one of my favorite albums and new discoveries of 2010.

Album highlights: three heart-wrenchers: 4. "Farewell (in a pretentious way)" (6:00) (10/10); 5. "...Till the Day We Meet" (5:41) (9.5/10), and 6. "Finally...We're Still together" (3:54) (10/10)

Also great:  the unexpectedly beautiful, yet playful, 2. "Fly" (2:44) (8.5/10), and; the slightly country-and-classical (if that's possible)-sounding but beautifully orchestrated opener, "Over the Sea, Under the Water" (6:42) (8/10).


















11. TOE For Long Tomorrow
This is an interesting and enjoyable album that has a lot of the King Crimson Discipline sound and stylings that I love, especially songs 2, 3, 12, and 13. Though categorized Post Rock/Math Rock, it is far more that that, for in it I hear snippets that remind me of ALGERNON, IVY, KOOP, PAUL SIMON, JONI MITCHELL and many others. But most of all I hear DRUMS! AMAZING drumming!

The first song is a brief 39-second sonic introduction that bleeds directly into the brief "Shou[&*!#]su tenyo fue" (2:40) (9/10) which is, in effect, an introduction and set-up for the album's third song (and, IMO, crown jewel). Arpeggio

3. "After Image" (3:59) featuring female vocalist Harada Ikuko reminds me of an awesome upbeat song from IVY or FIONA APPLE. (10/10)

4. "Esoteric" (4:15) is the album's first song to fully fall under the familiar/more usual Post Rock/Math Rock formats--and it is an excellent one! Sitar, arpeggiated acoustic and electric guitars, and amazing drumming! This is like MASERATI at its best! (10/10)

5. "Say It Ain't So," with the vocals of Dry River String's Hoshikawa Yuzuru (3:42), sounds like it wants to be pop and maybe even rappy. It's laid back, very repetitive and uses multiple tracks for its vocals. (7/10)

6. "Two Moons" begins rather delicately, involving a synth, glockenspiel an acoustic and an electric guitar interweaving polyrhythmic melody lines. Until the bass and drums arrive at the 1:49 mark. Then we have a full-out jam! Kind of reminds me of ALGERNON. (8/10)

7. "Mosikiiton wa mou kikoenai #1" (2:32) (8/10) is a piano over tuned and electronic percussion intro/variation for the next song,

8. "Mosikiiton wa mou kikoenai #2" (2:20) in which drums, bass and acoustic guitars play a more prominent role. Together the two variations rate a pleasant KOOP-like (8/10)--lacking enough development and change to make me reach for the replay button. This one is the drummer's song!

9. "Last Night (Album Version)" (4:56). By this time into the album I am looking for a little more variety. The one-note-at-a-time Kool-and-the-Gang synth is starting to get on my nerves, the interwoven tuned-percussion and acoustic guitar leads are getting a little old, the bass and drumming are the only things still keeping it interesting. (7/10)

10. "Goodbye (Album Version) featuring Toki Asako" (7:06) establishes another IVY-like groove using acoustic guitars and rolling COCTEAU TWINS-like bass before the vocalist and drummer get engaged. Again, the drummer is stealing the show! At the four minute mark ends a peak and things settling into a bit of a mellow, more simply and controlled section-- though the drummer apparently has difficulty with this mode, as he seems to always sneak in, or bulldoze his way into . . . taking over! I think the rest of the band shows admirable restraint in the face of his "lead" though I also believe the drumming is what makes this music work on such a high level. (9/10)

11. "You Go" (3:35) begins like one of DAVID BYRNE's Brazilian-influenced or PAUL SIMON's South African-inflluenced songs of years ago. The drummer is held a bit farther back in the mix on this one?and shows more than his usual restraint, though even in quiet restrained mode he continues to shine and attract the attention of the listener. (8/10)

12. "Our Next Movement" (4:48) begins with a very blatant folk drum style--large African hand drums and other hand percussives. Saxes play around in the background--as if I'm reminded of JONI MITCHELL's "Dreamland" from Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. The random sax play, bass play, and replacement of hand drums by drum kit reign this jazzier tune in a bit. Horns come together in a bank format as guitars pick in their arpeggiated KING CRIMSON way. I like the looseness of this one. (8/10)

13. "Long Tomorrow" (5:18) displays the same controlled "Discipline"-like weave of electric guitars, drums, and bass as the album began with. I like the bass being a bit more forward in this one. Static-screeching synth enters around mid-point. Finishes in a much more PostRock/Math Rock way. I can't explain why I like this time of "controlled chaos" so much--that KC "Discipline" weave--but I do. (9/10)

Though this album often threatens to slide into background music, it is definitely one of the best Math/Post Rock albums I've ever heard--one that I will play again and again. I look forward to the growth and maturation of this great little combo.

















