Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Whaddya mean, Post-Rock?

Here I was going to write a whole explanation on what all I mean when I call many of these bands "post-rock." But this Wikipedia article does a really good job. (Post-rock fans are the type to make sure the Post-rock Wiki entry is up-to-snuff.) I would just disagree that it’s “non-rock” music - it’s just as much rock as Krautrock and prog-rock.

But basically, we're talking about rock band line-ups playing rock-type songs that put the emphasis on aspects that most real rock bands don't focus on. Dynamics instead of "changes," songs drawn out in arcs rather than verses and choruses, tones and moods over riffs and vocals. Not to be confused with the similarly-rooted, and somewhat overlapping, genre math-rock.

Louisville's Slint was a major nexus for both. For post-rock, they staked out new spaces for the guitars and rhythms to explore. For math-rock, they built algorithmic song structures, and made the instruments wheel geometrically around a common center of gravity. Spiderland (1991) is one of the pinnacles of '90s independent rock, far beyond its seminal role in genre-spawning.

Two intermediary bands are worth mentioning here. Don Caballero (more math-y, still with riffs but instrumental) started off with For Respect (1993). Rodan were also from Louisville, taking it from math to post-math. Here's my own personal How the Winter Was Passed 7" (1993), a rarity! Both of these were way too early to be either/or, so they're kind of like transitional fossils in the evolution of whatever we're talking about.

[Pt. 2 here]

True post-rock starts taking form around the time of Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996). It's got the instrumentals, it's got the atmosphere, it's got the 20-minute opening track, and the elaborate full-sentence title. It's got the look and feel of hand-tooled avant rock. And it got enough critical acclaim to launch a whole sub-genre.

Scotland's Mogwai took it international with Young Team (1997). Slow and serious, built like a classical symphony... They also would need two/part YouTube videos due to song lengths.

The major Montreal scene (and acronymic names) began with Godspeed You! Black Emperor (aka GY!BE). Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000) brought in cinematic dynamism, slow-build-to-apocalypse crescendos, and all epic songs. And a formula is born!

Explosions in the Sky (or EITS) are from Austin, and nice folk by all accounts. They take their post-rock a bit heavier, metaller, more explosive! Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001) continues in the proud tradition of interminable album titles. Its airplane cover and textual art got the rumors going about something about 9/11. Nonsense...

You can read more about Japans's Mono and their melancholy film-score classicisms, with extra noise outbursts, here. The Athens, GA youngsters in Maserati speed it up, motorik-style. As their (single-word!) bandname would imply.

Finally, Austin's The Calm Blue Sea is very Mono-esque, which is to say Very Godspeed-ish... They have several videos found here, and have just recently scored a silent film.

And that brings us up to now, with Mono and Maserati finishing their tour together in Austin next weekend. I can only assume The Calm Blue Sea will be in attendance.

Just for good measure, there’s also post-metal, descended from Neurosis mostly. But that’s an altogether different story...

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