Sunday, July 16, 2017

Favorite Post Rock Albums

The Post Rock (and related Math Rock) subgenres of progressive rock music are fairly new to Prog World, the term having only been coined in 1994 with music critic Simon Reynolds' rather dismissive review of Graham Sutton's BARK PSYCHOSIS debut album, Hex. Since the formal adoption of the term, several bands have been added to the roster of Post Rock artists, including SWANS and TALK TALK. The music arises out of the 1970s appearance and popularity of so-called "minimalist" musics out of the realms of classical music while, according to Reynolds, some of the "new" musics appearing in the Indie/Prog realm of music were rejecting old musical forms and structures traditionally used in"classic" pop music in lieu of more protracted sound-building and crescendo-reaching (often instrumental) songs. My personal opinion includes the exploratory/experimental music of David Sylvian's early solo career (the early 1980s) as being equally seminal to the birth of the Post Rock movement. Also, I like to give credit to the polyrhythmic musics long used in Sub-Saharan African music and drum traditions and then explored by popular artists like PETER GABRIEL ("Melt", W.O.M.A.D., and "Rhythm of the Heat"), TALKING HEADS ("The Great Curve"), KING CRIMSON ("Discipline"), and RUSH ("Tom Sawyer" and "YYZ") as examples of key ingredients for foundation of the Math Rock movement in rock 'n' roll. 
The weaknesses in the lexicon of Post/Math Rock music has been in its lack of variation in the forms: the majority of Post/Math Rock bands seem to choose a more instrumental approach--often with just electric guitars and bass with rock drum kits (and strings), often eschewing the keyboards, horns, anachronistic, and other periphery instruments (and their sounds) common to a large percentage of prog bands. Some of the music I've been attracted to that have been labeled "Post Rock" or "Math Rock" seem diverse and even, at times, outside or on the fringe of the subgenre umbrella. Also, there are bands that use vocals--even front-line vocalists--in their music, but Though the subgenre has been fairly universally welcomed into the Prog fold, it has never really gained the respect and esteem of the other subgenres--mostly due to the typically limited sound palettes of the usual all-instrumental formats. This is the reason for my own hesitation, reluctance, and limited attention to new (and old) releases from the Post Rock (and Math Rock) subgenre. Even so, here is a list of favorites that I have been able to generate.       

1. STEREOLAB Dots and Loops (1997)

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 (1996)

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" (6:09) (9/10) but then lags a bit with the next two songs: slightly monotonous, Icehouse/Church-like, 2. "All Around Me" (9:06) (8/10) and 3. "1st of May" (3:38) (8.5/10) 

4. "I Wish I Had a Boat" (5:41) (8.5/10) picks it back up again in a very David Sylvian-sounding 'avant-ambient'-like way. 

5. "Dustgod" (5:04) (9/10) combines the earlier Icehouse/Church sound and feel with the Sylvian-ness in a brilliant way. 

6. "Dreamdance" (4:41) (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?" (7:55) (10/10) 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 year, Can we really party today? 

The finale, the delicate Pat Metheny/New Chatauqua-like title song (5:12) (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 (2007)

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. JAMBINAI Onda (2019)

Some of the most extraordinarily different prog rock that I've heard since I first heard Yoshimi P-W's OOIOO. This is Post Rock from Korea with its musicians proudly integrating the traditional instruments of their homeland with those of the rock'n'roll world. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Il-woo Lee / guitars, piri (family of bamboo oboes), taepyeongso (short, conical wooden oboe with metal bowl serving as its spout), saenghwang (reedless mouth organ with 17 bamboo pipes, capable of playing two notes at once), vocals

- Bo-mi Kim (f.) / haegeum (vertical two-stringed violin like a berimbau, bowed), vocals

- Eun-yong Sim (f.) / geomungo (fretted bass zither, plucked), vocals
- Byenong-koo Yu / bass, chorus vocals
- Jae-hyuk Choi / drums, chorus vocals
- Hwi-seon Choe / yanggeum (hammered dulcimer) (1,3)
- Bo-ra Kim / vocals (5)
- Gyouh-yun Jo / chorus vocals (4,8)
- Jin-young Han / chorus vocals (4,8)

1. "Sawtooth" (7:39) powerful Post Rock that opens with traditional Korean instruments, wind and stringed. These are joined, eventually, in the third minute, by drums and electric instruments from the more familiar realms of rock'n'roll, providing not one but two very impressive rise and falls over the course of the remaining five minutes. Despite this addition of full drum kit, electric bass, and aggressive electric guitar, it is the Korean instruments that remain the attention-grabbers, expressing very powerful emotions. Dynamic and refreshing Post Rock. A top three song. (14/15)

2. "Square Wave" (5:05) rock and traditional instruments are mixed from the start of this one as is the gorgeous, powerful DAM KAT-like voice of Bo-mi Kim. This is so good! Smooth chorus section at the end of the second minute and then a quiet, spacious, section, latent with potential energy, that is followed by an even more powerful instrumental section in the third and fourth minutes before the final crescendo of sound and ending verse in the final minute. The interplay of the electric rock instruments with the Korean acoustics is incredible! Awesome song! Definitely a top three for me. (9.5/10)

3. "사상의 지평선 (Event Horizon)" (3:55) opens in fifth gear with everybody strumming, beating, and screeching at their fastest and then, equally as suddenly, at the 1:00 mark, everything cuts out save for a bowed berimbau-like haegeum and hand drum/hand percussion. By the end of the second minute vocalist Eun-yong Sim (or Bo-mi Kim) is adding her voice to the weave until 2:41 when the electric contingent rejoins and it plays out like a Death Metal song. (8.75/10)

4. "검은 빛은 붉은 빛으로 (Sun. Tears. Red.)" (5:51) single note played syncopatedly from an electric guitar- or bass-like instrument opens this song before being joined by a choir of voices singing quietly in an almost prayer-like chant-kind of way. Amazing! At 1:35 all hell breaks loose as a heavy LEPROUS-like sound breaks out with vocal and Korean instrumental screeches over the top. Just before the two minute mark, this cuts out and a percussion-supported multi-voice, polylyric, polyrhythm section ensues. Wow! In the fourth minute the heavy walls of sound return for a bit but it is then broken up by alternating quick passages of multi-voice shouting and chanting (and intentionally not in unison). In the fifth minute the music steadies itself, not quite as heavy, as Korean violin solos, but then just before the 5:00 mark, the soundscape thickens and weighs down as a male voice screams his lyrics in two-syllable bursts to the end. Wow! I'm not sure how to judge this one! Unlike anything I've ever heard before! Amazing! Another top three song! (9.5/10)