12. BARK PSYCHOSIS Hex
The album that gave birth to a new sub-genre of music:  The name "Post Rock" came from some discussions which followed music critic Simon Reynolds' use of this term during his review of Hex. He was using the term to describe the new style of  music being produced around 1994 of which Bark Psychosis was one group. To my ears this music sounds just like the music DAVID SYLVIAN was doing ten years before with his string of albums, 1984's Brilliant Trees through 1987's Secrets of the Beehive, especially the vocal stylings and syncopated drum tracks--plus the keyboard/synth work is amazingly reminiscent of RICHARD BARBIERI's work and the guitar parts in "Absent Friend" are Fripp-Sylvian-ish. (So, I have to ask:  Where was Simon Reynolds when Sylvian and friends were collaborating on their 1980s ground-breaking and, apparently, ahead-of-their-time music?)
     While the album is definitely full of scaled down, slowed down, trip-hoppy, acid jazzy, ambient rock, it is also a collection of widely different songs. Most people will recognize in the album's last song, "Pendulum Man" (9:54) (10/10), as a perfect example of the prototypical Post Rock song. I particularly love the album's chamber-trip hoppy-jazz number, "The Loom" (5:16) (a sure tip of the hat to the amazing stuff DAVID SYLVIAN and his drummer-brother, STEVE JANSEN were doing ten years before) (9/10). "Big Shot" (5:21) (10/10) is beautiful and mesmerizing. "Fingerspit" (8:22) (10/10) is, however, the jewel in the crown. Over eight minutes of seemingly random unstructured free form atonal jazz music with many unexpected sounds, noises, and samples thrown in--just because they could.

















13. BERSARIN QUARTETT Bersarin Quartett



















14. GIFTS FROM ENOLA Gifts from Enola
These guys have come a long way from "From Fathoms"--and it's only been a year! The unexpected twists and turns, use of effects, and mice melodic themes make this a much more mature and adventuresome collection. One thing I don't quite understand--and this seems to happen quite a lot in this genre--is the seeming appearance of synthesizer or keyboard parts when no keyboards or keyboard players are mentioned. 

1. "Lionize" (8:23)
begins with a rather straightforward Math Rock feel--very low end-dominant. A shift at the 2:15 mark travels into more Grunge-like territory--until at 2:43 the main melody themes are introduced. At 3:18 a distant high octave guitar riff is entered before we return to main theme again. At 4:05 the pace drops off and the song floats into a very distorted sea of At 5:25 a lead guitar takes off and soars to goose-bumping heights! 6:30 shift to 6:45 punk/metal chops until an odd break of canned 1920s jazz floats around--as if over loudspeakers at the pavilion of the local town square. The heavily distorted bass throughout this song is just excellent. (9/10)
2. "Dime and Suture" (6:09)
The shifts and changes in this song just keep you guessing--keep you interested and amazed. For some reason, the heavy guitars never seem to disturb or overwhelm the ears and the vocals screamed as if from 100 feet away are also very fresh, interesting and effective. Even the song's decay (some might say, 'demise') is fascinating and entertaining. (8/10)

3. "Alogas" (7:37) 
begins with a very PREFAB SPROUT-sounding jazz guitar chords over synth wind and echoed synth sputtering. A very catchy, melodic jazzy-pop theme (think XTC joined with STYLE COUNCIL) begins at the :30 mark and continues for some very enjoyable two-and-a-half minutes before a different CURE/MEET DANNY WILSON theme and pace begins. All the while the jazzy guitar chord strumming plays--until the 5:05 mark when more familiar, though somehow 80s synth glossyed, Post Rock playing style takes over to build to a typical frenzied finish. (10/10)

