Thursday, August 10, 2017
Well, how bizarre is that - now there's not just one but two really good books about post-rock.
The first came out a year or two ago: Jack Chuter's Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-Rock, which I discussed here.
And now there's Fearless: The Making of Post-Rock, on Jawbone Press.
They are both strong in different ways. Chuter's is a bit more vivid when it comes to sonic evocation; Leech is more encompassing (it covers a LOT of precursor type stuff - late Eighties bliss-rock and dream pop etc) and has a sharper polemical edge to it.
Indeed, Leech is much more dismissive than Chuter of the later stages of post-rock, i.e. the stuff that 97 % of current fans + practitioners reckon post-rock is all about (whereas we early-adopter types / Lost Generation fanboys + girls are of the opinion that the Point has verily been badly missed).
Leech has quite the cutting term for all this point-missing activity: post-rock-rock. That extra "rock" and the implied sense of reversion conveys the way that an open field of possibility in which genre barriers were dissolving every-which-way has gradually turned into a fairly fixed genre of instrumental rock that - for my taste - tends to be overly dramatic and epic. Certainly it's not at all what I had in mind back when it was all about Seefeel Insides Disco Inferno Main....
For a sample taste of Fearless, check out this extract at the Quietus, prefaced by an essay written by Leech in parallel with her book that examines "how post-rock stopped dancing." Well, I don't know if there was ever that much post-rock that made you dance, but certainly there was a time when post-rockers were nearly all of them listening to and learning from dance music...
For a current and lonely example of "true path" post-rock, check out Rage Coma, the new album by Sam Macklin, a/k/a connect_icut
Although its means-of-construction is much closer to post-rock by my definition than Explosions in the Sky and all those other post-rock-rock bands with big-guitar sounds, this new record of Sam's has an attack and a scale - a gnarly rawness too - that is markedly different from his earlier more glitchy and subdued excursions. I'd almost say it "rocks" - but only in the same way that No U Turn records rocked.
It's no secret that having minted the theory (if not coined the word itself) I soon cooled on post-rock in practice, as the music itself seemed to cool down and becalm itself into nu-fusion / soundtrack-looking-for-a-movie-ism.
Covertly I even started to sympathise with the aversion and affront felt by those among my professional peers who felt - and occasionally caustically argued - that all this talk about being "post" was to piss on the sacred memory of the Stooges or the Stones....
Because, when push came to shove, I'd usually be more up for hearing a piece of pre-post-rock like this
(courtesy of YouTubers Worldhaspostrock !!)
In some of my writings on the subject I explicitly talk about the removal of the rebel-teenager-with-raised-middle-finger as the putative stage center protagonist of the music... replaced by a diffuse un-body, an ego-less and attitude-less spirit of adventure that didn't require the focal figure of the vocalist acting out as proxy for the audience.
Post-rock, at its best, offered a kind of nerd version of a musical heroics - a way to be, yes, fearless - crossing boundaries of the mind.... breaking the laws of genre.
Heroism without ego-drama.... grandeur without self-aggrandisement. Paraphrasing Stubbs on Krautrock, the artists submit themselves as a speck on a landscape of their own creation - an exploding skyscape.
But ultimately as the Nineties rolled towards its close, it all got a bit too mild... pulled along with the general tide in the culture towards a new kind of self-repression... the neurotically implosive detail-work of what Woebot called audio-trickle.
It learned the production technicalities of rave and hip hop - and put them to clever, complicated use - but it rarely picked up on the core energies in those musics: what - in this sister post - I characterise as the impulse to brock out...
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Hauntology Parish Newsletter - summer 2017 : Genteel Decay; The Focus Group; A Year in the Country; Ekoplekz
Genteel Decay is an alter-ego of Moon Wiring Club's Ian Hodgson. Some while ago Ian was propositioned by the gentleman behind cassette-label Illuminated Paths with a view to him crafting a side release for pseudonymous emission. As it happens, Ian had already been poking away at a pet project, involving "just vocal sounds and echo / delay / reverb effects." As you know, mouth music is something of a fancy of mine, so my ears immediately pricked up when I learned about A Crumpet or Two. And it's a right treat: a lovely dollopy portion of mashed-and-slurried speech. The original textual fragments are themed around an afternoon tea but as they're glutinously distended, like strands of treacle spooling from a wooden spoon, they degenerate into oozy nonsense. As Ian aptly puts it, "the end result sounds somewhere between a female HAL9000 having her memory chips removed and the thought processes of an Edwardian UK Stepford Wives."
Ian mentions in passing that a bunch of MWC releases are now available for the first time as downloads via Bandcamp, including the special vinyl-only and cassette-only editions of A Fondness for Fancy Hats, Leporine Gardens, and Today Bread, Tomorrow Secrets.
Four years after The Elektrik Karousel, there's finally a new long-player from The Focus Group - and it's a superb one too. Stop-Motion Happening with The Focus Group is Julian's most disintegrated and dream-like work since hey let loose your love, but the previous album's Anglo-psych fairground feel still flickers through in places.
Out next week from the prolific A Year in the Country label is what I believe is their first release that isn't a themed compilation - a solo effort titled Undercurrents by the gentleman behind the label, aka, er, A Year in the Country. Excellent moody n' twinkly stuff it is too, with the usual exquisitely intricate packaging.
"Undercurrents was partly inspired by living in the countryside for the first time since I was young, where because of the more exposed nature of rural life I found myself in closer contact with, more overtly affected by and able to directly observe the elements and nature than via life in the city.
"This coincided with an interest in and exploration of an otherly take on pastoralism and creating the A Year In The Country project; of coming to know the land as a place of beauty, exploration and escape that you may well drift off into but where there is also a sometimes unsettled undercurrent and layering of history and culture.
"I found myself drawn to areas of culture that draw from the landscape, the patterns beneath the plough, the pylons and amongst the edgelands and where they meet with the lost progressive futures, spectral histories and parallel worlds of what has come to be known as hauntology.
"Undercurrents is an audio exploration and interweaving of these themes - a wandering amongst nature, electronic soundscapes, field recordings, the flow of water through and across the land and the flipside of bucolic dreams."
Although he dwells on the outskirts of this parish, it should be noted that after a low-key patch Ekoplekz has a new album out on Planet Mu: Bioprodukt. Excellent stuff, as always, as expected - but differently excellent. There's a clean glisten, a cold 'n' bouncy feel to much of the album, quite unlike the grainy monochrome of the torrential release-flow of first-phase Eko (something matched by the gaily coloured album artwork). Hints and traces of Pole, "Macau"-era Monolake, perhaps even solo Czukay... a industrial-goes-tropical sinuosity to the rhythms and balminess to the atmospheres.