Twelve Post-rock albums I like on eMusic

edited February 2020 in Rock Pop
Odd coincidence that both eMusic and went down within days of one another.  It's a race to see which fulfills its promise to return first.  But to the title...

Can all 21st century instrumental rock other than surf be called post-rock? How many lyrics disqualify? Does it have to be atmospheric, or can it be upbeat and danceable? Was there a clean break w/ progressive rock or are the two clearly related? I’m not going to weigh in other than to encourage a big tent, to include all the albums below, but I welcome any disputes for stimulating discussion.

Note that many are just 99 cents to own, eMusic’s remaining selling point, but there’s doubt about artists getting paid (unless you want to go with their blockchain tokens). Thus, support them via the Bandcamp links to feel extra warm & fuzzy. 

In approximate order of my liking:

  1. “The Relativity of Space and Time” - Zhaoze (The Swamp) (2016). Not to take on too heady of a subject, my favorite Chinese alt. rock group went post-rock in the 2010s, and rather well. This live album is the priciest but also the longest at 90 minutes, and Chinese instrumentation, mainly an electric guqin, features prominently on most tracks. They also sing occasionally. For more Chinese post-rock on eMusic, tell me if Yu Su is too jazzy. Wang Wen also has four albums, but I’ve only heard “Re: “ and another not available, finding both just OK. Find my full consideration of Asian alternative music on eMu here:

  2. “A Ella Te Conduce la Sagrada Espyral” - Pylar (2017). These Spaniards flirt with metal but alternate hard and soft numbers with a lot of skill. A lot of variation from track to track, with dashes of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. A mere dollar (or “name your price”) for a full-length album not to be missed.

  3. S/t” - Sensible Soccers (2011). A 20-minute EP from Portugal for 99 cents, this one starts out sounding a bit like a helicopter and never quite fits its title. Glittering circles of guitars and a distant female vocalist make for a very enjoyable and relatively mellow excursion. “Twin Turbo,” while under two minutes long, skitters into shoegazey dream pop territory crashing full speed into the wall of the fairly epic last track. All with subtle electronic enhancements, like a slowed-down Desert Sound Colony (one of my favorites I’ve mentioned several times elsewhere).

  4. “Sonder” - Hanan (2014). A short album of relatively short songs and about half electronic, these Minnesotans would not be out of place on Constellation or Kranky with their alternation between atmospheric and noisy guitars closer to math rock. In any case, these guys are full of crescendoes but know when to brood and contemplate, too.

  5. “Hacia Donde Va el Agua” - IIOII (2019). Maybe the most experimental on this list, these Chileans are on a label that otherwise has more ambient music. Tunes on the album are usually backed by an electronic dance beat, but the overall sound mostly remains more abstract and restrained than groovy. At times one has to strain to hear guitars, but they’re usually there. Someone who would include Ratatat in post-rock would have no trouble fitting this one.

  6. “BM” - Billy Mahonie (2009). Fully instrumental and more straightforwardly rock than most here, while also playing with rhythm a lot more. Fans of Ui and The Mercury Program will find much to enjoy.

  7. “Glass Wars” - 1 Mile North (2011). Almost wholly guitar-based, layered, and sparse, with some nice use of background sounds for variety. Most are long tracks more intricate and interesting than rousing, leaving even more softly than they came. A slow echo that can sometimes feel like full-song extensions of the quiet parts in Explosions in the Sky tracks, these songs almost entirely eschew percussion as too jarring.

  8. “Mort Aux Vaches” - Tarentel (2015). There’s probably more to be included on this list in the large series of 99-cent titles, but I’m starting with reliable names I know and love. Unlike most of their albums, this one’s fully instrumental and uses only standard rock instrumentation without frills.

  9. “El Hambre” - Los Desastres De La Guerra (2018). Another 99-cent EP (or nyp for all three titles on Bandcamp), this time from Argentina. It starts like it’ll be noisy but soon settles into organ and guitar pedal madness over a driving beat. The other two tracks, while not mellow, are more abstract and restrained.

  10. “S/t” - Ceylon (2019). By far the most vocals, and French female ones at that, of any on this list. Loungey, layered, but lighthearted and maybe a bit rockabilly or psychedelic. If they’re not post-rock I invite someone to categorize this long, 99-cent EP more appropriately.

  11. “This Culture of Background Noise” - Because of Ghosts (2006). Sort of meanders its way into the first track like plodding at an increasing pace. Maybe guitar purists will like this one more than I do, though they do add a violin occasionally, but even w/out it can be reminiscent of Dirty Three. They’re Australian.

  12. “The Unfolding Sounds” - Dreamer Strings (2017). One extremely quiet, long track for 99 cents doesn’t really reveal itself as a rock album until its final passage.

On other lists: Austin TV, Desert Sound Colony, Iah, Poly-Math.

