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March 03, 2008


This is all great stuff, and definitely all post-rock, as far as I'm concerned. But it's not clear to me why the presence of "tropicalia" or whatever would be a disqualifying factor. To thus define Tortoise out of it seems silly (in the context of the overall silliness of a debate like this!). I mean, when Simon Reynolds was applying the term, it was to attempt to describe bands like Stereolab, and it seems to me that Tortoise was called post-rock in part because of their similarity to that lineage. That the "genre" of post-rock ossified into guitar bands like Mogwai and Explostions in the Sky sort of misses the diversity of it all.

Would you include Gastr del Sol in post-rock? (For me, to ask is to imply an answer: if you don't, then we're not talking about the same thing.)

I haven't listened to Gastr del Sol in ages, and don't have very much of their output (Camofleur and Serpentine Similar), so I couldn't really say, I guess. I'm listening to a bit right now and there are definitely tracks where I'd strongly dispute any identification of them as post-rock ("For Soren Mueller", "Serpentine Orbit", or "Black Horse", say). But my understanding is that they were extremely diverse in their output. I'd be interested in knowing what of theirs you're thinking of when you classify them that way, though.

I'm not excluding Tortoise just because of tropicalia on TNT! I certainly could have included, say, "Glass Museum" or "Along the Banks of Rivers" from Millions Now Living. It just seemed to me listening to those albums again that there was a lot more diversity in what Tortoise was doing than calling them post-rock captures; aside from a few tracks, I can't hear them alongside other bands that I think of as more central cases and think, yes, these are of a kind. (Even w/r/t Stereolab, it remains the case that Reynolds' first uses of "post-rock" were in describing Bark Psychosis, whose output is a lot more like the crescendo- and texture-happy output of later p-r bands than either Stereolab's or Tortoise's, and Reynold's later use of the term is consistent with this—er, except that he himself calls Tortoise post-rock.) And the point of the exercise was to put up some really indisputable instances.

I see the parenthetical mentioning This is the Process of a Still Life doesn't actually end—I was trying to remember the name of a different band (Mice Parade? It might have been Mice Parade) and saved the post without finishing that. Anyway, that bespeaks a certain amount of non-ossification, at least with respect to instrumentation; This is the Process ... isn't a guitar band like Explosions in the Sky, and despite the prominence of the guitar on "East Hastings", GYBE! never was.

And of course "ossification" is just a negatively-connotated way to point out the formation of a style as such. To the extent that "Black Horse" and "East Hastings" are both post-rock, it doesn't really name a style.

Maybe for me it doesn't "name a style". For me, it's exactly diversity of style that is one of the chief characteristics of post-rock. In the sense of the earlier American groups, I think it's important to remember that the post-rock guys were previously underground or punk rockers. In this sense, (the completely awesome) Slint is not quite post-rock; they're still rock, even if only by suggestion. What comes after them, the huge influence they had, that's a big part of post-rock, certainly a huge part of this formulation of style you're identifying. The guys in Tortoise and Gastr del Sol hail from Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Eleventh Dream Day, etc. Definite rock bands. Tortoise and Gastr del Sol, in this pedantic sense, are then unequivocally post-rock. (For Gastr del Sol, I'm thinking of all of their stuff, but, yeah, definitely "Black Horse". The introduction of electronics is important, of Fahey-style guitar play, of improvisational passages, etc. The relationships these artists forged with jazz musicians and laptop musicians was key, too.)

As a listener, I did notice that as time wore on, post-rock became used as a term to identify groups who followed them, like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky (and, indeed, they seem to have more to do with Slint, influence-wise), but it always felt too confining for me, compared to what had come before. (Similarly, just because we today think of punk as three-chord, Ramones/Pistols style music, doesn't mean that Talking Heads, or whoever, weren't part of what was once thought of punk.)

(As I finish this comment, Shalabi Effect's great "A Glow in the Dark" from their The Trial of St. Orange cd, has come on my iPod. Do you know them? If not, this song in particular seems to me sort of quintessentially post-rock. I'm curious whether you would think so, given your formulation. Plus, hey, they're Canadian!)

Re: Shalabi Effect. If you're interested and haven't heard them, here is the Alien8 website for them; and here is the link for The Trial of St. Orange itself, which includes samples and a downloadable album-file.

I'm curious what you think.

A tangent sparked by your mention of Fahey: I was struck by how many tracks have some extremely Faheyesque titles. Gastr del Sol I know covered Fahey, but then there's Tortoise's "Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls", Brokeback's " The Wilson Ave. Bridge At The Chicago River, 1953", Cul de Sac's "The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, California" (actually, this is also a Fahey tune).

Coming out of a rock band and making music that's not straightforwardly rock includes, say, Tangerine Dream, with Klaus Schulze leaving Ash Ra Tempel after their psychedelic early albums and making records like Atem and Zeit.)

I'm personally a big fan of many artists that fall under the post-rock "umbrella" and I think the mixtape is one of the best introductions such artists (I'm also very glad to see Mono on tracklist).

The inclusion of Isis as a post-metal example is an appropriate one especially since fellow "post-metal" bands such as Jesu and Pelican are far more indebted to shoegaze and doom metal respectively.

Overall though, I think the best aspect of the mixtape is the effort to include the more diverse sounds of "first-wave" post-rock. It could of easily included Seefeel, who are often seen as early dabblers in IDM/ambient techno, or Stereolab, whose early work had nods to lounge music. It could of easily been a track each from Godspeed, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, and Explosions with the filler being a plethora of the recent imitators of the the mentioned bands.

At this point, "post-rock" has become too specified, name dropped inappropriately (much like "kraut-rock"), and applied to any post-Explosions, epic sounding, instrumental four-piece.

Re: Fahey. There was also Cul de Sac's album collaboration with Fahey himself. And Tortoise's very name is a nod to Fahey (it was the name of his publishing company, I believe)...

I always thought more along the lines of Storm and Stress, U.S. Maple, that junk...

Revisiting this far too late: Can't believe I forgot about the Cul de Sac/Fahey collab. Perhaps because I never really found it that compelling? The faux-gamelan tracks were interesting, IIRC, but the last two "Nothing" tracks, well, they might have been fitting as a response to the way the collaboration was going, but they didn't make for such exciting listening. I was less patient then, though.

And I will (I swear!) listen to the Shalabi Effect!

Hm.. Quite interesting read actually, thanks for the good read! :)

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