Archive for October, 2011
It’s funny that Neil Kulkarni‘s A New Nineties series of articles has coincided with Post-Rocktoberfest 2011, even though (or maybe particularly because) he altogether disavows the term “post-rock”. Still, with excellent features on Main, Disco Inferno and Insides, it’s hard to deny that UK post-rock – or whatever you want to call it – is the central focus of this series. Essential reading over at The Quietus.
Also coinciding with Post-Rocktoberfest, a neat little blog post on Papa Sprain’s Flying to Vegas EP.
Meanwhile, here are some quick links for those of you who (shame on you) haven’t been keeping up with Post-Rocktoberfest this year:
- Three mix CDs: UK Post-Rock Vol. 7, UK Post-Rock Vol. 8 and US Post-Rock Vol. 1
- Flying Saucer Attack: An Appreciation
- Kelvox1 – Grazed Red (a really great contemporary UK post-rock album)
- Disco Inferno – The Five EPs (song by song)
And that’s about it for this year! Can’t wait for Post-Rocktoberfest 2012.
Post-Rocktoberfest: The most magical time of year.
Those of you who remember previous posts on the subject of early American post-rock will recognize some of these tracks. Those of you labouring under the misapprehension that US post-rock is total crap are in for a pleasant surprise.
This stuff has a reputation for being a rather sterile mix of instrumental indie rock and light jazz fusion. This compilation aims to show that the earliest and best American post-rock was a natural extension of UK post-rock’s futuristic eclecticism.
It’s also worth noting that the Wire magazine article in which Simon Reynolds first identified a specifically American strain of post-rock concentrated heavily on an emerging strand of space rock, in which analogue synths and effects pedals were far more prominent than vibraphones and six-string bass guitars. Having said that, the first track on this compilation features both a vibraphone and – almost certainly – a six-string bass.
Click here to download US Post-Rock Vol. 1 or click the links in the track-list below to preview the individual tracks. And don’t forget to support the artists whenever the opportunity arises!
1. Tortoise – “Glass Museum”
In a very specific sense, Tortoise are a bit like My Bloody Valentine. Each band spawned a legion of imitators, who only bothered to superficially imitate the surface details of the music, failing to touch the thick, rich layer of true strangeness that lay beneath.
2. Trans Am – “Firepoker”
Quite possibly the first band to build a sound on a basis of tongue-in-cheek 80s popular culture references. But there’s no hypnagogic fug here, only invigorating percussive clarity.
3. Salaryman – “Voids + Superclusters”
The experimental alter ego of punk-pop band Poster Children. In terms of their influences and procedures, Salaryman were very much grooving along the same lines as many of the British post-rock bands. Being American, though, their material was purely instrumental.
4. Bowery Electric – “Fear of Flying”
Not that all US post-rock bands lacked in the vocals department. Here we have hip-hop beats, dub bass and shoegaze guitars, all topped off with cooing female vox. Now that‘s the 90s!
5. UI – “Sexy Photograph”
Even some of the primarily instrumental USPR bands would break out the vocals occasionally. Presumably that’s future New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones doing the hollering on this cut.
6. The For Carnation – “A Tribute to”
It has been said that Slint’s Spiderland was the key precursor to instrumental US post-rock and third-generation emo post-rock. Many of the folks who have said this genuinely seem never to have noticed that Brian McMahan’s mumbled vocals are one of the key elements of that album’s vividly dreamlike atmosphere. This track from McMahan’s post-Slint project is rather closer to UK post-rock than it is to any of the garbage Spiderland supposedly inspired. It’s downright funky!
7. Cul De Sac – “Doldrums”
Nine minutes of what sounds like a cassette recording of a Neu! rehearsal. In a good way!
8. Gastr Del Sol – “Rebecca Sylvester”
It almost seems unfair to lump the duo of Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs in with post-rock. Somehow they were more interested in stepping outside rock than they were in moving beyond it. Still, they were very definitely tied into the Louisville/Chicago milieu that spawned Slint and Tortoise, so…
9. Labradford – “El Lago”
This is where we get into outer space. Labradford’s music was like a gorgeous elegy for the glory day’s of the US space programme. As vividly dreamlike as anything on Spiderland, without actually sounding much like Slint.
10. Fuxa – “Photon”
Wooshing analogue synths and chiming guitars. It must be space-rock!
