Arms of Tripoli – Dream in Tongues 8.5

                Dream in Tongues” Arms of Tripoli’s debut album is about as emotional as post-rock gets. This is the highest kind of praise. From their humble beginnings of “all the fallen embers” they have moved forward closer to the listener. Rather than serve as yet another distant band jamming from a safe distance their music is quite intimate. Pieces on “Dream in Tongues” manage to create a true feeling of warmth. How this is done without any vocals whatsoever is pretty incredible. At times “Dream in Tongues” displays the sunniness of Arms of Tripoli’s hometown of San Diego. 

                “Miniature Habitats” opens up shinning with optimism. They allow it to build up extremely slowly letting every piece fall into place. By the time the song gets swinging (because honestly they do owe a lot to jazz) it becomes a great big celebratory event. Following this is one of the album’s highlights the unusually titled “Velcro Thunder Fuck” which veers nicely from pure cheer to uncertainty. One of their most passionate songs is “Canna”. Starting off rather quickly it moves quickly. Eventually the thing resembles less a song and more a force unable to stop. Rhythmically a juggernaut it plays with multiple styles allowing nothing to get too comfortable. 

                 Towards the end Arms of Tripoli get much louder. “Addendum” displays this nicely with soaring guitars and an overall sense of purpose. Finishing things off on a relatively epic note is the beast of “Ahs a Vahs a Vae” which neatly summarizes all that preceded it. “Dream in Tongues” is a strong debut album for a strong band.

Amp Rive – Irma Vep 7.5

                Amp Rive is Post-Rock at its most tasteful. ‘Irma Vep’ remains at heart a very gentle album. The crescendos employed are carefully arranged. Distorted elements remain somewhat underused on the songs. For the most part the sound is crystal clear. Little gets in the way of the guitars intermingling with each other. Rarely are any other sounds involved in the album. 

                ‘Procession’ opens up with a slight 60s flavor. This is due to the electronic organ which churns away as the rest of the band slowly catches up. It remains one of the few times where an element other than guitar or drums takes center stage. Eventually the organ is mixed deep into the rest of the song almost completely disappearing. ‘Clouded Down’ the longest track on the album owes a huge debt to those post-rock pillars ‘Explosions in the Sky’. Right down to the gradually unfolding melodies this remains one of the highlights of the album. It’s sweet. It builds itself up. Plus the pacing on this track is particularly good along with the quieter flourishes they offer. Here the guitars work together to soar rather than offer one single aspect of the sound. With this approach their work pays off. 

No solos they adhere to the aspect of post-rock which states ‘group play’ above all else, following the Tortoise creed of work. Amp Rive remains committed to this vision through the album. ‘Irma Vep’ is a sweet gentle album that slowly grows on the listener. Uniformity is important for their aesthetic. And with their strict disciplined playing they are able to create an album that’s both memorable and casual.

In a sleeping mood – Draft 7.2

                In a sleeping mood offers two albums in one. The first album (the bookends of the album) is quiet meditations. But the second has a darker, more beat-driven approach and makes up the ‘core’ of the album. Mixing these two together creates a disorienting experience, one where is it hard to decipher what is about to happen at any given moment. This unpredictability keeps the listener on edge. 

                The beginning is gentle, sweet, and almost a little sad. It is mostly acoustic, save for the lone guitar. Next up is the core of the album, a quiet, spacious electronic track which employs a bit of threat by the end. Around the third track, things feel less rock-based. Rather they appear to be more interested in Raster Noton’s approach of slowly building and tearing apart. The fifth track shares this aggression, unrelenting in its many noises and rhythms. 

                On the third track in a sleeping mood keeps everything silent for the first minute. Only after an entire minute of this does the track emerge from slumber. It slowly rises up, a piano, small electronic effect, and barely emits a pulse. It is better off that way, for offering a perfectly stable way to end what is an often dark, dramatic record. 

                Some of the people involved in this project have previous experience with post-rock. That makes sense given the slow builds, often jarring moments, and completely wordless tracks. The goal is not to offer a hummable melody but rather to show a logical progression. ‘Draft’ succeeds wonderfully in providing the unexpected.

FareWell Poetry – Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite 8.3

                FareWell Poetry is a strange band indeed. Merging poetry with Post-Rock, it is a difficult balance. On one hand how many people read poetry? On the other who listens to Post-Rock? To really gain someone’s attention in either discipline and in this regard you have to be beyond amazing. Whoever is behind this project has certainly done their homework in terms of focus, sound, and scope. For the full package you receive a Super 8 black and white film. Yep, they do not mess around. 