 5. "나무의 대화 (In the Woods)" (13:16) opens like a HYPNO5E song with delicate, spacious, almost folk instrumental inputs from all musicians. Even into the meat of the song, at the 3:30 mark, as Il-woo's saenghwang takes center stage and then gets replicated with several other tracks, the music still feels totally folk-traditional. Wild vocals enter in the sixth minute and then oboes. Drums and bass slowly climb in during the second half of the seventh minute, but then there is a calming break in which the saenghwang leads over haegeum, geomungo, and electric bass. Electric guitar joins in the eighth minute just before the pace and density ramps up. This is definitely Post Rock! At the ten minute mark heavily distorted electric guitars and bass begin providing typhoon-like wind noises as the drummer really starts to go crazy. "ooo" vocals repeat a melody from here to end. Nice song with a stunning beginning five minutes that becomes a little long and drawn out. (21.75/25)

6. "작은 위로가 있는 곳에 (Small Consolation)" (5:18) a single note from an oddly tuned electric guitar signals the start of Il-woo Lee's almost-whispered voice. Over and over this occurs, like a Tibetan prayer cycle, until at 1:15 Bo-mi Kim's haegeum and Eun-yong Sim's geomungo begin to add their sounds behind and round the guitar and vocal/chanter. At 2:25 the full electric band comes crashing in with heavily strumming guitar, bass, and flailing cymbals and pulsing drums. The Korean strings continue their screechy soloing over and within until things go even fuller-dark at the end of the fourth minute. Then, suddenly, at 4:23, everything stops except for the original three plucked/bowed instruments, which then slowly fizzle and exit. (9/10)

7. "그대가 지내온 아픔들이 빛나는 축복의 별이 되어 (ONDA Prelude)" (2:18) drone of a single sustained electric bass note opens while traditional Korean mouth organ (saenghwang) plays a dirge-like tune over the top. Amazing instrument the way it can project two controlled notes at one time! (5/5)

8. 온다 (ONDA) (7:07) launches straight out of the "Prelude" with lots of hard-driving percussion and haegeum provide initial support for the slow, religious-sounding singing of Bo-mi Kim. Gorgeous! And powerful! Kim is then joined in chorus form by Il-woo Lee. The music here reminds me of Middle Eastern prog like Ofra Haza. At 3:15, Bo-mi Kim switches to haegeum and Il-woo to his bamboo oboe (pim) as the rhythm section continues to drive on at breakneck speed. The full metal impact of electric instruments reaches full strength at the five minute mark just as choral-singing of earlier slow religious lyric and melody ensue. This is, then, what plays out until cymbal crash at 6:35 and ensuing long decay of the feedback from the final strums of the electric guitar and bass. Amazing. I am numb and in humble shock with the power and beauty of this music. (15/15) 

Total Time: 50:29

I feel so excited, so humbled and privileged, to have heard this music--to have continued access to it. Some of the instruments, sounds, stylings, and even melodies sound similar to Mongolian band ANDA UNION--though my untrained ear is most likely lumping all Sino-Korean sounds and melodies together. 

92.5 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a masterpiece of mind-blowing progressive rock music in which the band fuses the traditional instruments and melodies of its native cultural traditions with the best and most powerful of Post Rock techniques better that any other band that I've ever heard.

5. BARK PSYCHOSIS CodeName : DustSucker (2004)
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.)

6. CICADA Light Shining Through The Sea (2015)

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.

7. BATTLESTATIONS Vixit (2017)

These guys have come so far! From the almost-cheezy computer sounds and mis-timed instrumental performances of their flawed (but brilliant) debut, In a Cold Embrance, in 2012, the band has developed a stronghold in cinematic music-making far beyond anyone that I know of who is not doing film or television scores. Seriously, this may be the best "score"-that's-not-a-score or liturgical-piece-that's-not-meant-for-church (or maybe it is: a requiem or elegy) that I've ever heard. Period. James Newton Howard, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, John Williams, James Horner, Rachel Portman, Danny Elfman, Alexandre Desplat have got nothing on these guys. Don't know if you still want to consider this prog since there are no drums or seering electric guitars, but it is definitely musical perfection, musical

1. "Vixit I" (24:02) As majestic and beautiful as the most beautiful Beethoven, Górecki, or Samuel Barber work. Broad washes of slowly moving strings with big choral sounds make this truly a spiritually moving experience. (10/10)

2. "Vixit II (3:21) piano, sparse, distant synth sounds, occasional noise from some kind of unidentified stringed instrument (the same one used in the first song of their debut album, "Prologue: Nature Morte / You're Not Welcome Here"), floating, panning synth washes. This must be Heaven. (9.5/10)

3. "Vixit III" (14:05) opens with the most electronica sounding passages on the album: panning synth, poppy voice choir, Mellotron and other synth washes, Very New Age-like--though the synths in the sixth and seventh minute sound like I'm YES heaven (the end section of "Awaken"). Love the return to old themes at 7:20! And then church choir rejoins with a FOCUS (Tommy Barlage) "Tommy" melody until the eleventh minute when it shifts dominant notes with the strings, bass, and tuned percussives giving it a little The Gathering If_then_else feel and sound to it. The final vocal section has an individual-sounding female alto voice carrying the lead--though this is still heavily mixed within the thick syrupy walls of synthesized sounds. This one is far more nostalgic and segmented yet it flows as well as any symphonic piece. (9.5/10) 

96.67 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a shining masterpiece of progressive electronic music.

8. MAGYAR POSSE Random Avenger (2006)

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 recapitulation of 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.

9. OCEANSIZE Everyone Into Position (2005)

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!

10. BATTLESTATIONS The Extent of Damage (2015)

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!

11. JAKOB Sines (2014)

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.

12. MIDAS FALL Evaporate (2018)

It's nice to hear a softer, more delicate, even acoustic side of both Elizabeth and Rowan, as on songs, "Sword To Shield," "Awake," and "In Sunny Landscapes" as well as all of the orchestral strings so clearly, integrally, even in isolation. The band has definitely taken to exploring their options outside of the Post Rock formats and sounds that they began with, yet power songs like "Bruise Pusher," "Glue," "Dust and Bone," and "Howling at the Clouds" are as devastating in their impact as songs from previous releases. 
Line-up / Musicians:
Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn: all instruments except drums on 2,3,5,6,8 and 10 played by Ross Cochran-Brash
Music by Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn; Lyrics by Elizabeth Heaton

1. "Bruise Pusher" (3:57) edgy sound coming from the sharply distorted guitars makes this one feel raw despite clean drums and Elizabeth's harp keys and long, sustained vocalizations. Still, this is fresh, potent, and packs a wallop in the instrumental sections. (9/10)

