Sunday, 5 July 2015
In keeping with my recent recent posts about Main, Ice & Techno Animal I thought I'd go into a bit more detail on UK's Lost Generation of Post-Rock. Good ole Professor Reynolds was writing about these groups in the pages of Melody Maker from at least 1991 onwards. There's was an article in the 91 Christmas issue of Melody Maker with no byline that I assume was penned by Simon. It documented the first stirrings of a new (non)scene that included a bunch of disparate musical units committed to taking their music to the limits well away from the commercial alternative business of the time. Cranes were the hot topic with their 91 classic Wings Of Joy but they weren't what was soon to be called post-rock. They were a one off post-goth/industrial band with, and I quote 'a lush Scott Walker/Euro cabaret grandeur.' Anyway AR Kane's (forefathers of UK post-rock) label H.ark get a mention with their roster containing Papa Sprain & Butterfly Child. Kevin Martin's label Pathological rate a mention too with his own great band Techno Animal plus Oxbow (whatever happened to them?). Avant Yanks Cop Shoot Cop and Twin Infinitives era Royal Trux get thrown in the mix as well. But it was future post-rock icons Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis and Main who were the most celebrated/anticipated in this article as some kind of future saviours of what was still being called Avant-Rock. Two years later in 1993 the lost generation were still dubbed as Avant-Rock along with the speculative term Cyborg-Rock, which never really gained any traction. I guess weird non UK bands like Young Gods and The Boredoms would have fitted this category with relative ease. In the UK though more and more groups like Insides, EAR, Moonshake Scorn, Ice, Seefeel were displaying un-rock tendencies in a beyond rock context so this wasn't a classification that was to properly fit. Avant-Rock still implied that the genre was still rock'n'roll at its core despite innovations and modern tendencies. While half of what ended up being called Post-Rock still rocked in some mutant form, the other half was not so rockin. Hence the term Post-Rock making perfect sense.
The thing is this music was already under my skin so by the time Simon Reynolds came up with the term Post-Rock for these bands in an article for Wire magazine's May 1994 issue (reprinted in Bring The Noise pages 186-193) it kind of didn't really matter. I've never really thought about it before but I guess it was named in hindsight as the scene had been going for 3 or 4 years already. As is usually the case with these things a demise was on the way with only a few classics of the genre to be released after 1994. Post-Rock now also included the likes of O'rang, Laika, Flying Saucer Attack, Pram & Movietone. Parallels were being drawn to other artists on the outer musical limits like Paul Schutze, Jim O'Rourke, Thomas Koner, Aphex Twin, Eddie Prevost, Zoviet France etc. In an article in Melody Maker in July 1994 past artists were retroactively inducted into a post-rock hall of fame lineage from The Velvet Underground to Krautrock legends Neu, Faust & Cluster to Brian Eno to Post-Punk groups like PIL, Cabs and The Pop Group to 80s UK noise/bliss rockers from JAMC, MBV, Spaceman 3, Loop, The Cocteau Twins, AR Kane etc.
Post-Rock was all about samplers, drum machines, studios, effects, sequencers, jettisoning the guitar as a riff apparatus and integrating the techniques of dub, 70s Miles Davis, Can, hip-hop, ambient & techno into rock. Guitars were still sometimes used but in more of an unfamiliar and un-rock way. Mixing real time instrument playing with sampling was the raison d'etre for some which gave the recordings a really strange edge. Others opted for a wholly synthetic approach. This bunch of groups rarely sounded like one another, they were on the outside, went out into these zones alone and wore that status like a badge. Some were beat scientists, while others severed beats altogether and space was the place. Anyway that doesn't really sound like Explosions In The Sky does it? This UK shit was the shit! This was the sound of my bedroom in the early 90s while your more accessable rock/pop stuff (Shoegazers, Breeders, Pavement, Mazzy Star, Portishead etc.) from the era made it into the lounge rooms of the share houses I lived in at the time, Post-Rock was not embraced by all and remained in the ghetto of my bedroom (along with strange septic tanks like Slint, Trumans Water, Thinking Fellers Union 282 et al.). This parallelled how Post-Rock was pretty marginalised in the outside world too apart from Stereolab who were quite the cult band.....I suppose.
I think a top 14 of the original UK Post-Rock is in order. This is when the term made sense, meant something and the music was bloody great.
THE TOP 14
Hydra-Calm (compilation) - Main 
Eva Luna - Moonshake 
May - Papa Sprain 
Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements - Stereolab 
Iron Lung - Pram 
Under The Skin - Ice 
Quique - Seefeel 
Hex - Bark Psychosis 
Evanescence - Scorn 
DI GO POP - Disco Inferno 
Silver Apples of The Moon - Laika 
Herd Of Instinct - O'rang 
Further - Flying Saucer Attack 
Re-Entry - Techno Animal 
*The top 14 has just one record per artist.
These are in chronological order.
This list is by no means comprehensive.
Each of the top 14 will be featured in a future blog post.
