The term Post-Rock, much like the genre Intelligent Dance Music, has often been dismissed as an unfashionable or restrictive title by the bands falling under its umbrella, however it has produced a wide range of diverse music, influenced by a whole host of styles…
First coined in 1994 in a review of Bark Psychosis’ album Hex, the term Post-Rock has now been used to describe a massive range of music. With influence from bands as diverse as The Velvet Underground and cult group Slint, each band developed their own style. In brief, the genre term is often used to describe epic instrumental music created with electric guitar/bass/drums, but often including other instruments.
The first band on the list, Do Make Say Think, released their self titled debut in 1998, after initially forming three years previous to that. The band have a distinctive and unique sound, characterised by jazz style drumming, unique instruments and building rhythm. Their early sound had an exciting and new feel to it, that has waned slightly through their latter releases. They did gain some well-earned media coverage, however, with their 2007 release You, You’re A History In Rust.
They set the tone for many Post-Rock bands, by having many musicians perform (the current number stands at 8 band members). During live shows they are known to swap instruments and improvise, giving them an exciting free-form sense without falling into any ruts.
Often cited as the pinnacle of the genre, this double-LP laid down many standard features that would be repeated countless times. The two differences between Lift Your Skinny Fists’ and everything else? This one did it first, and did it best! Combining ethereal string-section instruments with sampled speech, it created a big atmosphere. The release showcased the tried and tested loud/quiet/loud format developed in the 80’s and 90’s by bands such as The Pixies and Nirvana and stretched it out to a more cinematic scale. Building layers, melodies tripping over other sections, growing to the most immense music.
It was both the genre’s success story and its downfall, all in one. With such a great format, structure and style, it took a thematic genre and applied definitive rules. Just as the genre was growing in size, with the most diverse influences imaginable, it became condensed down to a single sound. Even the bands’ penchant for unusual and long-winded song/album titles has remained a genre-staple since.
Having formed in 2002, at the hight of the Post-Rock wave, The Evpatoria Report struggled to impact a saturated market. Their 2005 debut Golevka showed a maturity and signs of complexities not found in cheap, derivative alternative bands’ output. They did show big influence from Godspeed, but carried it off with their own confidence and scale. The album is a great start for those more familiar with classical music, as the music progresses through the LP like a series of movements, instead of isolated songs. Designed to be experienced in its entirety, Golevka is an accessible and moving musical voyage of discovery. They went on to support Post-Rock giants Mono and genre stalwarts Red Sparowes, as well as releasing the album Maar in 2008, before disbanding. Fans will be pleased to hear that in April of 2015 they returned to the studio to start work on a comeback release. Stay tuned folks.
Unlike Godspeed You! Black Emperor taking their elegant string stylings from Talk Talk, Mogwai focused more on the building resonance and wall-of-sound created by Slint and shoegazer bands such as My Bloody Valentine. Released in 2006, Mr. Beast drew the most favourable critics’ reviews since 1997 debut Mogwai Young Team. Much of the album progresses like The Doors’ track The End, spinning out a fury of apocalyptic cacophony based (often) around single resonating chords, building to a climactic finish. This was made more beautiful by the subtle moments: Mogwai, rejecting the Post-Rock genre title, were prepared to use techniques differing to many of their contemporaries – including the use of vocals. This refreshing use of both samples and sung lyrics created a layered and melodic progression. Glasgow Mega-Snake stands out as a personal highlight, showcasing the pure brilliance and devastating power traditional rock instruments could produce.
The original Post-Rock ethic of self-released cassettes, alternating band members and side projects still holds strong among many bands. One “band tree” that shows this well revolves around Emil Amos. The drummer/multi-instrumentalist has played in many projects from Holy Sons, his solo project, to Grails and OM. Grails’ Zak Riles has also played in the Post-Rock supergroup Watter (featuring members of Slint and Rachel’s among others). OM, incidentally, feature members of the genre-innovators Sleep. Essentially, the trail of bands continues as far as your interest in the subject can stretch.
Grails’ 2011 release Deep Politics contains, in my humble opinion, Amos’ strongest work. The band have taken their eastern-influenced sound, heavy groove laden bass and grand scale and perfected it. They have taken many influences, combined them with great effect, and produced one of the genres’ greatest albums. You are just as likely to hear Pink Floyd or Zappa incarnated here as you are Hans Zimmer or Burial.
The evolution of Post-Rock in the two-thousand-and-teens has evolved almost as a dichotomy. The influence of heavy, drone-led music has appealed to many bands formerly classified as pure Post-Rock. Many of these have turned to a darker, more heavy sound – such as Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Russian Circles. This has led to the tongue in cheek genre name “Proto-Post-Drone”. Other bands, such as Mono and EF have tended more towards the ethereal.
Other more traditionally structured bands, such as Swans and Jesu, have embraced the epic sound Post-Rock can convey. Also, relative commercial success from bands such as Deafheaven, and the breakthrough of new and exciting bands such as Fen and Dragged Into Sunlight have proven the influence of Post-Rock has stretched far beyond the initial limitations the genre created.