2. "Evaporate" (5:38) spacious chamber music opening turning electro-trip-hoppy with the advent of Elizabeth's long held reverbed vowels. Delicate piano flourishes alternate with sections in which heavy bass parts and full strings fill the soundscape. Definitely a top three song for me and one of my favorite Midas Fall songs of all-time. (9.5/10)

3. "Soveraine" (5:45) Elizabeth singing between the spacious aural field of multiple cello tracks, delicately picked (later, tremoloed) guitar notes. The loud arrival of what-feels-like orchestra waves lasts a brief few seconds before backing away, but then another series of waves washes in via Rowan's tremoloed guitar. Another quiet section is marched along by what feels like a tympanic rhythm pattern as guitars and strings rise and fall around Elizabeth's steady singing. (8.75/10)

4. "Glue" (3:52) The most "normal" Midas Fall song on the album, with a more normal CURE-like full sound palette and multiple vocal tracks and approaches--the lead one being in Elizabeth's trademark plaintive voice. The song builds to a mini-crescendo in the third minute before breaking for a little DEPECHE MODE-like modular synth bridge, then bursting forth into a heavy instrumental section to finish. (9/10)

5. "Sword To Shield" (4:00) opens with a very spacious soundscape with only a tinkering piano and delicate vocals filling the room. Cello eventually and sporadically joins in before a slow Post Rock soundscape fills the aural pathways in the third minute. But then it all reverts to the spacious sparsity of the opening section in the fourth minute for Elizabeth's final vocal input. The end is full band but still not mega-crescendoing like typical Post Rock fare. (9/10)

6. "Dust and Bone" (4:01) one of Midas Fall's masterful renderings in which they seem to be expressing the fragility of the human mind. Elizabeth is masterful as is the music in perfect support of the theme and intended mood. A top three song for me. (9.5/10)

7. "Awake" (2:13) gently picked guitars back Elizabeth's distant-sounding voice--a voice that is almost spoken, almost absent-minded, almost whispered. Then she sings in a stronger voice a "You are" chorus finishing the song by completing her sentence with the title word. Cool! (4.75/5)

8. "In Sunny Landscapes" (5:27) Enya-like voice and sustained single notes (and, later, chords) from Rowan's guitars open this song. Bass, strummed electrified acoustic guitar and cello join in during the vocal break in the second minute, then Elizabeth rejoins and quickly shifts to a very high register for some emotional singing. By the fourth minute I can't help wondering if this is going to stay in the realm of modern pop songs or develop into something more but, instead--surprise--the sound de-escalates and thins for a delicate vocal section sung in Elizabeth's normal speaking range. The following musical patch is interlaced with wordless vocals among the keys, guitars, bass, and sparse drums before Elizabeth finishes the song with one last verse in her high voice. (9/10)

9. "Lapsing" (4:09) opens with two low single note drones before zither-like piano-keyboard and distant cymbols and guitar slowly join in. The pace is ultra slow, drawn out, with a soundscape reminiscent of early MONO pieces (You Are There and Hymn to the Immortal Wind). The second half of the song sees the addition of cello and deep keyboard bass line as Elizabeth's vocals get a little creepy. Bass drum kicks in as sonic field fills. It's ominous and unsettling. But good. (9/10)

10. "Howling At The Clouds" (4:23) opens like a Post Rock evolution of a CURE song before breaking down to an emptiness in which Elizabeth's voice enters and fills our souls. The return of the music en force is immaterial to Elizabeth's singular intent or delivery, yet the instrumental section that follows her cessation is quite powerful--seeming to reinforce or reverberate the effect of her message. This is awesome! Post Rock at its best--at its most pure. (9.5/10)

91.58 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music! This is the least Post Rock conforming album that I've heard from Elizabeth and Rowan but it is my favorite!

13. GIFTS FROM ENOLA Gifts from Enola (2010)

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!

14. MONOBODY Raytracing (2018)

The boys from Chicago are back! As you may recall, their 2015 self-titled debut crashed onto the Post Rock scene with quite a splash! In fact, I rated it as a five-star masterpiece and included it among my list of favorite Post Rock albums of all-time. As good as that album was, this is better. The startlingly quick tempo variations and melodic maturity displayed here shows that these guys have been working hard over the past three years.

1. "Ilha Verde" (10:44) opens with slow, delicate playing from heavily distorted and lightly-flanged electric instruments while drums play clear and pure somewhat sub rosa. Things ramp up into a tight jazz weave in the third minute and then get crazy-cruisin' by the fourth--a little avant with tight stop-and-starts and a very tightly woven weave. By the middle of the fourth minute things are bass-slappin' Primal, if you know what I mean! Then, just as suddenly, at the four minute mark things break down and we glide into a section of gorgeous Lyle-Mays-like melodic jazz. Guitar and piano here are so tight! This is such a diverse odyssey--like a jazz master class! Intricate staccato work returns, followed by the heavier King Crimson-like stuff to the mid-eight minute. Another break as we enter a new dreamy patch. Wow! What a ride! It is truly like experiencing all of the emotional and spatial shifts of Homer's Odyssey--in just under eleven minutes! Great multiple-layered pacing in the final section as drums go frenetic beneath gentler keys and floating guitars on top. (9.5/10)

2. "Raytracing" (4:47) complex, fast-paced weave with, at times, a bassa nova kind of beat structure and some really funky guitar and vibe sounds woven into some gorgeous passages. Incredibly impressive cohesion and synchrony from all band members. Incredibly impressive song! (10/10)

3. "Former Islands" (5:26) the song most like their debut album. It opens fast-paced, intricately woven as Post Rock with a TOE. (Japanese Post Rock band) feel to it. Solid, impressive song with solid, impressive instrumental performances over the course of two movements in an A-B-A-B structure. The melodies in the B section are gorgeous. (10/10)

4. "Echophrasia" (9:59) a gentle, spacey opening section with floating synths and keys over which percussives and guitar noodle their rapidly traveling passages. When things pick up and become jazzier in the third minute, the feel becomes all intricately constructed, well-rehearsed timed rapidly arpeggiated chord progressions--jazz! A spacey interlude in the fifth minute lets everyone catch their breath before guitar arpeggi, cymbol play support trombone and slide guitar work. The intricate weave of guitar, keys, and bass and drums rises and intensifies before a guitar scream introduces a heavy" technical-metal section. This is so impressive the way the whole-band's timing has to be so perfect in order to pull off the realization of these crazy-complex compositions! (9/10)

5. "The Shortest Way" (1:03) a cross between John Martyn's echoplex guitar and Mark Isham's synth work to give the listener a little respite from this stunning album. Thank you! (4.5/5)

6. "Opalescent Edges" (8:08) speaking of Mark Isham, this one opens like a Minimalist Isham-Bill Bruford EARTHWORKS piece. Chunky bass and psuedo-power chords give the third section a little STEELY DAN feel to it. (What?!) But then Conor Mackay just has to show off his amazing speed for a few before we fall into another classic jazz gentle bridge leading to a Stick and vibes weave with keys and bass and drums rockin' out to drown out the band! This sixth minute would have been the perfect finale, but no, the band has to keep going in order to let some individual steam off--here the guitar and synth get some solo time before they weave back into whole before decaying into the sedating final minute of space sounds. Wow! What did I just experience? How does one define this music? "Prog Perfection!" (10/10)

Throw away the Post Rock/Math Rock label, boys, this is Jazz-Rock Fusion at it's most intricately KonstruKted King Crimsonianness.

