Post-rock could be viewed as our generation's prog. It aims to push the basic building blocks of rock n’ roll - electric bass, guitar and drums - into symphonic territory. Words are abandoned as song structures are lengthened into sprawling, spiraling dream works of Catherine Wheel guitars and marching band percussion.
Like prog, post-rock is often accused of being vaguely pretentious. Just because you have an elaborate concept or are learning to play in a different time signature does not mean you're pretentious. Do people call the Talking Heads pretentious? And, even if it is, so what? This drive, this pretention, pushes the music ahead into a refined state. That's the feeling I've always had from post-rock, and from any style of music that rubs against heavy metal in any way, is that the musicians wanted to learn to play. Why else would they abandon lyrics entirely and feature drastic key and tempo shifts, as Slowrun does at least twice in the first track alone? The music - the twining lines of dual guitars, kicking drums and throbbing bass, must be the point.
The result on Prologue, the debut from Finland's Slowrun, is a kind of electrical symphony with glissandi lead guitars playing the role of first violin where the score is conducted by sine-width pulses and held breaths. Classical music has never embraced electricity or amplification, wholesale, as appreciators try and keep it as it were in 1500. I'm glad the pure form exists but this seems to be a missed opportunity, particularly in the realm of sustained tones and sonic sculpting.
All of these things and many more are possible with the rock band formula but it seems as if, as soon as someone is holding a Jaguar or a Rickenbacker, it is automatically judged by the dictates of rock n’ roll. As if the musicians didn't already have enough of a compulsion to just emulate what they'd heard before, to stay safely within boxes and win fortune and fame.
But some people go further. Some people have more to say. This is when things get good - when artists are not prescribing to pre-set forms but striking out on their own with something to say. Because while Prologue may be a stunning example of a post-rock record, it could also be a soundtrack for a fireworks spectacle over Versailles, a sonic diary of falling in and out of love or just an approximation of floating in space. Perhaps Prologue's individuality comes from its genesis, where member Mika withdrew from the world during 2010/2011, and wrote some demos, which would come to be fleshed out to become this album. Mika was obsessed, driven by a pure and clear vision in his mind. This clarity of vision almost proved to be too much for the recording process as the real world sounds struggled to match the idealized tones in his mind.
In the end, they did the best they could and created a record that is ambitious and grandiose while still sounding intimate and personal. It doesn't have as much of an over-arching flow, rather being comprised of six smaller symphonic works, each with its own peaks and breakdowns. It is similar to the long-form crescendo rock of Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky but I feel like the climax comes a little earlier in the games, and leaves more room for graceful elaborations and explorations with a tiny bit of a tail. The most joyful aspect of Prologue is the guitars. While a similar tone is employed throughout the record, a mostly-clean starburst chime with a bit of echo and delay - which can make things a bit same-y at times but it's still thrilling to watch the patterns dance and weave around one another like hummingbirds or fireflies. Very talented guitar playing with memorable melodic lines and great production. Nice use of stereophonic space.
Also honorable mention goes to the drumming with powerful syncopated jazz beats, that are deft and light but still pound like a granite avalanche. The drumming is always a highlight of a post-rock record and this is no exception. Some may feel that they've heard Slowrun before; that their chorus of echoes and constellation guitars has been done. That would be a mistake because the glory is in the details, in the space between notes. There is a viscerality - a tracer of dreams, in the glowing nimbus around the guitars. And the production is equipped to capture the magick, which, all in all makes for a winning combination.
Instrumental, symphonic rock n’ roll has been getting interesting again lately with new and noteworthy records from Mogwai, Thee Silver Mt. Zion, the mighty Mono and more. The time has come to reconvene and reconsider the state of wordless music, which is some of the dreamiest sonic poetry out there. Slowrun is a fine purveyor of the classic sturm and drang and is worthy of your admiration.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook