What is post-rock?
Of late years we hear more and more often about such style as post-rock. Step-by – step it is growing very fast, gaining new fans, penetrating into our life. That is why it is necessary to clarify what is it and what is the site postrockXchange.com devoted to.
What is post-rock?
In the first place post-rock is an absolute freedom in the music, the abandonment of obsolete structures of compositions, the conservative approach to the rock music, annoyed and hackneyed ideas. This style became a gulp of fresh air for all music, because at the beginning of 90s the non topic and death of rock music could be stated. But post-rock could prove that reincarnation was possible even in music. But in spite of this fact its freedom is rather limited. And moreover it is limited by musicians themselves. They have a vast action field and it seems that they can do whatever they want, mix techniques of different styles, create something new, but actually we have very standard groups with unvaried material. To notice it you should listen again and again a lot of material, not necessarily having it on in the background while you are reading about modern fashion, but really listening to it when you are not concentrating on anything else, because inexperienced listener may consider every group to be revelation with its unique style. Just a few of groups could use this freedom. A big amount of them, catching “its sound”, continued to use it in all their releases.
Idealizing, you may say that musicians do not have any hard stylistic frames, there is only a vector according to which the music must be developed. And the starting point of which is a standard rock-set of instruments – bass, percussive, guitar and singing. But this point is very fuzzy, the bulk of impact was stricken to singing –in most cases there is no any. It should be noticed that guitars, used to make tone for all post-rock composition, now do not do it, not attracting any attention. The sound peculiarities are often used, almost all music is based on processors, reboot effects and so on. The structure of composition is also fuzzy –there are no refrains, verses or monotony. The theme may be developed during all composition, reaching the culmination at the end, or reaching it several times or it maybe started from the most bright moment, and then tailed. The guitar and percussive part are constantly changed. Very often they can be cycled. Actually as I told it is impossible to introduce the scheme of post-rock track. Also there are a lot of experiments about different variations of instrument sets. The electronic devises are often met, usage of which gave birth to the most post-rock groups of the second wave. Together with standard instruments the big set of secondary is used, such as violins, piano, trumpets, saxophones. For many groups the usage of these instruments is some kind of peculiarity, from which the rest musical style makes a start.
Generally, very seldom style of post-rock bands coincides with the “clear” sound, which was presented by the groups from the first wave. Very quickly post-rock groups started to use ambient, idm, math-rock, prog-rock, metal and so on. And it lets them to make sound experiments, find something new in the joint of several styles. But actually very often we can see repeats, self-repeats and unoriginality. Nowadays the tendency of post-rock to penetrate into other styles can be seen. But about it later.
As in any music there are waves in post rock. We deal with two well-defined in sound but fuzzy chronically waves. They are even not waves but directions: post-rock and after post-rock. Of course , one more ”zero” wave can be distinguished, consisting of groups –pioneers, for example Bark Psychosis (actually about their album «Hex» in 1994 the magazine «The Wire» the term “post-rock” was firstly used), Talk Talk, Slint.
But these groups can be firstly considered more as pioneers then style representatives. They opened future musicians’ eyes to what can be done with ordinary music. Actually these experiments were done long time ago, for example Pink Floyd or Frank Zappa at their time.
The first wave
The group Tortoise was the pioneer of this wave, they are also the transition from the zero wave to the post-rock. They have rather strong ideas and features of post-rock. The fundamental basis is their album of the same name. It can be said that it is the Bible of the style. The second significant group is God speed You Black Emperor! (Godspeed You! Black Emperor later). They made the foundation for ambient post-rock. But like in any legend there should be the third “elephant” on which the Earth is held. And here we should thought it over carefully who it is. There are three candidates: Mogwai, Sigur Rós и Explosions in the Sky. It’s rather difficult to distinguish someone, because their dues to the post-rock development are great. Many groups of the second wave use their ideas. Also such groups as A Silver Mt. Zion (post-project noncomparable of Godspeed, which is absolutely inimitable experiment), Do Make Say Think, Oceansize. The first wave became the fundament for the next development of post-rock, at the same time it did not sink into oblivion. Many groups caught their ideas and began to use them without any changes.
The second wave
Any second wave of any style became a cause for many arguments, disappointments, grief, new finding and bright opening. Impulse, given by the foundation fathers was caught by thousands different young groups, who were looking for their own sound. Some of them, as it has been already told, got it in primordial view, others continued experiments, giving to the world of music very talented albums. At the same time many of them made the sound more simply, returned to indie-rock, alternative-rock and other styles. Many people began to feel enormous number of repetitions and similarity of material its typicality, lack of imaginativeness, new and fresh ideas. It became more difficult to find and pick up something really worth. In general, groups of the second wave were created after 2000-2002 but the biggest part of them - in 2005. Nowadays most of the groups have only one album or ЕР, or simply some demo-versions. Thanks to the Internet it became easier to share the music with listeners (it is exactly what our site does :)). Many groups do not release vinyls or CDs, but put it on the Internet. The site myspace.com became the main “house”, where musicians can give maximum information (but more often rather meager) about their group. There are hundreds of representatives of the second wave, for example , Burn Rome In A Dream, God Is An Astronaut, If These Trees Could Talk, M83, School Of Emotional Engineering , This Will Destroy You, Ulan Bator, Ultraviolet Makes Me Sick, Yndi Halda, Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson, Coala Pascal, I Am Above On The Left, Klever, Silence Kit, Verba and many others.
As it was told earlier we want to pay special attention to such phenomena as fusion with other styles. Such words as post-metal do not surprise anybody. This style can be characterized as post-rock with heavy guitar sounds, more slowly rhyme, gloomy atmosphere, growling or screaming vocal. Or on the other hand it is post-rock sludge, softer, more melodic, “clear”. Everything depends on the beginning of the group, on the sound changes. Very often groups who started to play in one style, using some post-rock techniques later changed the style/moved to this style. For example Neurosis playing post-metal unexpectedly released post-rock album «The Eye Of Every Storm», but in 3 years they came back to their basis. Or Shora, starting as chaotic hardcore group made their last album absolutely post –rock. The very strong influence can be observed in emo-music. It is difficult to judge either it is good or bad. It is better to do it within limits, but these groups often have problems with it.
Almost all post-rock music follows DIY conception, it means that groups do not have contacts with expensive labels, or producers and managers. They both record and distribute their albums by themselves . Sometimes more successful groups help others, sometimes they form conglomerates for co-operative release, but their music will never become accessible for commerce, because it will deprive them the spirit of freedom – the basic idea of the style.
Also we want to define one more important feature: post-rock is one of the most “subjective” style, that is everyone can see something in compositions special for him, and this opinion changes from person to person. The main thing is not to be obsessed with it and not to stay on one place, to experiment and maybe simple love this music, listen to it, to pass it trough your body, becoming for one moment the part of it.
Post-rock is a new world, world of many colors, and what picture will be painted in your head depends mostly on your perception then on music itself.