Five stars; a certifiable masterpiece of modern progressive rock music--and album that would make Señors Fripp, Bruford, Levin, Belew, Gunn, Mastelotto, Harrison, Jakszyk, and Rieflin proud. My new leader for Album of The Year honors.

15. CICADA Over The Sea/Under The Water (2010)

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).

16. TOE For Long Tomorrow (2009)

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.

17. BARK PSYCHOSIS Hex (1994)

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.

18. BERSARIN QUARTETT Bersarin Quartett (2008)

A string quartet with no strings?!!
     Thomas Bücker's "B3RSARiП QUAЯT3TT" is, contrary to the misleading title, a one man project of electronica. At times the strings sounds and arrangments are so clear and "authentic" sounding that one wonders if there isn't a classically-trained string quartet working with Thomas, but, no! It's all computer generated stuff! And wonderful it is! An example of prog electronic music that is truly taking the sub-genre into new dimensions.
     The computer-generated music of this album is gorgeous, half the time feeling as if it were the computer-tampered treatments of the recordings of a string quartet, the other half sounding as if Christian Fennesz or Alva Noto had been programming and treating the computer/synthesizer music. Gorgeous songs in the vein of Ryuichi Sakamoto and/or Alexandre Desplat or Mark Isham soundtrack music with lots of space and atmosphere and yet a very powerful rhythmic sense. I cannot recommend this album more highly as I feel in it a pushing of the envelope of the potentialities for the crossover/synthesis of electronica and post chamber musics.

Five star songs: 9. "Endlich Am Ziel" (4:38) (10/10); 1. "Oktober" (6:25) (9.5/10); 3. "Inversion" (5:40) (9.25/10); 6. "Die Dinge Sind Nie So Wie Sie Sind" (8:03) (13/15); 7. "Nachtblind" (4:02) (9/10), and; 10. "Mehr Als Alles Andere" (5:47) (9/10).

Four star songs:  2. "Geschichten Von Interesse" (4:55) (8.5/10); 4.  "St. Petersburg" (5:14) (8.6/10); 5. "Und Die Welt Steht Still" (8:51) (12.75/15); 8. "Es Kann Nicht Ewig Winter Sein" (4:27) (8.25/10)

88.04 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a refreshing entry to the Post Rock/Chamber Rock subgenre.

19. SIGUR RÓS ( ) (2002)

While this is a favorite Sigur Ros album among many prog reviewers for its darkness, I find it beautiful; there is without a doubt gorgeous music here despite being overall a bit dark and depressing. The music here is very much in the same vein of previous albums, Ágaetis Byrjun and Takk... Plus the album is blessed with what is, in my opinion, one of the most ingenious 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.

20. SLEEPMAKESWAVES ...and so we destroyed everything... (2011)

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!

21. SWANS The Seer (2012)

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.

22. MONO Nowhere, Now Here (2019)

Japanese Post Rock veterans release their 10th album in 20 years and continue to demonstrate their willingness and drive to grow and evolve by offering major synthesized electronic sound washes as ample aqueous solutions in which to launch, buoy, and bathe the vehicles of their instrumental constructs. They have been kind of stumbling along, trying to grow and try new things in recent years but their efforts have not proven successful critically or in sales. Here, now, they have broken several old Mono patterns: with first lineup change ever with new drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla, rampant and all-pervasive use of electronics (computer keyboards? or MIDI?) and Tamaki's debut vocal.

1. "God Bless" (1:44) "warped record" orchestral strings! It's all warped: "horns," too! Very cool! Like something from a David Sylvian record. (5/5)

2. "After You Comes the Flood" (5:36) dirty, raspy synths and guitars fade into this one for a long (0:56) introduction before the full band burst forth with a solid chord progression within which the familiar MONO tremolo guitar playing moves around. Drumming is very solid, bass is loud and super-chunky, guitars are insistent. A little lull at the end of the third minute allows for a second burst into full frontal brutality--this time with the right channel guitar going rogue and freaky. Awesome stuff! Gets the adrenaline pumping to hear the band firing on all cylinders again. A top three song for me. (9.5/10)

3. "Breathe" (5:24) slow low end synth "horn" chord washes open this one before the breathy "ANNE PIGALLE-like voice of Tamaki enters. Wow! This is different! And awesome! A MONO torch song! It's gorgeous if a little two-dimensional. (9/10)

4. "Nowhere, Now Here" (10:24) opens with gentle, background untreated guitar slow-picked arpeggi before solo electric guitar enters and, then bass and slow drums and "horn" synth chords. After a brief pregnant pause, the full band jumps in with great force and a great weave (with synth strings?) at 3:15. What ensues is beautiful, insistent, emotional, and powerful. At 5:05 the drums and bass start a constant quick-pulse just before a break in which the two guitars continue playing off of each other in their own repetitive styles. Bass and snare rolls reenter in the second half of the seventh minute and then kick drum. At 7:50 everything gets loosed but this is weak until the tremolos really speed up and the cymbal crashes get going. Don't like the drums' backing off as the guitars continue screaming. (17/20)

5. "Far and Further" (5:41) guitar arpeggi with heavy reverb is counterpointed by gently picking guitar and then by super chorused and two channeled guitar strums and thick bass notes. Nice weave that stays mellow until the three minute mark when bass drum and bowed instrument check in. At 3:40 the raunchy electric guitar tremolos show up as cymbals and orchestral sounds join. Never reaches fast speed or frenetic playing, but effectively conveys a mood. (8.75/10)

6. "Sorrow" (8:30) the two guitars, with their two styles, playing gently, each with more lush electronic effects that usual, before steady blues-rock drums join in until the two minute mark when a pulse of bass and wall of shifting orchestral strings chords joins in for fifty seconds pure beauty. Then things get quiet and more sparse again for thirty seconds before swaths of "singular" strings begin swooping in and around the music to the most gorgeous, emotional effect. At 4:45 the beat intensifies as the drums and bass begin pounding and crashing while the musical soundscape becomes awash in the thickness of a constant kind of tremolo. Beginning at the end of the eighth minute Taka's full-chord tremolos with keyboard mirror bombard and bathe us until the song's Berlin School sequenced demise in the final 30 seconds. Definitely a top three song; probably my favorite song on the album. (19/20)

