Posts Tagged ‘post-rock’

This Town Needs Guns – Animals (2008)

August 1, 2012

Guilty pleasure alert right here! But at the same time, Oxford rockers, This Town Needs Guns, are a great band that are sadly underrated and seemingly unknown outside of Europe. Think early Incubus meets Don Caballero meets Karate meets Minus The Bear. Despite the weak attempt at a concept album – every track on Animals is named after a different animal – this is a helluva debut, showcasing tons of technical ability and crazy time signatures. The songs are loaded with great melodies and the most emo vocals one can comfortably handle courtesy of rhythm guitarist, Stuart Smith. I have no doubt that many will be immediately turned off by their ‘sound’, but I have a soft spot for this sort of mathy-indie-emo-post rock shit. The sibling combination of Tim and Chris Collis on guitar and drums respectively is alone worth a listen. These guys are tight, their hooks are catchy, and the result is strangely addictive. Check it.

Tape – Revelationes (Hapna Records)

April 17, 2011

Swedish trio Tape have been making music since 2000, but it took them a decade to hit my radar with the release of their fifth long player, Revelationes. And indeed the album is a revelation — taking cues from post-rock, modern classical, electronica, folk, jazz and minimalism. The group is made up of brothers Andreas and Johan Berthling with Tomas Hallonsten, and although their music plays out as vaguely familiar, they have carved out a sound that is all their own.

There’s an emotional element to this album that grows in strength with each successive listen, and I find I get wistfully lost in each track. For example, I’ll be listening to “Companions” and enjoying the soft guitars and swirling synth, and think the next track cannot possibly be as enchanting . . . and then “Hotels” starts, and I’m quickly swept into that beautiful little sketch of sound, and think again that this must be the album’s perfect moment, but then “The Wild Palms” begins, and the whole process starts again.

Earlier reviews mention Tortoise and even Slint as markers of style, and what’s funny is, while those are two of my favourite and arguably most-listened to bands of the past fifteen years, while listening to Revelationes, those two groups don’t spring to mind. And while I won’t deny the reference points, Tape sound so much more part of the now — more akin to contemporaries like Helios, Emanuele Errante, Rameses III, Benoit Pioulard, and the quieter moments of Animal Hospital.

Revelationes is very song-based, each track can stand on its own, yet they all play out beautifully as a whole. The album is very economical, running at just over a half an hour, and I have found myself playing it several times in a row. So far in 2011, it is my most listened to album, and it is still offering up new sounds and emotions the more I put it on. This is definitely one to check out, and Tape is a band in need of a much larger fan base. Delightful.

POLVO at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

August 14, 2010

13 August 2010

Post rock legends, POLVO, played a tight set at Lee’s Palace on Friday night in Toronto, giving aging fanboys one last chance to get their rocks off to the twisted tunings and weirdo time signatures that made Polvo revered and adored in the mid-nineties. Polvo called it quits in 1998 after the release of their sixth album Shapes, but returned last year with the excellent In Prism, and luckily Toronto was one of the stops on their brief summer tour with Versus.

On paper this line-up is my high school wet dream: Polvo and Versus playing together! It seemed too good to be true . . . and in the end, it was. Versus’ drummer, Ed Baluyut, was a no-show because his wife had a baby, so the drummer for opening band Soft Copy filled in. Under the circumstances, he did a great job, but was obviously hesitant. They managed to play hits “Blade of Grass”, “River” and “Be-9” from The Stars are Insane, which ended up sounding pretty good, but overall it just wasn’t how I imagined it.

Polvo hit the stage next and were amazingly tight. Ridiculously tight. Hard to explain how good they were. They opened with an extended version of “Fast Canoe” that varied from the original but sounded fantastic. They debuted a new song, and played “The Pedlar”, “Right the Relation” and “Beggars Bowl” off of In Prism, “Thermal Treasure”, “Lazy Comet”, and “My Kimono” from Today’s Active Lifestyles, “Bombs that Fall from your Eyes” from This Eclipse, “Feather of Forgiveness” from Exploded Drawing, “Enemy Insects” from Shapes and other hits. In short, it was a great show. You really couldn’t complain.

But overall it made me feel strange. As if I shouldn’t be allowed to see Polvo again after all these years. They are a memory and should stay that way. All these reunion shows over the last few years have us churning up nostalgia in massive quantities, watching older versions of the heroes of our youth trying to relive the days of their youth — and even though it’s wonderful to be able to see your favourite band again, it’s just never quite the same.

