Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Expressway Vs. Post Rock

If I were to prescribe to Sam's definitions of the three stages of Post Rock (and I do) then I would have caught on to the genre midway through the second stage, with Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die being the launching pad. Post Rock to me, at the time, meant Tortoise and it's many offshoots (Isotope 217, Chicago Underground Duo 217 etc.), Cul De Sac, Gastr Del Sol and the then burgeoning Constellation Records scene (Do Make Say Think, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and A Silver Mount Zion). In all honesty, most likely due to the ignorance of the press I was reading at the time (Spin, Alternative Press and Rolling Stone...so sue me! I lived in a small town where the only outlet to new music were in these music rags), I had no idea there was a post rock scene that preceded this North American one, much less on the other side of the pond. It wasn't until a few years later when I got into UK groups like Seefeel that I found that post rock was originally a British-coined term denoting, as Simon Reynolds (the man behind all this confusion) put it, "using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs and powerchords." Well that sure widens the scope of this already confusing genre tag.

This brings us to the album in question--Scorn's Evanescence, which I am still becoming acquainted with, and which was recommended by thee Post Rock Ombudsman himself, to be reviewed by me for Post Rocktoberfest. After several listens over the last few weeks, I still wonder how this fits into the post rock category. I hear more in common with dub, electronic and industrial musics than I do with the mainstays in the post rock genre, or with rock music in general. Most of this album sounds as if it were created on a computer or in a lab rather than by a band using their rock instruments in a forward-thinking manner. In fact, Evanescence sounds a hell of a lot like fellow UK act Meat Beat Manifesto and their two albums, Subliminal Sandwich and Actual Sounds and Voices, and who have always been associated with the industrial-rock scene of the early-mid 90s. Need proof? Check it...





Both groups share a penchant for simplistic, dubby grooves, slowly spoken vocals, creeping guitars and synths, and dark, industrial-like noises and tics. So why is that MBM were never slotted into the post rock category? And why was Scorn ever put there in the first place? Both bands created similar works during the same era and in the same part of the world. Perhaps this is what always confused me and many others when having to define post rock and when to assign certain groups into the wide scope of the genre. Some groups made the post rock cut while others were left in the dust.

If you take a look at the current crop of noise rock mongers like Hair Police or Wolf Eyes and place Simon's definition of post rock over top, it becomes a perfect match. Here we have a great example of groups who use rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes. Yet no one dares call Hair Police post rock even though, by definition, they fit the mold perfectly. So are we now in the fourth stage of post rock? Should the "third stage" of post rock (ie. the boring, instrumental "dog shit" rock of Explosions in the Sky and latter day Mogwai) even be included under the post rock umbrella? If Scorn and Meat Beat Manifesto rely on the studio more than rock instruments are they still post rock? Unanswerable questions, really.

The point of writing this was to help contribute a meaningful review of a post rock album to Sam's blog. Instead I think I have just made the already muddy post rock waters just a little murkier.

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