                “As True as Troilus” begins the effort off in 19 minutes. It begins with poetry before breaking down into instrumental passages. Sonically I’m reminded of “A Silver Mount Zion”. They play with the same amount of seriousness and general beautiful bleakness. Halfway through the first song you’re treated to some truly gorgeous moments. In a few fleeting movements I’m reminded of Godspeed’s grandeur, a compliment I do not throw around by any means. Restraint is duly shown to avoid the ‘crescendo upon crescendo’ effect. Towards the end of the track they do blast the volume but it feels deserved. 

                The second half is taken up with the two-part “All in the Full, Indomitable Light of Hope”. Part one of this suite is mostly poetry. Her voice is rather pleasant, somewhat luxurious and befitting of the accompaniment. For the second half they spread out a bit and are mostly instrumental. The second half is perhaps the most upbeat they get for the entire album. “In Dreams Airlifted Out” ends the album. 

                Give this album time. Initially the poetry reading may turn off some listeners. Stick with it. After a few listens it begins to show its true charms. Everything fits together though it does take time to see exactly how. FareWell Poetry is far more heartfelt than I could have anticipated.

Talvihorros – Descent into Delta 7.7


                Talvihorros plays bone-dry, twanged-out post rock. I felt nothing but the greatest amount of joy listening to this deliberate slow moving beast of an album. “Descent into Delta” is a beast which only occasionally shows off its violent streak. Since those moments are rare, it is doubly gratifying knowing of the many paths they could’ve more easily taken but choose not to. Rather, they keep it tasteful, refusing to bludgeon the listener into submission. You’re surprised and thrilled for those few moments.

                I’d say a good point of comparison would be Mogwai. Like that group, Talvihorros could be classified as Post Rock. Talvihorros has a certain menace to it. Unlike Mogwai though, it is considerably more ambient. Evolution occurs at an even slower pace: most of these songs meet or exceed the eight minute mark. For me, the low end is stellar on this album; on songs like “Beta” the bass nearly overwhelms me with its sheer grating texture. Other songs, like “Delta” have a smoother, more elongated sound.

                Unease occurs throughout the album. In some ways there’s a certain amount of ‘doom’ metal influence. There’s a menacing yet rarely overwhelming quality to it. Development away from the initial aggression (particularly in the first half of the album) shows a spacy sound emerging out of the mire. Anxiousness fades away by the final two tracks: in fact, by the final track you can point out a viola accompanying Ben Chatwin. By that point though, the album has more than proven a debt to classical arrangements.

                Despite the short running length, this covers a lot of territory. It’s a surprisingly effective album and works best right before you go to bed. Day album this is not. The term night album fits it like a glove.

Talvihorros – Descent into Delta 7.7

                Talvihorros plays bone-dry, twanged-out post rock. I felt nothing but the greatest amount of joy listening to this deliberate slow moving beast of an album. “Descent into Delta” is a beast which only occasionally shows off its violent streak. Since those moments are rare, it is doubly gratifying knowing of the many paths they could’ve more easily taken but choose not to. Rather, they keep it tasteful, refusing to bludgeon the listener into submission. You’re surprised and thrilled for those few moments.

                I’d say a good point of comparison would be Mogwai. Like that group, Talvihorros could be classified as Post Rock. Talvihorros has a certain menace to it. Unlike Mogwai though, it is considerably more ambient. Evolution occurs at an even slower pace: most of these songs meet or exceed the eight minute mark. For me, the low end is stellar on this album; on songs like “Beta” the bass nearly overwhelms me with its sheer grating texture. Other songs, like “Delta” have a smoother, more elongated sound.

                Unease occurs throughout the album. In some ways there’s a certain amount of ‘doom’ metal influence. There’s a menacing yet rarely overwhelming quality to it. Development away from the initial aggression (particularly in the first half of the album) shows a spacy sound emerging out of the mire. Anxiousness fades away by the final two tracks: in fact, by the final track you can point out a viola accompanying Ben Chatwin. By that point though, the album has more than proven a debt to classical arrangements.

                Despite the short running length, this covers a lot of territory. It’s a surprisingly effective album and works best right before you go to bed. Day album this is not. The term night album fits it like a glove.

I am waiting for you last summer – New Song “Sleep”

I am waiting for you last summer has a new EP coming out this upcoming summer/fall. Summer would make more sense as it is their namesake. Compared to their previous material, this offers a bit of a departure in terms of sound. Previously they had a certain tendency for guitar solos towards the end or slight industrial touches. With this song “Sleep” it appears they’ve decided to strip away a lot of the more excessive bits of sound. Of course the great guitar playing and mellowness remains but it’s a clearer version this time around.