4. "Grime and Glass" (7:39) 
begins, again, with a much more industrialized "80s meet Grunge" feel to it. A lot of MY BLOODY VALENTINE twang bar guitar playing and having some surprisingly upbeat and melodic sections to it. I like the development of this song more and more as you get into it--including the (as now typical) off-beat slowed down section with the recorded voices from some television infomercial or talk show (I can't quite make out what's being said). (10/10)

5. "Rearview" (7:24) begins with a persistent industrial/grunge sound to it--not unlike early NINE INCH NAILS. At 1:38 it switches gear, slows down and the guitars weave a very pretty melody--which is yielded for another grungy section at the 2:55 mark. 3:25 and we're back to slow/soft--almost like a setup for TED NUGENT or LYNYRD SKYNYRD Southern rock ballad. Low, haunting singing enters over (or is it 'under') this, before giving way to some radio/spoken sample which then leads to a very mathematical section of off-tempo chords and smash-drumming whose last chords then decay and die in the 40-second glory of their some instrument feedback sounds. (7/10)

Again, innovative and unpredictable song construction and layering with some extremely pleasant melodies somehow woven into some very heavy Post Rock guitar/bass power chords. I don't usually like this much 'abrasive' guitar sound, but these guys are really interesting! They even had me humming along several times! This could be a masterpiece within the Math/Post Rock genre, however its length (37 minutes) and fact that this subgenre seems doomed to low expectations and limited potential because of its limiting styles, structures, and instrumentation leads me to rate it four stars. DEFINITELY a great addition to any prog lovers music collection!! Highly recommended!
















15. SIGUR RÓS ( )
While this is a favorite Sigur Ros album among many prog reviewers for its darkness, I find it beautiful but overall a bit too dark and depressing. Still, there is without a doubt gorgeous music here in the same vein of Ágaetis Byrjun and Takk.... Plus the album is blessed with what is, in my opinion, one of the most ingenius titling schemes ever.

Favorite tracks: 3. "Untitled 3 (Samskeyti)" (6:34) (10/10); 8. "untitled #8 (Popplagið)" (11:45) (10/10); (I love the ENO/BUDD piano arpeggio and MIKE OLDFIELD-like screeching guitars in the background; one of my favorite Sigur Rós songs), 1. "Untitled 1 (Vaka)" (6:41) (9/10); the starkly gorgeous and painfully slow to develop and release, 5. "untitled #5 (Álafoss)" (9:57) (9/10), and; the awesomely ambiguous, simplistic and yet bombastic and gorgeous, 7. "untitled #7 (Dauðalagið)" (12:59) (9/10).

Four star tracks: 2. "untitled #2 (Fyrsta)" (7:33) (8/10); 6. "untitled #6 (E-Bow)" (8:48) (8/10), and; track 4. "Untitled #4 (Njósnavélin)" (7:32) (8/10) (love the organ).

This is definitely an album that has grown on me over the years and is rated up for the start-to-finish quality and listenability.


















16. SLEEPMAKESWAVES ...and so we destroyed everything...
A refreshing new collection of Post Rock/Math Rock songs from some very technically talented instrumentalists who are also very creative composers. As said by Braid, there is really nothing terribly new or earth-shatteringly groundbreaking in terms of PR/MR sound or structure, it's just refreshing to here an attempt in this sub-genre by some very competent, creative musicians. The drumming is especially vibrant and unusually (for this sub-genre) varied as played by a very talented Aussie, Will Smith. Also, guitar playing isn't so rote and mathematical as many other PR/MR groups. There is variety, texture, emotion, and skill on display here. Check this one out, peple--it will NOT bore you with its repetition and predictability (though, in the end, it is still PR/MR structured and, therefore, predictable.) Synths/keys, trumpets, strings, varied guitar effects, and even vocals make this an interesting and enjoyable listen--repeatedly, too. Try it out--Sleepmakeswaves has created an album that is definitely an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. IMO, this is the Best Post Rock album of 2011!

