11. Windy & Carl – “Lighthouse”
Space-rock drifting into shoegaze territory. Flying Saucer Attack fans will dig this one.
12. Stars of the Lid – “The Evil That Never Arrived”
Beautiful processed guitars business. These chaps were way ahead of their time in a lot of ways.
13. Rome – “Intermodal”
As with the Stars of the Lid track, this stands as proof that American post-rock bands were just as capable of dissolving into full-on abstraction as their British cousins. This is almost like a lo-fi take on Main.
Ultra-obscure bands! Little-known side projects! If volume seven was solid and familiar, this one is ragged and delightfully confounding. Click here to download UK Post-Rock Vol. 8 or click on the links in the track-list below to preview the individual songs. Like something you hear? Go buy the artist’s actual albums – preferably on vinyl!
1. ROC – “Cheryl”
Not really post-rock per se but ROC were highly illustrative of an experimental pop style that was very much contemporary with the original UKPR scene. This style has been fairly well represented in the UK Post-Rock compilation series, with tracks by the likes of Adventures in Stereo, Locust, Screeper and – of course – Experimental Pop Band.
2. Mark van Hoen – “Photophone Call”
Talking of Locust, here’s a track from a recent solo album by that band’s leader (and Seefeel founder) Mark Van Hoen. Where is the Truth was perhaps the tragically overlooked LP of 2010.
3. Matt Elliott – “The Mess We Made”
Also tragically overlooked, Third Eye Foundation mainstay Matt Elliott’s first solo album The Mess We Made is an absolute gem. Here’s the title track.
4. Foehn – “We Tear at Each Other’s Hearts”
Foehn was Debbie Parsons, who contributed heavily to The Third Eye Foundations scarifying Ghost album. Foehn’s work is less nerve-wracking but equally spooky.
5. Crescent – “Drift”
Like Matt Elliott and Foehn, Crescent were central to the Bristol post-rock/space rock scene. Band’s from that scene tended to be pretty downcast but Crescent took the biscuit. Exquisite miserablism!
6. Papa Sprain & Butterfly Child – “Lalena”
Wasn’t Butterfly Child’s high-watermark Ghetto Speak EP basically a Papa Sprain/BC collaboration? In any case, here they are together with a track created for a Donovan tribute CD put out by Vancouver’s Nettwerk Records (which also featured a collab between Brix Smith and her then beau Nigel Kennedy!) One rather suspects said CD could be found in just about any dollar bin around the Metro Vancouver area.
7. In Heaven – “Aquanova”
A slight dip in audio quality here caused by the fact that this band seem never to have made it to vinyl or CD. This is the title track from a cassette release. Very much in the post-A.R. Kane style of the artists discussed immediately above.
8. Bracken – “Evil Teeth”
Chris Adams from Hood with a magnificent mix of free jazz chaos and digital electronica… well.. chaos! Did this really come out on genre-defining “post-rap” label Anticon? And – if so – what does that say?
9. The Declining Winter – “Summer Turns to Hurt”
Another Hood spin-off, this time led by Chris’s brother Richard Adams. Also featuring this here blog’s good buddy Paul Elam aka Fieldhead.
10. Shiva Affect – “Cloud My Way”
Almost as obscure as In Heaven, these fellows at least managed to put out a CD (Yahweh), from which this song is taken. Think Bark Psychosis in space.
11. Navigator – “Dorothy Carter”
We’re getting into the UK-bands-inspired-by-US-post-rock zone here, which can be troublesome ground. This is a great tune, though.
12. State River Widening – “Amsterdam Green”
Likewise but even more so in every sense.
13. Ganger – “Cats, Dogs & Babies’ Jaws”
Surprising there weren’t more post-rock bands from Scotland. Of course, there’s that band. You know the one!
14. .O.Rang – “Little Sister”
Brilliant and ground-breaking as they were Talk Talk’s growing reputation as the great precursor to post-rock is somewhat overstated. This here blog would argue that Public Image Ltd., 23 Skidoo and Dif Juz were more indicative of what made early UK post-rock truly great and important. In any case, Talk Talk were, of course fantastic and it should be remembered that Lee Harris and Paul Webb went on to be .O.Rang, producing a sound that recalled the ethnological forgeries of Can (another great UKPR precursor).
