Wednesday, August 09, 2017

post-rock / post-rock-rock / pre-post-rock

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 Jeanette Leech'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 verily has 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 Techno Animal Laika Moonshake Bark Psychosis....  

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

than 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...