7. "Parting" (4:25) piano and strings! It's so MONO but it's unlike anything they've ever done before. Could be Jesy Chiang and her CICADA band. Very pretty, very emotional. (8.75/10)

8. "Meet Us Where the Night Ends" (9:05) opens with odd sequence (arpeggio) of computer-sampled vocal loops before guitar arpeggio joins in. Very cool! At the one minute mark a second guitar enters playing some echoed and spaciously placed notes. In the third minute the second guitarist doubles his slow pace as bass and cymbals (and then full drums) and "orchestration" join in. Not very complex music but all threads are woven into a nice tapestry. Around 3:20 things break down to the original voice and guitar foundation before low-end guitar tremolo and orchestral strings' rising and falling chord progression ensues. Drums re-emerge at the five minute mark. Searing electric guitar flames in at 5:36 to add his emotional input. At 6:45 drummer signals "it's time to get real" as everybody seems to amp up their intensity (especially the drums--which erupt into full freak out mode at 7:17). Awesome! And different! (18/20)

9. "Funeral Song" (3:21) flutey church organ swirling around a cycle of a few chords before a sequence of "trumpet plus horn chords" join in. And woven together with some reverb and other effects and that's it! Awesome! (9/10)

10. "Vanishing, Vanishing Maybe" (6:14) Yoda's heavily reverbed guitar arpeggi (on the left) are soon joined by Taka's own louder sound on the right. Add Wurlitzer-like organ in the second minute. The melodies and harmonic structure here is so cool, so familiar. Drum kit enters at 2:10. Sounds like practice, nothing too challenging or groundbreaking in terms of structure until the third ROBIN GUTHRIE-like shoe-gaze guitar comes sliding in at 3:28. Now that is cool! Just a solid COCTEAU TWINS instrumental. (8.75/10)

Five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music--one of the few Post Rock albums that have ever earned five stars from me, but this is a dazzling display of the core basic best that the sub-genre has to offer juxtaposed with a band's maturity plus the rewards it can reap with it's willingness to take risks and try new things. Bravo! Taka, Tamaki and Yoda for your metamorphosis.

23. EYOT Innate (2017)

Refreshing new Post Rock from Serbia featuring piano-based instrumentals with roots in both classical, jazz, and Serbian folk musics.

Dejan Ilijic - Piano
Sladjan Milenovic - Guitar
Milos Vojvodic - Drums
Marko Stojiljkovic - Bass

1. "Veer" (6:03) Beautiful song though the second section's piano display gets a little lost and 'separated' from the main group. How awesome would this be with MIDAS FALL's Elizabeth Heaton singing over this! (9/10)

2. "Helm" (4:46) awesome non-piano-based opening takes its time to establish its weave. When piano joins in at 0:50 mark, the song is ready to just keep cruisin'. Very jazz familiar. And great lead melody from the piano. (9/10)

3. "Mountain" (5:08) delicate, almost GEORGE WINSTON/CLAUDE DEBUSSY-like solo piano intro, no other instrument joins in until the 2:06 mark. My favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

4. "Perun" (5:32) sounds like it could come from the soundtrack to a modern-day dystopian episode of Charlie Brown/Peanuts! (8/10)

5. "Canon Of Insolation" (4:48) opens with guitar effects before very solid Post Rock rhythm and weave establishes itself. Very nice work from all instrumentalists: great flow, restraint, and proficiency. Probably the best song on the album (as opposed to my favorite). Debussy-like piano solo in middle is my favorite part. (9.5/10)

6. "Ramonda Serbica" (7:07) great jazz opening before classical-sounding piano joins. Then distorted pedal wah electric guitar presents with its creepy fade and slide and echoed notes. Interesting. (8.5/10)

7. "Innate" (5:46) sounds very much like a jam in continuation of previous song. Very like Reine Fiske's collaborations with Ståle Storløkken's ELEPHANT9. Nice bass play. Nice ending to the album! (9/10)

Total time 39:10

89.29 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz- and classically-tinged Post Rock progressive rock music.

24. CICADA Pieces (2011)

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)

25. STEREOLAB Sound-Dust (2001)

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)

26. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT All Is Violent, All Is Bright (2008)

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!

Ágætus Byrjun (1999)

I can think of very few albums in the last 20 years which feel and sound as if they come out of nowhere--are unlike anything else that came before them--are so unique that they stand out so starkly from the rest of music of the day. KARDA ESTRA's Eve, THE MARS VOLTA's De-loused in the Comatorium, ULVER's Shadows of the Sun, and MAUDLIN OF THE WELL's Part the Second are the few others that come to mind. Several songs on this album are to this date among the best ever made in this genre ("Svefn-G-Englar," "Flugufrelsarinn," and "Starálfur") and one in particular, "Ny Batteri," still never fails to leave me stunned in awe every time I hear it. A genre-defining album and gut-wrenching listening experience.

Five stars all the way.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Laurent Quint / guitar
- Simon Robert / guitar
- Daniel Bacsinszky / violin, keyboards
- Fabrice Barney / drums, glockenspiel
- Laurent Macquat / bass (1,4)
- David Di Lorenzo / bass (2,3)
- Sophie Bacsinszky / strings (2)
- Tamara Renaud / strings (2)
- Guillaume Berney / strings (2)
- Lionel Baud / strings (2)
- Reverse Engineering (6)
- Orchestre de Ribaupierre / orchestra (6)
- Union Chorale de Vevey / chorus vocals (6)
- Luc Baghdassarian / director (6)
- Charlie Chaplin / recorded spoken word (1) 

1. Prognoz (14:05)
2. Taijin Kyofusho (12:00)
3. Cosmic Call (14:44)
4. C.C.S. Logbook (8:45)
5. Optimal Region Selector (9:32)
6. Dipole Experiment (11:44)

Total Time 70:50

Bonus disc from 2009 SE - 2003 EP:
1. Naptalan (7:14)
2. Voskhod Project (9:22)

Total Time 16:36

29. MONO The Last Dawn (2014)

Mono. From Japan. How this band stays beneath the radar I have no clue. Master 'storytellers' with their musical soundscapes, their music is always meditative, deeply emotive and, despite seemingly 'simple' song structures, the band always performs at a flawless level. I realize that Post Rock is not for everyone--and I rarely find a Post Rock album to be worthy of the "masterpiece of all-time" status--but this dedicated, focused, persevering Japanese band may have achieved such a status with this 2014 release. And, with the inclusion of its companion release, Rays of Darkness, the deal may be sealed. As described on their Facebook page, The Last Dawn is the "lighter" of the two albums and probably the more melodic and "prettier" of the two. It also reveals a scaled-back, slimmer lineup of musicians when compared to their releases in the mid and late Naughties. Yet the two 2014 releases offer quite a variety of instrumental companions --piano, tuned percussives, strings, trumpets, death metal "growl" vocals--all the while remaining firmly reliant on their one consistent and remarkable trait: the heavily effected tremolo strummed electric guitars of Hideki "Yoda" Suematsu and Takaakira "Taka" Goto. The influences of Minimalists like Henryk Górecki, soundtrack artists like Ennio Morricone and Lars von Trier, and shoe gaze innovators like Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields are quite evident throughout the album(s).