17. SWANS The Seer
This is one of those very rare albums that comes along once in a great while--maybe every two or three years--that catches me by surprise--that is so unexpected, contains music that is so far beyond my experience or imagination as to absolutely blow me away! This album has also, once and for all, confirmed for me that I have a very serious attraction to/affinity for trance- inducing music. This music drives and thrums and sucks you into its maelstrom of controlled chaos. It induces entrainment--an experience I value perhaps more than any other in this lifetime. For those of you who don't know about, or who might have never heard of 'entrainment,' it is a word used to describe the event of the 'synchronization' of a multiplicity of persons (or beings) into a singular rhythm. For a musician or music listener this is a supra- or meta-physical event in which time and space seem to disappear due to the deep connection one is experiencing with the music, the rhythms, the experience of feeling as if one is within/a part of the music. Their is forged an amazing interconnection to all others in--a veritable disappearance of ego and I-ness, which is replaced with an unhuman feeling of being so connected to the music, to the (other) musicians, that one could swear that the 'perfect' and 'magical' music is being channeled through the collective--as if it is effortlessly coming through onesself as if seeking to take its place among and with the notes, rhythms and sounds of the others. It is understood that on a very deep, unconscious level humans are drawn to the lake- and sea-shores because the rhythm of waves rolling up onto the beaches is one with which the human Cranial Rhythmic Impulse (the brain's rhythmic pumping action of cerebral spinal fluid) entrains--creating a very steady, healthy, and healing physiological event within the human host. Entrainment is when feelings of connectivity and unity supercede all illusions of separation and disconnection. The music of The Seer is music to entrain to.

Five star songs: "Mother of The World" (9:59) (10/10); "The Seer" (32:13) (10/10); "The Avatar" (8:51) (10/10); "A Piece of the Sky" (19:10) (10/10); "The Apostate" (23:00) (10/10); and, "Lunacy (6:10) (9/10).

This was (and is) The Best Album I've Heard from 2012 and my #2 "favorite" album from that same year.


















18. CICADA Pieces
Jesy CHIANG and her Taiwanese band of neoclassicists have done it again--only better than their 2010 debut album, Over the Sea/Under the Water. Pieces is more mature, more emotional, and definitely a cleaner recorded production than its lovely predecessor. They've even put together a couple of full-length videos to accompany "Drowning in the Fog of Yours" and "Lake's End"--and they are gorgeous. Several other "in studio" videos are available on YouTube, as well.

1. "Happily Ever After?" (2:08) piano, guitar, and violin play into this mid-tempo dance tune. (8/10)

2. "Sunshine Smile" (4:06) in a minor key, the group's instruments weave intricately in and around one another in a multi-colored dance before the piano and plucked cello bring them all 'into line.' (9/10)

3. "Pieces" (5:02) begins sounding very WINDHAM HILL-ish, with the piano arpeggios and strummed and plucked instruments. Eventually, the song gets moving. (9/10)

4. "Fading Affection" (4:41) a slow, sensitive, folk-like pastoral tune which takes on a very heavy, emotional SATIE-like timbre (10/10)

5. "Encrypted Desire" (4:21) tells its sad story very slowly, with several voices speaking--beautifully and plaintively--all at once. (9/10)

6. "No Words" (3:46) is the album's most upbeat song, driving forward though still in a pastoral countryside--thought, perhaps in the pouring rain. (10/10)

7. "Drowning in the Fog of Yours" (4:21) a slowed down variation on 2010's "Finally... we're still together."(10/10)

8. "Breakaway" (3:57) is rather hypnotic in its minimalist, repetitive approach. Strumming guitar carries it forward into an almost folk rock realm. Impassioned cello and violin work really drive home this song's message. (9/10)

9. "Lake's End" (7:36) is a solo piano piece by emotional genius Jesy Chiang. Her compositional skills are akin to those of GEORGE WINSTON at the advent of his recording career in the early 1980s. Easily the most mellow, melodic, and peaceful solo piano work I've heard since me ears first heard Autumn and December back in 1980 and 1982, respectively. (10/10)














19. STEREOLAB Sound-Dust
I am a sucker for Stereolab's music. (1997's Dots and Loops sits at #3 on my list of All-time Favorite Albums.) Sound-Dust is my second favorite from the group. The addition of horns is great but the more sectioned up songs doesn't always work for me as some parts are gorgeous and hook the listener in while the next part might be totally off-the-wall weird.