The song takes a long time to get started. Field recordings of nature edited into the background seem appropriate given the song title. Everything spreads out beyond anything they’ve done before. Most bands generally speaking aren’t fond of slowing things down. Post Rock is an unusual genre in that regard: the slower things go, the better the track. Exceptions exist but in this case the slower tempo works to emphasize the mood.

Beats nearly disappear in this song. When they do hit, the electronic origin is undeniable. Actually my main hope would be that they continually strip away elements of percussion in their sound, leaving a cleaner, sparser version. For me the best parts of the song were the guitars gently hovering above. They realize that percussion is nearly an afterthought, getting less than half of the track’s playing time.

While I have no idea if the other songs will be up to this quality I hope they do. “Sleep” shows they are evolving as a band, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I am waiting for you last summer are at that ‘refining’ part of their development where things begin to get interesting. Hopefully they shall continue this upward trend, constantly improving themselves.

Archers of Loaf

Yeah, I’ve been holding my breath for some massive 90s revival. I call it a revival since so many of the 90s bands had such a devoted following, bordering on the religious.  Every album I have from the early 90s I’ve studied fairly well whether it be Post-Rock (Slint) or the embodiment of indie rock perfection (The Pixies). Both of those bands have since gone touring, along with smaller bands with more rabid fan bases (Polvo in particular, where one fan flew from the Midwest just to see them rock out at Brooklyn Bowl).

                There’s one group I want to see return: the slackers. I miss slackers a lot; I grew up with some of them. Now they either got productive or remained in their parents’ basements. Slackers created some sweet tunes, perhaps some of my favorite music of all time. Now I’m not saying that I’m upset Pavement has returned to us, that is a good start for the slacker wave, but not really the definition.

                No, I’m talking about those bands that will never come back to us. Ones who got busy, got money, and will thus fail to return to us. So when I see one of those ‘Jesus, I never thought you’d return’ bands do so, I’m usually fairly psyched. If they decide to release another album, I’m happy but it really isn’t necessary.

                Archers of Loaf are coming back for what appears to be a fairly decent-sized tour. They will hit north, south, east, west, and even the middle section of the United States of America. Countless college radio stations will see DJs from decades past reconnect for the sole purpose of scoring free tickets. I may decide to call a few people and see if I can get some if I promise to do a ‘webcast’ or something.

                Really though, I think Archers of Loaf might be next to the word ‘slackers’ in the dictionary along with Guided By Voices. Both of those bands sounded more like they were hanging out than making actual music. That remains a selling point for both of them especially thirty or forty-somethings who wax nostalgic for the early 90s, when allegedly better indie music and film existed, before it was co-opted by market forces.

                In preparation, I’ve decided to revisit the Archers of Loaf seminal album, Icky Mettle. Listening to it, I’m reminded I got into them as soon as I became a college radio DJ. For some college radio stations, it is required listening before you start on the air. “Web in Front” I wanted them to be my spine, to keep me strong against the forces of work, the needs of our economy, GDP, and so on. When I heard this song, I think I played it on repeat for a couple of days. Never has two minutes of my life sounded so nice. 

                Slackers will make a comeback with this reunion tour, I’m certain of it. Like the early 90s, we have high unemployment and what I’m beginning to realize is a pretty interesting underbelly of countless bedroom musicians, bedroom writers, bedroom film makers, and so on. Let’s hope Archers of Loaf lead us to that lazier, happier land.

Polmo Polpo – The Science of Breath 7.3

Applying a post-rock approach to dance music is a difficult one. Dance by definition requires a form of almost instant gratification. Few dance musicians would bother taking the time to take the painfully slow buildup required to make it post-rock, but Sandro Perri is one of those people.

                The long tracks are all from various singles he released. Interludes were placed in between each giant slab as a way for the listener to catch their breath, from high to low breathing. But these fit in quite well with all the bigger pieces, like filling in the cracks.

                “Oarca” has a submerged beat. It is so slow and meanders on the absolute bottom. “Acqua” presents itself as a more traditional, longer burning jam. Even the start suggests that the song began before we were listening. Finally, the epic closer “Riva” starts with the closest Sandro gets to distortion and a full rave-up. It is really quite a wonderful ending, appropriate considering the emphasis post-rock places on the end.

                Yeah, the sea-references are deliberate. Apparently this was to have a nautical theme of some sort, and without having cheesy whale calls, it succeeds in that goal.