**Stereolab, Flying Saucer Attack & Third Eye Foundation all released gems after 1995. I must admit I didn't really follow the next wave of Post-Rock groups from the UK. I'm actually struggling to come up with any of their names beyond the Flying Saucer Attack affiliates Piano Magic, Crescent and Amp.
Saturday, 20 June 2015
WHAT'S ON THE HI-FI PART 42
MORITZ VON OSWALD TRIO - Sounding Lines
Always avoided Moritz Von Oswald Trio as I read somewhere that they were like a jazz trio. For some reason the words 'Jazz Trio' make me feel a little bit sick which is funny because I'm not averse to a bit of jazz. I guess jazz trio brings to mind trad sax, scatting, drum solos etc. Not the ultra minimal and restrained voyages into rhythm and occasional faint bits of dissonance that make up Sounding lines. I mean I haven't listened to jazz in a long time (apart from 70s Miles Davis) but I was once really into John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry and John's Mrs Alice. MVO Trio only really get about as jazzy as Can ever did. Speaking of Can there is quite a Can-esque feel to many of these trax. Some of Sounding Lines evokes the less furious side of 70s era Miles. The best parts though are when Moritz conjures his own Basic Channel vibes with 90s German stylee dub influenced techno like on the fabulous epic opening tune Sounding Line 1. Sounding Line 4 is classic ambient dub-tech that could have come straight off BCD except it has real drums. Even Hauntology is invoked on Sounding Line 5 (Spectre) with it's dreamy library electronics and slight faux jazz soundz, I didn't even know what it was called when those thoughts crossed my mind until I looked at the track listing and thought 'uh huh! I'm onto something there.' After a bit of library-jazz-funk, a drum machine appears along with some gaseous squelches on Sounding Line 7 and causes a ripple of nostalgia that makes you wanna get out those old Basic Channel tunes. This is an incredibly enjoyable microbic beat odyssey, quite the little surprise then that I'm really glad I checked it out. I didn't think it was gonna be anywhere near as good as it is. I might even go back and check out their other albums.
*Conjures, evokes and invoked all in the same bloody paragraph! Jesus Christ! What's with that?
ROME - Rome
So while we're feeling 90s zones, here's one I gave a spin recently after finding all those 90s German cds due to the Mego reissue of General Magic & Pita's Fridge Trax Plus. Anyway Rome aren't German but American and this came out on Thrill Jockey. During that rummage I came across other er...post-rock from America such as Cul-De-Sac, Directions In Music, Ui, Jessamine, Labradford, Tortoise, Bowery Electric & Sabalon Glitz. This is the only one to get any airtime so far (can't bring myself to listen to one song wonders Tortoise) and it complements the MVO Trio record perfectly as Rome were also a trio and the most dub influenced US post-rock group. This 1996 release is the only Rome album who came and went in a flash. I have no idea what happened to them after this. Their self-titled cd is quite the underrated little gem though. This is something along the lines of dub applied to US underground noise, making it a one off artifact. The music here is closer to Cabaret Voltaire and PIL's post-punk dub gloom than say US post-rock or German dub-techno though. Even that's not really a fair comparison as Rome were really fucking original and unique. I once read an article on Kevin Martin's dub noise band Ice in Lime Lizard in the early 90s and Rome were more along the lines of what I thought Ice were going to sound like. I can't believe how well this shadowy experimental dub un-rock stands up today. This LP is a terrific ghostly haze. Rome is forgotten but should perhaps be unforgotten. Now I'm wondering if they had any other releases worth checking out...I'm sure they had a 12" that never crossed my path plus a tune on Macro Dub Infection 2, otherwise I think that was it. At least they didn't hang around too long and get boring.
*It turns out Rome is unforgotten as this album was posted on the I Hate The 90s blog a few hours ago which I came across after writing this post while searching for other Rome material. The blog confirms there was just another 12" called Beware The Soul Snatchers where Rome were reduced to a duo plus they had a tune on the compilation In Memoriam Gilles Delueze on Mille Plateaux from 1996, which I never tracked down despite it being highly regarded amongst Wire writers at the time. I would suggest downloading Rome's Rome LP from i-tunes though where it's available but the elusive 12" isn't. Perhaps that shall remain a mystery to me till my dying day.
**Ice: I ended up really loving them. Under The Skin (1993) is one of my favourite records from the 90s and Kevin Martin's duo with Justin K Broadrick, Techno Animal, had a really amazing double cd Re-Entry from 1995.
***Don't get me wrong DJed the one classic song from Tortoise is a top tune. Its just that nothing else they did was ever as good. I mean did we need a lounge version of Slint's Spiderland that was the first Tortoise LP? Millions.... was DJed with a bit of math-rock and 90s electronica filler chucked in. Then, I dunno, wasn't TNT a muzak version of Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians? John McEntire from Tortoise did an incredible remix of Stereolab's Les Yper Yper Sound though, which featured on the choice 1996 Virgin compilation Monsters, Robots & Bugmen.
|The mysterious Rome 12" eludes me.|