What, you might be forgiven for asking, did Flying Saucer Attack have to do with post-rock? After all, post-rock in the original sense tended to be rather rhythmically solid and occasionally somewhat glossy; with all sorts of influences from electronic dance music and hip-hop. Post-rock in the contemporary sense tends to be epic and demonstratively emotional; full of big crescendos and widescreen angst. Flying Saucer Attack, on the other hand, were always decidedly shy and retiring; existing in an introverted, funk-less, lo-tech fug of fuzz and mumble; My Bloody Valentine with all the lustiness and digital tricknology bled out.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of association. FSA will always be associated with the Bristol post-rock scene of the 90s, alongside the likes of Movietone, Crescent and Light. This brought them into contact with more typically UK post-rock-sounding acts like AMP and The Third Eye Foundation. And in fact, as FSA went on, they did start to take on board the technologically-enhanced rhythmic innovations of early post-rock per se. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?
First of all, it seems ridiculous to talk of Flying Saucer Attack as “they” when the whole thing was essentially the bedroom recording project of a pale-and-interesting record collector by the name of David Pearce. True, he had some helping hands – notably Rachel Brook of Movietone – but Flying Saucer Attack was clearly the realisation of Pearce’s very singular vision.
(The lo-fi, bedroom recording aspect is a large part of what sets Flying Saucer Attack apart from much early-to-mid-90s post-rock. One FSA’s slogans was “Home Taping is Reinventing Music”. In fact, though, there was quite a bit of crossover between the British version of lo-fi and UK post-rock – hear the early Hood material for evidence.)
Second, portraying Pearce as an intense and insular type only tells one side of the story. Did you read that bit in parentheses about FSA having slogans? When a musician starts using slogans, it tends to suggest s/he has some kind of overarching ambition; a slightly arrogant desire to impose a very specific worldview on the record-buying public; a special plan for this world. In fact, Pierce’s diffidence clearly masked an impish, mischievous personality as well as some satirical and deeply ideological intent. (In this regard, he had a lot in common with Ian Masters of Pale Saints/Spoonfed Hybrid infamy). All this is to say that Pearce in no way lacked post-rock’s artistic ambition or desire to disrupt and move ahead.
Pearce’s wiseacre sense of humour came through early on, when Flying Saucer Attack covered Suede’s “The Drowners” on their self-titled debut album. Listen closely and consider deeply and this incredibly sloppy, fuzzed-out take on a quintessential early Britpop anthem will tell you everything you need to know about FSA. Flying Saucer Attack also hinted at the more rhythmic nature of the band’s later work, via some pretty freaky percussive jams. Furthermore, it was a crystal clear statement of intent in terms of establishing Pearce’s credentials as an ahead-of-the-game rock scholar. Not one but two of the songs were named after kosmiche music/new age legends Popol Vuh – which was a pretty obscure reference for a British indie band to make at that time. (Pearce was also way ahead of the pack in embracing UK folk – he memorably described his music as “rural psychedelia” and FSA covered “Sally Free and Easy”.) If all that were not enough, the album featured what may be FSA’s best song, “My Dreaming Hill”.
So, Flying Saucer Attack encompasses pretty much anything you might want from Flying Saucer Attack. But to hear the band’s most coherent statement, you’re advised to grab Further. The “Outdoor Miner” CD single is also worth hunting down as it features a beautifully fragile rendering of the classic Wire tune, as well as another stone-cold FSA classic, “Everywhere Was Everything”. For some insight into FSA’s more rhythmically-focused later work the Chorus compilation (featuring the glorious “Feedback Song”) and New Lands album are both well worth hearing. Listen to the lot and you should get a fairly decent idea of what a richly rewarding and hard-to-pin-down phenomenon Flying Saucer Attack really was.
Anyone know what Pearce is up to these days?
This year’s Post-Rocktoberfest festivities will include three new mix CDs! UK Post-Rock Vol. 7, presented here, consists mostly of tracks by acts that have appeared on previous UK Post-Rock compilations. UK Post-Rock Vol. 8 will consist mostly of tracks by acts that have not appeared on previous volumes. US Post-Rock Vol. 1… well, you can work that one out for yourself.
On all of these compilations, some minor post-production has been carried out, in order to provide as close to a seamless listening experience as possible. In some cases, this might mean the tracks have been topped and tailed a bit but it’s all in the interests of a pleasurable overall listening experience. If you want to hear the songs as the artists intended, go buy the original albums. Actually, you should go buy all the original albums anyway because they’re all great!