The Last Dawn starts out rather sedately with the quiet, spacious, rather low-key, "The Land Between the Tides/Glory" (8/10). The song begins its post-rock climb to climactic release in the third minute but then falls slowly and delicately after the seven minute mark--which, I think, marks the end of the "Glory" part of the two-part song. (Is this song--or album--an eulogy to WWII Japan?)

2. Katana" (6:21) (10/10) marks one of the most beautiful post-rock melodies/songs I've ever heard--a feeling that continues through the next three songs, 3. "Cyclone" (6:24) (10/10) with its awesome bass grounding throughout and amazingly sustained peak at 3:00, and 4. "Elysian Castles" (8:11) with its gorgeous piano-based Japanese folk melody and ever-so delicately woven guitar and cello threads (10/10).

5. "Where We Begin" (7:25) just sounds a little bit old and tired--like an old U2 song that pulses and rocks but never really goes anywhere. (7/10)

6. "The Last Dawn" (8:37) contains some extraordinarily beautiful, slowly developing three-part threads woven into a rather brilliant and unusual harmonic tapestry. At 2:45 an almost Gospel plea arises momentarily from the tremolo-picked lead guitar but then just as suddenly disappears. The weave deconstructs down to just one single instrument by the four minute mark before being reconstituted with sliding blues-chords, crescendoing cymbols and chime-like two-note arpeggi. Gorgeous yet understated. The power and strength established by the seventh minute sustain themselves through toward the end of the song, the end of the album, but then quietly dissipate as if into the night mist. Really emotional! So powerful and yet not over-the-top or bombastic. Masterful. (9/10)

Again, I am not sure of the "story" Mono are trying to tell with the music on this album: end of the Japanese empire? end of Industrial society? end of human occupancy of planet Earth? Could be all or none of these. Regardless, the band has put together a collection of songs that convert power, grace, beauty, and loss with a kind of emotional impact rarely heard/felt in modern music. An album that really needs to be heard to be believed. And felt.

30. BATTLESTATIONS In A Cold Embrace 

With In a Cold Embrace, BATTLESTATIONS has synthesized a true masterpiece of progressive rock music, only the third of the year, according to my reckoning (Änglagård's Viljans Oga and Kotebel's being the other two). Very cinematic, a bit trip-hoppy à la MASSIVE ATTACK, with a little COCTEAU TWINS shoegaziness thrown in, and then, of course, follow Post Rock/Math Rock formats, and you have the formula for the majority of In a Cold Embrace. I think what I like most about this music is that if I were still creating music, this is exactly the kind of music I would want to be creating.

1. "Prologue: Nature Morte/You're Not Welcome Here" (10/10) is my favorite song on the album. This song sounds as if it could have been taken straight off of an old LOBOTOMY BROTHERS CD, probably their first one, Live! But Just Barely or their second, the out-takes EP, Partial Lobotomy. "Prologue" begins like a wonderful Spaghetti-Western soundtrack. At the 4:25 mark the song shifts with the introduction of a repeating sequence of two 'orchestra hit' chords from the synthesizer around which the other instruments (rolling Cocteau Twins- like bass, treated acoustic and electric guitars, programmed drums, and percussives) dance. At 7:15 things change again. A baribou-sounding instrument sets the pace of the new equally slow rhythm and is accompanied by fast-oscillating flanged guitar strums, voice samples, slow-picked guitar melody, and, later, drums (they sound live but could also be programmed) and background synth sounds. This is cinematic, meditative, background music heaven.

2. "Comrade/The Way We Grieve" (10/10) could be another very effective cinematic theme song. Military march drumming lays the groundwork over which guitars and synths are added, layered, throbbing, buzzing, and zinging their melodies. At 5:10 every thing slows down, fades away to allow the establishment of a new lineup of instruments playing in a new key, watched by a whale-sounding guitar, before a melody-supporting chord sequence is formed, over which a delayed guitar plays a very beautiful, very emotional melody. Synths and additional guitars join in after the eight minute mark to fade. Stunningly gorgeous.

3. "Interlude: Time Stands Still" (9/10), at two-and-a-half minutes in length is the album's shortest piece, but it is a beautiful one, with heavily effected guitar crooning out another slow but emotional melody. Once again, it sounds like it came right off the 1988 Partial Lobotomy CD.

4. "Breaking Bad News/The Faces We Remember" (9/10) is a very spacey, airy song sounding almost like an ambient Fripp/Eno or Eno/Budd experiment with the interplay of various effects and delays--until the 3:40 mark when a synth wash chord progression and electronic drum track enter and establish some drama. At 5:15 a full drum and bass rhythm section join in sounding very much like a COCTEAU TWINS instrumental. Awesome. Ends with the same sparse ambient themes and instruments of the beginning.

5. "The Semblance of Fate/Citizen Creep/The End" (8/10) begins with some piano (treated à la HAROLD BUDD et al.) in yet another cinematic theme. At 2:30 piano stops leaving some atmospheric synths to float around in the background while what sounds like the treated (reversed?) voice of a female London Underground PA speaker voice makes some (to me) unintelligible announcements. Once she stops, a new theme with new instruments is developed, coming to full force with a fast-paced drum program (I think) livening things up quite a bit. At the seven minute mark, the music stops leaving a repeating piano arpeggio to bridge into the next section which does, in fact, sound like the band--or film--is trying to say good-bye (except this is the second section, "Citizen Creep"). Beautiful, like a French romance. The final two and a half minutes are very much like each instrument is going to sleep--or trying to put you to sleep.