Codeine – The White Birch 9.2

Slowcore exists only in the winter for me. I don’t know why, but when winter gets here, it feels like it lasts forever. Maybe that has to do with its very uniform approach: cold and sad. The White Birch, Codeine’s last album, has remained a staple for winters ever since I first heard it. Lacking any sort of happiness, it kind of embodies the winter for me: plain, dull, and a black hole of emotion. 

Each time as I see my breath in the cold air, the songs pop into my head. It works as some kind of genetic disposition. Unlike a lot of slowcore, it tends to be a bit more experimental, mixing occasional blasts of anger and volume. These elements are used almost as punctuation throughout the album.

Length-wise, it is a relatively short album, clocking in at about 43 minutes. Things get started with a quiet, clean song “Sea”. Usually if a band starts out with a long song, it means they have some sort of faith in it. That faith is justified here. It set the tone for what’s in store for you, easing you in slowly to the angst.

Angst abounds throughout the album. Somehow it avoids being whiny. Resigned would be a better term for it, the singer/speaker doesn’t appear particularly distraught at the point. He’s still working through all the motions, and you get to experience them with him. Honestly, I want more singers in this vein, but it seems that it was more acceptable in the early 90s, when emotions were allowed to be real. 

“Loss Leader” includes a great amount of distortion and volume. One of the album highlights comes across as a disturbed valentine, a beautiful song called “Vacancy”. Perhaps this is the closest they come to anything resembling happiness. The tempo continues at the pace of molasses, at points coming across more as decoration than as keeping time. 

Towards the end we get the border personality disorder of “Wird”. Veering radically between near silence and frustrated noise, it is a dozy. If there was going to be a song you could compare to Slint on here, it would be this piece. They channel Slint’s rage and confusion. It moves from noise, to silence, to gorgeous melody. 

If you need to stay in on a boring winter night feeling kind of down, you could do far worse than these guys. What is surprising is after you’re done, you feel better.

Slint – Spiderland 10.0

People fawn over this album. I did. When I first put it on, it blew me away. Everything about it felt perfect, right down to the clean guitar that opens up “Breadcrumb Trail”. When I finished the album, I put it on a few more times. Later that evening when I went to sleep I had paranoid, creepy nightmares recognizing the intense discomfort and paranoia that exists on a regular basis in America. 


Such is the power of Spiderland. It is the kind of thing I wish I heard more: beautiful guitar, beautiful drums, beautiful everything really. The lyrics are vulnerable yet they avoid a lot of the cliches of exposing yourself by singing. By speaking it sounds like narration, and the music is the backdrop. Hearing about the rollercoaster ride meshes so well with the perfect instrumentation. 
“Nosferatu Man is one of the more straightforward songs on here. There are absolutely excellent vamps on here, particularly at the midsection. Sometimes when I listen to that harsh, messed-up “My teeth touched her skin” I sort of wish it could last forever.
What comes up next is far more difficult. “Don Aman” is the song that gives credence to the rumor that at some point some of the members may or may not have been institutionalized during its recording. Honestly, I kind of doubt they were, but it is an extremely unsettling. Stripped of percussion, or even guitar distortion, it is simply a series of guitar chords spaced out to give tension rather than melody.
The quiet continues into “Washer”. Singing actually occurs on this song, rather than the uncomfortable speaking that went on beforehand. Percussion is re-introduced, and the song keeps its cool besides one explosion at the very end. “For Dinner” ups the ante by providing a tense moment with no relief by speaking, singing, or even a single explosion.
Finally, the end is in sight. Hearing those jangling notes, you know something is not well. The nervous drums and bass confirm this. In case you still didn’t get it, Brian lays the Ancient Mariner theme on. Samuel Taylor Coleridge probably would be thrilled to see his poem taken to such nightmarish extremes. Everything builds up to that extremely satisfying scream “I MISS YOU!” as sound explodes louder than it had during the entire album’s duration.
Released in 1991 to little to no acclaim whatsoever (excluding Steve Albini’s “ten fucking stars”), it built up its popularity. Not due to any sort of pranks or hijinks by the band. Indeed, the band has been ultra-quiet about those recording sessions it had with Brian Paulson. 
Instead, they did this unusual thing where the music spoke for itself. Occasionally others found it and sung its praises, but the band wasn’t interested in pointless promotion. This is probably one of the most American rock albums I’ve ever loved. Each second oozes a certain kind of America, the America I live in, not romanticized, just shown as realistically and starkly as possible. Pure love.