1. "Black Ants in Sound-Dust" (1:58) (7/10)

2. "Space Moth" (7:35) with it's 1:40 woodwind- and horn-laced intro, the song finally kicks into gear but doesn't really hook the listener until its fifth minute--and later when the horns finally return (8/10)

3. "Captain Easychord" (5:33) the piano-based song has many tracks weaving in and out including horns, steel guitar, and, of course, multiple vocal lines but it rarely feels as if all cylinders are firing (7.5/10)

4. "Baby Lulu" (5:13) (10/10)

5. "The Black Arts" (5:13) a gorgeous, hypnotic, emotional song (9.5/10)

6. "Hallucinex" (3:56) opens quite nicely, one of Stereolab's non-intro song that hooks you in right from the start, and the horns and acoustic guitars and tuned percussions are excellent, but it never reaches the heights of some of the others (8.5/10)

7. "Double Rocker" (5:33) for its first 2:27 this song moves along like a slow time-piece: hypnotic and soporific, then it kicks into third gear with a great sound and weave (9/10)

8. "Gus the Mynah Bird" (6:10) great, slow fade-in intro, then awesome body with gorgeous vocals; even the ambient mid-song shift and second half is pretty cool (9/10)

9. "Naught More Terrific Than Man" (4:10) one of the prettiest and best Stereolab songs ever. (10/10)

10. "Nothing to Do with Me" (3:38) is made so special by the 'dialogue' of vocals between Lætitia and Mary. (9.5/10)

11. "Suggestion Diabolique" (7:53) starts out sounding like the rare sinister-sounding S'lab song but then shifts in the second minute into the hypnotic, beautiful, PSYCHEDLELC FURS-like "jouer" section. The song springboards back and forth from positive to negative, yin and yang. (8.5/10)

12. "Les bon bon des raisons" (6:44) really showcases the vocal symbiosis of these two amazing vocalists with it's Beatles-esue opening half melodies but then morphs into a kind of space-satire piece for the second half. (8.5/10)


















20. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT All Is Violent, All Is Bright
Though I am a relatively new- and late-comer to the "Post Rock/Math Rock" and seemingly related "Experimental/Post Metal" Progressive Rock sub-genres, I am fascinated and enjoying these two areas immensely. IMO, here is where "progress" is truly being made in music--where boundaries are being challenged, the envelope being pushed. The work of Sigur Rós and Toby Driver alone lead the way in what I call the groundbreaking, mind-opening progress happening in music recently. The 60s saw The Beatles, Lou Reed, and King Crimson pushing the envelope. The 70s had Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, and Christian Vander exploring untested territories. The 80s saw the compositions and productions of the likes of David Byrne, Mickey Hart, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel and others trying to bring attention to and appreciation for musics, instruments and musicians of the world. (The 80s also saw the advent of the computer age with things like 'midi,' 'sequencing,' 'sampling' and the Fairlight exerting considerable influence, while on the quiet artists like David Sylvian and Robert Fripp continued to test sound in the forms and structures that we call 'music.') In the 90s we saw Mark Hollis, Sigur Rós, and Radiohead pushing boundaries. Which brings us to the most recent decade, the first of the 21st Century, in which we were witnesses to the innovation, courage, and artistry of Toby Driver (an asterisk of mention to the members of Animal Collective.) While my diatribe admittedly reflects an Anglo-American-centricity, I hope you readers will accept the fact that, for good or not, most of the music made publicly accessible through commerce has been able to rise to the public eye (and ear) through Anglo-American corporate endorsement. With all of this in mind, my review of God Is An Astronaut's All Is Violent, All Is Bright constitute's my first in this sub-genre. The reason being, it is the first "Post Rock/Math Rock" album that I have heard that I absolutely love start to finish, every song in the collection. No album from Sigur Rós, Red Sparowes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Russian Circles, Mogwai, Mono, Don Caballero, 65Daysof Static, Do Make Say Think, or Explosions in the Sky has captivated me so well as All Is Violent, All Is Bright. ULVER's Shadows of the Sun is the only one yet I've heard that I like more, but it is a very different experience from the Post Rock/Math Rock experience I receive from the others mentioned. I would not even place Shadows of the Sun in this category, it is so different. Some Post Rock/Math Rock album/artists are a bit too harsh/too metallic for me (Russian Circles, Godspeed come to mind), some too repetitive or formulaic in their patterns and structures (Mono, Explosions, even, at times, Sigur Ros). A few are less consistent with the high standard/quality (Mogwai, Do Make Say Think, and 65Days). For some reason I prefer Red Sparowes (especially "Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun"), much of Sigur Rós (Agætis Byrjun, Takk, and ( ) [untitled]), and this God Is An Astronaut album. What I like so much about this album is its diversity. While Post Rock/Math Rock does seem to have its formulaic structures, the songs on this album each have their own identities, each have disparate styles and 'influences.' Plus, I have to admit, I rather like their relative brevity. The tendency within this subgenre is to go a bit long. Once or twice an album is great, but every song eight to twelve minutes? No thank you. Unfortunately, I just don't have time to listen to songs like that all day. I also quite enjoy GIAA's use of vocals. Like a fifth instrument--another keyboard or a violin or something.

