The term post-rock is a vague and nebulous term that means a lot of different things to different people. It went from being used to describe rock n’ roll that incorporated elements of dub, electronica and world music, describing bands like Bark Psychosis, Slint and the elegiac Talk Talk; to being used as a shorthand for jazz-infused instrumental rock out of Chicago - Tortoise, Stereolab, The Sea And Cake - before finally settling into the stereotypical form most people think of, instrumental rock bands that build to a swirling and cacophonous crescendo, usually measured out by dour bands with long names.
Dark Orchard, the brainchild of longtime percussionist Jim Casson, could be considered both "pre" and "post" rock, as Casson incorporates elements of both pre-Elvis music that transport the listener to a funky radioactive bomb shelter party, as well as incorporating futuristic electronics, world instruments and rhythms.
What happened to post-rock in the 2000s seems like the greatest waste of potential, the ultimate co-opting. Post-rock, with its roots in jazz, dub, and classicism, inspired musicians to REALLY know how to play, while still retaining the primal force and fury of rock and roll. It was an early rumble of the post-cultural that we all live and breathe, every second of every day. Music that strives to break out of its cultural molds and boxes seems like the most honest, and most relevant, to today's world.
Yet too often, when inspired by another culture's music, musicians merely ape the thing, pretending they are a Nicaraguan folk band, or some South African trance rappers. That's not honest and genuine, either - just more co-opting of distant cultures for personal gain. Musical colonialism.
Jim Casson and Dark Orchard take inspiration from all over but make it their own. In the process, they make some of the most compelling, world-influenced electronica I've heard.
Casson cites Deep Forest as an inspiration for Blossom, and I'm glad he brought it up, as they serve as the perfect foil for Dark Orchard's pan-global vision. Deep Forest came to fame by stitching some samples of indigenous people over some generic ethno-techno beats and synth. One of their first hits "Sweet Lullaby" credited the vocal sample of pygmies from Australia but was actually a vocal snippet from the Solomon Islands (which are 2038 miles away from Australia, almost the width of the entire United States). Deep Forest was fostering, or merely reflective, of a kind of digital exotica, a sense that all faraway people and places were the same in their difference. It was all wacky and far off, the final echoes of the 1950s.
Dark Orchard and Jim Casson set the record straight on Blossom by actually speaking conversationally in a wide variety of musical styles from 1950 to present. There's ethnotrance ("Ashley Sugarnotch"), some digital calypso, ("Qichwa"), some New Orleans second line, complete with nonsensical and abstract vocal samples ("Waterloo Clyde") to cool jazz ("Eduard"). What is impressive is when Dark Orchard does cool jazz, it stands up next to early electric-era Miles Davis, while their world fusion grooves go deeper into the woods than Deep Forest, are more believable, more nuanced, more controlled. More familiar.
Dark Orchard heralds a new age of world-influenced instrumental rock, an easy peace between jazz, electronics and progressive rock. At least two of those genres have slid into the slime of satire, so Dark Orchard are performing a prime service
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