Of course, finding legit copies of the original albums won’t always be that easy. This is only partly because a lot of UKPR classics are no longer in print. It’s also because this compilation collects some pretty rare tracks from compilations, Peel sessions etc.
Click here to download UK Post-Rock Vol. 7 or click on the links in the track-list below to hear the individual songs.
1. Papa Sprain – “I Got Stop”
Included because it’s their best song and it had somehow failed to appear on any of the previous volumes.
2. Butterfly Child – “We, the Inspired”
A rarity taken from one of those Volume compilations. Remember them?
3. Pram – “Dancing on a Star”
Birmingham post-rock! A surprising amount of post-rock came out of Birmingham.
4. Broadcast – “Pendulum”
Another case in point. Sad that so many of us only recently came to appreciate Broadcast, given the tragic death of Trish Keenan. They had so much more to teach us!
5. Laika – “If You Miss (Laika Virgin Mix)”
A remix of a track from Laika’s debut album (Silver Apples of the Moon). This was created for Kevin Martin’s Macro Dub Infection Vol. 1 compilation, which was released on Virgin Records – hence the punning title.
6. Moonshake – “Coming (Peel Session Version)”
A radio session take on a track from Moonshake’s debut EP, back when they were a borderline shoegaze act. On the officially-released version, Dave Callahan’s vocal borders on the ethereal (someone in the office even misremembered that Margaret Fiedler – later of Laika – sang this one). On the version presented here, Callahan really lets rip – as does the rest of the band, for that matter!
7. Insides – “Further Distractions”
A remix of a track from the classic Euphoria album. This is taken from a rare promo 12″.
8. Bark Psychosis – “Manman”
Like the Papa Sprain track, this is a stone-cold classic that really should have featured on an earlier compilation in this series.
9. Disco Inferno – “Lost in Fog”
From the It’s a Kids World EP. DI at their most intense and chaotic.
10. Flying Saucer Attack – “My Dreaming Hill”
Their finest moment?
11. Fridge – “Lost Time”
Weird that these folks have had so much more success in their solo careers than as a group. Here they are at their lovely, melodic best.
12. Seefeel – “When Face Was Face”
Turns out that Succour is a really great album. Actually, just about everything by Seefeel is pure gold.
13. Main – “Blown”
Traces of Main’s origins in the much-loved hypno-rock act Loop are evident on this track from the early EP Dry Stone Feed.
14. The Hair & Skin Trading Company – “Highbury”
Traces of The Hair & Skin Trading Company’s origin in the much-loved hypno-rock act Loop are not at all evident on this track from their final EP Crouch End.
Cambridge seems to be quite the unlikely hive of outsider musical activity right now, what with the hauntological techno of Nochexxx and his gang. Elsewhere on the Cambridge fringe, we have Kelvox1 – absolutely the finest new British post-rock band this here blog has heard in quite a few years. The band’s new album, Grazed Red, is currently available as a free (FREE!) download and it’s an absolute gem.
Grazed Red clocks in around the 35-minute mark but it features just two epic-length songs. And they really are songs – played by a band! In a room! This sense of organically expanded song-form immediately brings to mind Bark Psychosis’s classic “Scum” single. Kelvox1 certainly have the slow-burning moodiness to justify that comparison but nothing here is quite as dank and nocturnal as “Scum”. That is to say, the arrangements are colourful and vivid, in a fashion that recalls the electronically-enhanced-chaos-in-a-jam-room ambiance of Disco Inferno’s DI Go Pop. The sullen vocals certainly add to this.
Obviously, these comparisons put Kelvox1 very much in the UK post-rock continuum. However, where other bands with the same influences (Epic45 and Hood spring to mind) don’t really add much to the mix, Kelvox1 clearly have their own thing going on. Grazed Red is a genuinely ambitious and singular piece of work – certainly not perfect but all the better for its ragged edges.
A physical release is tentatively planned. It would be an absolute treat to own this thoroughly laudable album on vinyl. Fingers crossed!
(Note: Sorry for repeatedly misspelling the band’s name in the original version of this post. That’s what happens when you operate your blog according to a strict One Draft, No Proofreading policy.
Also, apparently you can’t download the album any more because the plan for a physical release has become a whole lot less tentative. You can still stream it, though – and you should!)