Ian Cohen’s review on Pitchfork of The Suburbs by Arcade Fire says that the main focus of their new album is on the “quiet desperation borne of compounding the pain of wasting your time as an adult by romanticizing the wasted time of your youth.” There is something very profound in this quote that resonates with me, and my experience of seeing a decade older Polvo blast out the hits made me think of this. You see, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, a goddamn sap, I love to stir up old feelings that I can’t quite comprehend anymore, love to secretly get weepy over times gone by — but now as I’m figuring out how to step confidently into my early thirties, I feel it’s time to leave this old stuff behind, it’s time only for constant steps forward and further and onward.

Sure, it’s nice to go back every now and again, but that was it for me. The clincher. Seeing Polvo and Versus was the culmination of the very end of my youth. There. It is done. I am a motherfucking adult. Finally.

Thank you Polvo and Versus for helping me affirm this once and for all.

Polvo – In Prism (Merge Records)

August 23, 2009

polvo-in-prism

Chapel Hill, NC quartet Polvo will release “In Prism” on September 8th with Merge Records — their first album of new material since 1997’s “Shapes”. 12 years! This makes me feel kinda old, but still, I am thrilled to see the group back together and making new music. Polvo were perhaps the most influential band for me during my own music making days, with their crooked tunings, fucked-up time signatures, and surreal energy. They along with a few other ‘post-rock’ bands (i.e. Slint, Tortoise, June of 44) helped define and sway the way I wrote songs until I fully embraced electronic music in the early 2000’s.

Now a dozen years have flipped by in a daydream, and Polvo have returned with “In Prism”. Recorded as always by Brian Paulson, the new material is exactly what you would expect from them. It’s dark, moody, catchy, and off-kilter. It may be a bit more straight-forward than their earlier work, the production may be a touch cleaner, and the overall tempo slightly slower (think “Fast Canoe”, instead of “Tragic Carpet Ride”), but this is a mature, wiser Polvo, and they do not disappoint. And even though Paulson’s production is cleaner, it’s still his most dynamic recording to date with the band.

The riff of opening track “Right the Relation” sounds like a crunchier “Thermal Treasure” and is a good example of the ‘more straight-forwardness’ I mentioned above, while other tracks like “City Birds” and “Dream Residue/Work” play as if mined from old recording sessions — like secret B-sides from “Exploded Drawing” and “Shapes”. Long time fans will never be able to call this their best album, but hell if it ain’t an amazingly welcome addition to their discography.

A near seamless return. Great work boys. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the few U.S. cities they are touring this fall, go and see them rip it up old-skoool. Peace.

Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship

May 21, 2009

thrill210_trts_lp2

Thrill Jockey stalwarts Tortoise will release their sixth full-length album on 22 June 2009. It’s been 5 years since “It’s All Around You” was released, so expectations are high and the band does not disappoint. Sounding like the proper follow up to 2001’s “Standards”, “Beacons” is truly a prog album. It is dirty and crisp, simultaneously sounding like it was recorded underwater and in an air-tight studio. And as always, their sound is undefinable – dub, post-rock, lo-fi, electronica, dance, spaghetti western, jazz, classic rock, punk, it’s all there – kinda sounds like the album Trans Am wanted to make after “Future World”.

Tortoise and I have a long, torrid history together. I have been with them since the beginning. Have seen them play live 6 or 7 times. I saw them at The Magic Stick in Detroit for their “Millions Now Living” tour way back when, where they showed up on stage silent with little headlamps and played “Djed” in its entirety. Jeff Parker wasn’t even with them yet. Last I saw them was just a few months back at The Mod Club in Toronto, where they had the drums set up in front of the stage and they reminded me why I loved them in the first place. They are professional musicians that love what they do, and it’s completely evident on stage, when they’re all grooving and smiling, and rocking out a fabulously tight set. 

Johnny Mac still proves to be one on the best sound engineers working in the business today, and I feel this album has much more resonance than “It’s All Around You”, it sounds more urgent and dynamic. Whereas with “It’s All Around You” the band seemed to be rehashing and falling back on familiar patterns and styles, “Beacons” sounds fresh, it sounds new, but still very much like the Tortoise you know and love.  

The title of the album is fitting too. Tortoise helped create and develop the indie rock/indietronic scene we all shoegaze, get baked, and rock out to. Their musical influence really knows no bounds. Buy this album as soon as it hits the stores and if you’ve never seen them play live go see their show. Like Boomkat would say: Very highly recommended.