Each of the past five years has revealed a stunningly beautiful album from the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre which gives me faith that the sub-genre has not been 'played out' that, in fact, fresh ideas and creative variations are being made to keep the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre alive and moving forward. In 2008 Hamburg's DATURAH gave us Reverie, in 2009 came APPLESEED CAST's Sagarmantha, in 2010 we had not one but three brilliant Post Rock/Math Rock releases: COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE's The Sirens Sound, MY EDUCATION's soundtrack tribute to F.W. Murnau's 1927 silent movie, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and GIFTS FROM ENOLA's Gifts from Enola, and last year, 2011, we had Australia's SLEEPMAKESWAVES' ...and so we destroyed everything. I am so thankful for these beautiful albums--and for the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre.

31. DATURAH Reverie (2008)

DATURAH Reverie is listed in some places as an EP even though it's five songs total 60 minutes of music. 60 minutes of awesome music. I'm coming to believe that the German Math/Post Rock scene is where the present and future of this genre has its greatest hopes/potential. The key element of electronic keyboard use--something every German Krautrocker is at home with--is, IMHO, the key to the "renaissance" of this beautiful, though admittedly, stagnating genre of progressive music. Sampling--used instrumentally on Reverie--may be another.

1. "Ghost Track" begins with spacey distortions and some samples from two or three speeches (from movies?) one a rant from Dennis Hopper's crazed Col. Kurtz historiographer from Apocaplypse Now, before crashing into some very typical Post Rock patterns and sounds. At the 6:00 minute mark we collapse into a very shoegaze-like sequence of dreaminess which then uses military snare playing till the 8:00 mark to climb back to the heights of volume and distortion. Too long and, ultimately, not interesting enough to engage the listener over its entire 12 ½ minutes. (6/10)

2. "Hybrisma" is, without a doubt, one of the best Math/Post Rock songs I've ever heard and, IMO, is one of the few recent songs that could point to new directions for the genre to develop and grow (something many people believe is impossible). Voice samples, heavily treated guitars--some foreground, some very far back in the mix, unusual drum patterns/playing (two drummers?) all help build a multi-layered, multi-textured song of deep emotional impact--one with one of the greatest, most emotional climaxes I've ever heard in instrumental music. (10/10) 

3. For its first six minutes, "9" is a pleasant, hypnotic song with spacey, heavily treated (à la ROBIN GUTHRIE) background guitars, pulsating bass (à la early ADAM CLAYTON) in the foreground, melodies becoming harmonies by the notes' slow, echoed decays. A rather time-less interlude occurs for the next two and a half minutes, during which the song's direction is highly unpredictable. But then, Wham! The song kicks back into drive and then overdrive as several layers of melodic structure weave together before deconstructing into a easy end. Awesome climax! (8/10)

4. "Deep B Flat" begins like a CURE "Fascination Street"-era song before quieting down to a structure more familiar of the Post Rock genre. 4:30 witnesses the shift into third gear before the 5:15 mark when the song's sound quite suddenly fades away, leaving the distant echoing of old notes decaying, new guitar arpeggios, and a long excerpt of speech sounding like some broadcast from the astronauts in the International Space Station. Drums and bass rejoin at 7:00. The earlier familiar Post Rock structure returns at 8:00. Nothing new or exciting really occurs until full speed is achieved at the 9:45 mark--continuing without rising any higher (though you want/expect it to do so so desperately) until it's time to cecrescendo for the last minute and a half. A song with so much unrealized potential! (6/10)

5. "Vertex" builds very slowly, very quietly, like a PINK FLOYD or PORCUPINE TREE song until the crash guitar chords comes at the 6:00 minute mark. After a minute it quiets down again before the 8:30 mark sees the assault of sound recommence and sustain until it shows signs of cracking at the 11:20 mark, fatiguing to the 12:10 mark when everything comes crashing down to fade. (7/10)

Overall a really good album, very listenable and enjoyable with many signs of innovative creativity and ideas yet to come. Keep on proggin'! 4 stars

32. SUNWRAE Autumn Never Fall 

33. COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE The Sirens Sound (2010)

COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE The Sirens Sound is a june 2010 "EP" release (approx. 34 minutes) from Hamburg, Germany duo Martin Grimm and Chris Burda. CUTE's contribution to the Math/Post Rock genre is significant, IMHO, because of the integral and, in this genre, unusual role of keyboards/synths and because both banc members are drummers/percussionists. Their songs are also quite amazing for their very engaging melodic and harmonic constructs. This EP is, again IMHO, their by far their best effort to date--and one of the most enjoyable and pleasurable Math/Post Rock albums I've ever heard. 

1. At just under ten minutes, "The Sirens Sound" begins the album with an electronic loop, quickly joined by a heavily treated piano (de-trebled) riff which soon yields to a slow moving synth. The treated piano riff and synth wash alternate with each other until the 3:00 minute mark when drums and guitars slow it down, heavy it out, and take over. The synth buzz eventually rejoins with new guitar arpeggios playing over the top of the rest of the music until the drums and heavy guitar chords suddenly drop out at the 4:30, only to rejoin at the 5:00 mark to build the song into one amazing wall of chaotic, mentally-disturbing sound. Awesome! Then they staccato stop and start the music several times before rejoining in the cacophony of beautiful sound. At 7:30 another hiccup reprieve before the whirling synth drone climbs to the top and makes you question your sanity. The last minute is a gradual dismantlement of the layers to fade. What a trip! (20/20)

2. "Grade Seperation" (sic) begins with organ and bouncy, pop sounding synths and drums before the guitars come crashing in at the 1:00 mark. Some rather SIGUR RÓS sounding interludes make up the quiet breaks between waves of thrashing guitars and cymbols. A bit too repetitive and predictable. (6/10)

3. "Violet Skies" follows some pretty standard-sounding rock guitar power chord progressions--almost punk-like at times--mete out a more familiar sound. Unfortunately, this familiarity is also the weakness of the song. (5/10)

4. "Beware/lost--Awesome uptempo song with very catchy layered synth melody lines and single string guitar strumming and cymbols leading the way. Vibrating/vibrato bass notes are also very engaging. (9/10)

5. "A Different Complexion," the longest song on the album, begins with cowbell and meaty bass before piano, sustained electric guitar notes, treated snare and other percussion noises join and carry the melody and intricate harmonic weave. Except for the cymbol work, it has a definite King Crimson feel to it, and is very hypnotic and pleasant. (9/10)

A band definitely worth checking out. All their back catalog--which only begins last year--is outstanding, including Systembreakdown (2009) and Find a Place to Be Safe (Jan 2010). The Sirens Sound is their best. A very emotional and engaging album. Were it longer and not without two weak songs I would rate this with five stars. 4(+) stars.

34. MIDAS FALL Wilderness 

Awesome female-led Post Rock with singer/songwriter/guitarist Elisabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn on lead guitar. Ms. Heaton definitely has in her possession one of the most powerful, beautiful, emotionally expressive voices I've heard in a long time. Her voice is so nimble and her singing style so unpredictable that I find myself often thinking that there must be a second voice--or second track--being sung. But it's not so! It's all her! Brilliant and refreshingly different song-writing throughout. Special shout-out to the drummer, Chris Holland:  Mark Heron rules!