1. "Fragile" (4:34) is the album's introductory piece that reminds me very much of an older SIGUR RÓS song. Nice slow beat, building slowly, with a very SIGUR RÓS-like use of voices, even through the requisite slam of drums, cymbols, bass and synths which arrives at the 2:40 mark and then disengages a minute later for a very slow and peaceful fade. Short, sweet, and to the point.

2. "All Is Violent, All Is Bright" (4:13) is right out of a CURE playbook: rolling bass, guitar effects, background keyboard effects, same drums, Cure cords and definitely a Cure pace. Beautiful song. Awesome finale beginning at the 3:15 mark. Go crazy, Robert! I mean, Kinsella brothers! This one could've bee a little longer. (8/10)

3. "Forever Lost" (6:20) is BUDD/ENO meets MASSIVE ATTACK. Great soundtrack music. Great atmospheric piano and synths. Typical build and climax. (8/10)

4. "Fire Flies and Empty Skies" (3:55) begins with more fast-tempo CURE-ish bass and guitar until the drums enter followed by the song's melody played on sliding up and down a guitar's fretboard. Something is so pleasantly familiar about this song and its melodies. The isolated distorted bass beginning at 3:15 mark and flowing to the end as the song's outro section is a great touch. Some OCEANSIZE feel here, too. (9/10)

5. "A Deafening Distance" (3:48) slows the pace down until the drums and guitar power chords double time at the 2:40 mark. Great synth melody eeking its presence out from behind the rhythm section. (7/10)

6. "Infinite Horizons" (2:27) slows it down to an almost ambient pace with a very ROBIN GUTHRIE-like feel and sound. Nice. (7/10)

7. "Suicide by Star" (4:39) begins like an ominous yet intriguing soundtrack song. A Jason Bourne theme or something. Builds with the drums and lead guitar moving up to the foreground at the 1:30 mark. Great song, great feel, my favorite song on the album. Reminds me of U2's early experimental work with BRIAN ENO and DANIEL LANOIS--like "Boomerang" and others from the "Unforgettable Fire" period. Awesome. I love the end/climax where the bass drum is pumping frenetically while the ride cymbol paces calmly along at the same slow pace with which it started. (9/10)

8. "Remembrance Day" begins with quite a different feel than the rest of the album--like a CHROMA KEY piece--with piano, bass keyboards and very treated/synthesized vocals. Then at the 1:48 mark the woofer-low synthetic bass, drums, and sliding guitar sounds enter. Wow! Space has never felt so cool! Then the 2:48 mark sees the song take a different turn into a more upbeat, uptempo, up-power level with a new melody line introduce on synths(?). The song finally decays back to the echoed piano. Cool and unusual! (9/10)

9. "Dust and Echoes" (4:13) again begins with such a different feel. Kind of pop-mainstream with weird synth washes flowing, floating behind the rhythm section. If you've ever heard the great music of PERPLEXA and/or WEST INDIAN GIRL, this has that same awesome, upbeat psychedelic feel. The song builds by the 2:40 point, vocals again serving a very cool and important role, before interestingly decaying early into an unusually long (for this genre) fadeaway. Great song. Another fave. (9/10)

10. "When Everything Dies" is the album's only real long song (10:01). Beginning with another HAROLD BUDD-treated by BRIAN EMO piano, the main difference is the eerie and unsettling presence of a synth bass. A shift occurs at the 3:00 mark into a more pounding, speedy version of the intro piano them joined by a very treated, almost electronic MASSIVE ATTACK-like drum riff. Some FRIPP-like guitar arpeggios join at the 4:25 mark as the background rhythmists build the intensity of their chords until 5:20 everybody drops out save the drums, bass and synth-wash, which then also drop out and fade until from 5:55 to 7:30 we are left without sound! Everything has apparently died! The first sounds to reenter our aural atmosphere are synthesized waves on a beach sound followed by a computer-robot sounding synth riff floating around the L-R aural screen. By 9:00 a piano, very distant drum beat, and new synth make their presences known before finally all fading away in the end. Weird, eerie and interesting. Not as heavy as ULVER's Shadows of the Sun LP and message, but interesting. (7/10)

