Post-Rocktoberfest 2011: US Post-Rock Vol. 1
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.