Five star songs:  the haunting, heavy, heart-wrenching, triphoppy opener, 1. "The Unravelling King" (5:37) (10/10); the surprisingly layered, textured 4. "Our World Recedes" (5:21) (10/10); the power vocal and TORI AMOS sound of 9. "BPD" (4:27) (10/10); the sensitive, dreamy and careful finale, "Wilderness" (5:42) (10/10) 6. the short but packs a punch 6. "Fight First" (2:12) (9/10); 3. "Carnival Song" (5:04) (9/10); and, the deceptively delicate, Sarah MacLachlan-like; "The Moon and The Shine" (5:50) (9/10).

90.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music.

The best Math Rock/Post Rock album of 2013.

35. BLUENECK King Nine 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Duncan Attwood / vocals, guitar, piano
- Ben Paget / bass
- Rich Sadler / guitar 

1. Counting Out (5:43)
2. Sirens (6:21)
3. King Nine (5:21)
4. Man Of Lies (4:19)
5. Broken Fingers (5:44)
6. Father, Sister (4:00)
7. Spiderlegs (6:35)
8. Mutatis (9:01)
9. Anything Other Than Breathing (6:15)

Total Time 53:19

36. MONOBODY Monobody (2015)

Precisely performed jazzy Math Rock from some youth from Chicago. Gutsy, intelligent, complex and intricate yet delivered tight and with great melodic sense.

1. "Lifeguard of a Helpless Body" (4:15) with the same fast pace and upbeat nature of a TOE (Japan) jam, this sets the tone for the album with some fast-picking (and tapping) guitar work. Such a refreshing sound! (10/10)

2. "I Heard them on the Harbor" (5:56) takes its time in establishing patterns as it opens with several instruments taking turns appearing and disappearing. It is only into the third minute that a rhythm and structure is established and played over--but then is challenged and discarded in lieu of some spacey and then jazzy keyboard. The spacey, spacious soundscape reappears for a while until at 4:18 an entirely new and soft-beat rhythmicity is established and built around. And exquisitely so, I might add! Cool and unusual song. (9/10)

3. "Curry Courier Career" (8:11) opens sounding like an intricate, upbeat WES MONTGOMERY song. It then diverts into I kind of étude in sharp time changes and collective band discipline. Things shift and progress in this song so quickly and suddenly--totally unpredictably. There is, however, a pattern to the song structure here (as opposed to song #2). A song that displays some seriously talented and skilled musicians and some seriously well-rehearsed execution of some seriously well-thought out song composition. Definitely the most jazzy song on the album. (9/10)

4. "Exformation" (5:21) opens with some intricate and frenetic guitar tapping leading the band into a stop-and-go kind of rush hour traffic pace. The guitarists melody lines here are seriously (and continuously) fast! Even in the mid-song lull the keyboard and guitar lines are intricate and speedy. STANLEY JORDAN would be impressed! (9/10)

5. "Gilgamesh (R-Texas)" (6:18) lots of interplay between instruments off doing their own thing: staccato rhtymic hits from drums and rhythm instruments, polyrhythmic arpeggi from piano, guitars and synths. It is an amazing display of artistry, vision, discipline and restraint. There's even quite a liteel MUFFINS-like Canterbury play in the chord and melody structures of the third and fourth minutes (and the horns in the fifth minute). Everything drops off at the end of the fifth minute save for an electric piano chord sequence--over which the delicate play of other instruments is added to the end. Another outstanding gem of a song! (10/10)

6. "Country Doctor" (5:25) opens with a simple little piano arpeggio repeated over before countrified big band joins in. The pace is atypically slow for this band until the one minute mark when a wall of KAYO DOT-like electrified sound enters and swallows us. The music vacillates back and forth for a while between the MAUDLIN OF THE WELL like beauty of intricately woven soft-picked instruments and the occasional wake-up call of a blast of heavy metal dynamo then settles into a long section of soft but intricately woven multiple instruments. The final 35 seconds allows instruments final flourishes over a fast piano arpeggio. Beautiful song! My favorite on the album. (10/10)

Every once in a while an album comes out of nowhere to shock and surprise me--and this is one of those. I only wish I had heard it in the year it was released so that I could have had more say in helping to bring attention to it. This is an AMAZING album that is truly worth the while of any prog lover's time and attention. Check it out!

93.33 on the Fish scales = a veritable five star album; a true masterpiece of progressive rock music! But what is it? Post Rock/Math Rock like TOE or ALGERNON? Eclectic Jazz Rock à la FROGG CAFE or UNAKA PRONG? Canterbury jazz like MANNA/MIRAGE/THE MUFFINS? It's a mystery! They're chameleon's! I can't wait to watch their future unfold for the skies are not too high for these talented musicians!

37. STEREOLAB Emperor Tomato Ketchup 
38. OCEANSIZE Effloresce
39. MY EDUCATION Sunrise 
40. SIGUR RÓS Takk...
41. JARDIN DE LA CROIX Ocean Cosmonauts
42. AUTUMN CHORUS The Village to the Vale
44. STEREOLAB Margerine Eclipse
45. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
46. GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennae to the Sky,
47. LISERSTILLE The Collibro
48. HAMMOCK Chasing After Shadows... Living With the Ghosts
49. MONO You Are There
50. RED SPAROWES The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer
51. CASPIAN Tertia
52. LANDBERK One Man Tell's Another

Yet to be determined:
TORTOISE Millions Now Living Must Die 
MASERATI Inventions for the New Season 
THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND The Future Kings of England 
TRISTEZA Dream Signals in Full Circle
TRISTEZA En Nuestro Desafio
THE MERCURY PROGRAM A Data Learn the Language
MARCONI UNION A Lost Connection
MIDAS FALL The Menagerie Inside
STEREOLAB Margerine Eclipse
STEREOLAB Oscilions from the Anti-Sun 

Also Considered:
GIFTS FROM ENOLA Loyal Eyes Betrayed
FLOORIAN What the Buzzing
BOARDS OF CANADA Tomorrow's Harvest
IF THESE TREES COULD TALK Above the Earth, Below the Sky
TOE Hear You
65DAYS OF STATIC One For All Time
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

Neeed to be added: AESTHESYS Achromata, SONAR with DAVID TORN Vortex, THREE TRAPPED TIGERS Silent Earthling, BATTLES La di da di, TRICOT A N D FLY PAN AM C'est ça, MONOBODY Comma, CICADA ,  BATTLESTATIONS Inform, HAMMOCK Silencia