11. "Disturbance" (3:44) is another ENO-BUDD sounding piece--as if from the Apollo album, or from the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack--definitely presents as if we are in space or on a space journey. More of a concept finisher than a song with it's own interesting presence. (6/10)

Great album; one of my favorites yet from this subgenre. 9 out of 10 becoming 5 stars for the sake of it's high consistency and for being "the standard" by which I will measure other albums from this sub-genre.

P.S. It's now been over five years since I first heard and review this album. In that time I have gotten to know the Post Rock/Math Rock subgenre pretty well. I have long been toying with the idea of downgrading this album from my former "masterpiece" acclaim because I find it hard to issue five star "masterpiece" status to anything in this subgenre. It is just too beaten down, too overdone and over-explored. The music just becomes so overlapping and redundant--even the (few) albums that use vocals prominently (e.g. Slint, Bark Psychosis, Sigur Rós, Oceansize, Ulver, Matryoshka, Toe, Autumn Chorus, Rhys Marsh, Midas Falls, Swans) often fall into patterns of almost nauseating predictability and repetitiousness. I've heard a few bands that "surprise" me and lure me into their magic for a while. But all too soon it seems I am running for something else, something more . . . alive!


21. SIGUR RÓS Ágætus Byrjun



22. THE EVPATORIA REPORT Golevka



23. MONO The Last Dawn



24. BATTLESTATIONS In A Cold Embrace



25. DATURAH Reverie



26. SUNWRAE Autumn Never Fall



27. COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE The Sirens Sound




28. MIDAS FALL Wilderness



29. BLUENECK King Nine



30. MONOBODY Monobody




31. STEREOLAB Emperor Tomato Ketchup 
32. OCEANSIZE Effloresce
33. MY EDUCATION Sunrise 
34. SIGUR RÓS Takk...
35. JARDIN DE LA CROIX Ocean Cosmonauts
36. AUTUMN CHORUS The Village to the Vale
37. THE APPLESEED CAST Sagarmatha
38. STEREOLAB Margerine Eclipse
39. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
40. GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennae to the Sky,

41. LISERSTILLE The Collibro
42. HAMMOCK Chasing After Shadows... Living With the Ghosts
43. MONO You Are There
44. RED SPAROWES The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer
45. CASPIAN Tertia


Yet to be determined:
THIS WILL DESTROY YOU Another Language
TORTOISE Millions Now Living Must Die 
TORTOISE TNT 
MASERATI Inventions for the New Season 
MASERATI Passages
THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND Who Is This Who Is Coming?
THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND The Future Kings of England 
TRISTEZA Dream Signals in Full Circle
TRISTEZA En Nuestro Desafio
THE MERCURY PROGRAM Chez Viking 
THE MERCURY PROGRAM A Data Learn the Language
MARCONI UNION Distance 
MARCONI UNION A Lost Connection
MY EDUCATION Italian, 
MY EDUCATION 5 Popes
Landberk
Stereolab


Also Considered:
GIFTS FROM ENOLA Loyal Eyes Betrayed
LONG DISTANCE CALLING Long Distance Calling
THE SAMUEL JACKSON FIVE The Samuel Jackson Five
OCEANSIZE Frames
DON CABALLERO American Don
EYOT Innate
FLOORIAN What the Buzzing
BOARDS OF CANADA Tomorrow's Harvest
IF THESE TREES COULD TALK Above the Earth, Below the Sky
RUSSIAN CIRCLES Enter
TOE Hear You
65DAYS OF STATIC One For All Time
THE AMERICAN DOLLAR The American Dollar
MATROYSHKA Zatracenie

RED SPAROWES Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
GREGOR SAMSA 55:12, Rest
FOLLOWED BY GHOSTS Dear Monsters, Be , The Entire City Was
THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND The Fate of Old Mother Orvis

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