Record labels to explore (on eMu): Feeding Tube, Indelabel, Awkward Formats, serpent, El Templo ReKords, Superstar Destroyer; Shinkoyo; Bartosz Leśniewski; Mascarpone; Swim; Salvation; Camera Obscura; MonseArt;

eMusic was my source for the original 1990s post-rock from Bark Psychosis, and I wish it a better 2020 than 2019. Thanks for reading, and happy listening (with more support of artists, I hope)!


  • More Post-Rock & Instrumental Rock I Like (on eMusic & Bandcamp):

    A busy new semester of teaching has me backlogged in several categories, but probably none more than these.

    In approximate order of how much I like it…

    1. “S/t” - Hijos Amigos (2018). This album might as well be the ambassador to rock listeners unfamiliar with contemporary Latin rock, as it touches on many different styles and has elements that tip their sombreros to the greats, most notably the organ work of The Doors. There are hooks, licks, and psychedelic elements aplenty, all blended together in seven tracks between 5-8 minutes long, each sounding as if multiple personality disorder were a virtue we should all strive to cultivate. Changes in tempo and instrumentation are made at the drop of a hat, but the bridges and transitions are as sublime as they are quick, ensuring that nothing is ever the least bit jarring. This is a rare album I could contentedly listen to on repeat, and if eMu’s critics will pardon the expression, a steal at just $2.99.

    2. “3c. 6” - Evas (2020). If you’re going to make a mid-tempo instrumental rock album with just the core ingredients of guitar, bass, and drums, this one from Peru could be a model for how to keep it listenable from start to finish. Tight but not tense jams with no frills, no nonsense, nor any real deviation from a formula that works like a charm on these ears. A bargain at $2.49 on a tiny label, this is just the kind of discovery that keeps me subscribed. I wish we lived in a world where this album and others like it had the remotest chance of being heard by anyone, anywhere, but that’s just not the world we live in.

    3. “Face Tapes” - Hunter Ellis (2021). (now gone from eMusic) This new long EP or short album hits all the right notes for post-rock, establishing atmosphere through melody and using vocals artfully and sparingly. The tracks are just a touch longer than pop songs, and they flow well from one to the next. There are other instruments to complement the guitars, too, which may be less important to others but really makes a difference in my enjoyment of post-rock. The best song is unsurprisingly the longest, with multiple passages that bring the guitars either to the front or the back of the mix. The second track’s vocals are a nice breather and make for a downright beautiful song, while the brief third takes a page from the Southwest.

    4. “Three Months” - James Stephen Finn (2018). Follow soothing guitar melodies and bells over the crispy but unhurried electronic beats for just under half an hour of relaxation. It’s a perfect antidote for anyone feeling overwhelmed or that the pace of life is too fast. All that’s missing on some of these is the wistful voice of The Notwist, but keeping it less urgent than that clear reference point and fully instrumental is fine, too. Smell a flower, enjoy a meal, or something.

    5. “Priestess of the Goddess” - Rasplyn (2013). Two long tracks lush with strings and atmosphere, even bagpipes on the first track, these kinda straddle the line between Esmerine and GYBE in tone, with an occasional female vocal moan (no lyrics or words) thrown in. The second has a beat and more reeds and guitars, driving towards a destination, where it stays dramatically for the closing minutes. I think it works well, and I’d love to hear a full album. It’s not often your last 49 cents will acquire something that sounds this epic. Also a bargain at $1.50 on Bandcamp

    6. “Atardecer” - Friends of Dean Martinez (2004). A Southwestern instrumental rock “supergroup” emigre from Sub Pop put out about ten albums from 1995-2005 before hanging up its spurs. There’s a lot of open space in these, befitting a desert setting or landscape at sunset, and if you’re a fan of Calexico or Giant Sand, you’ve probably already sampled the friendly discography. I haven’t heard enough of it to explain the differences between this album and the others, but one pretty much can’t go wrong with mellow instrumentals, imo. Harmonica, guitars, organ, pedal steel, and a laid back feel leave me thirsting for the rest of their work as well. Unfortunately pricey.

    7. “Common Clearing” - Ross Downes (2012). The catalog on Trestle may not be especially new, but it’s definitely one of the more interesting labels I’ve stumbled upon lately, pretty cheap to boot. This is one of the less instrumental titles on it, bearing some resemblance to Omertà in the Bandcamp section below, with nicely varied instrumentation supporting minimal guitars, percussion, and spoken female vocals in the opening track. From there, the proceedings stay quiet and less vocal, making for a somber, contemplative, and moody album overall. Pretty heady song titles, too, if one needs something to contemplate while listening.

    8. “Water-Wasser” - Hausmeister (2005). Downtempo electronic beats and an electric guitar are usually an odd and awkward pairing, but these songs go down so smoothly one can easily forget that there’s music being played. The ability to listen to a whole album and not realize it can be polarizing for listeners, and I personally like something one can either pay attention to without getting bored or just keep in the background without getting jarred or distracted. This is too interesting to be lounge music, so it goes into post-rock.

    9. “We’ve Been Talking” - Enemies (2010). This is mid-tempo and bright post-rock with stop-start cues and multi-guitar coordination borrowed from math rock. Over the course of a full album, the high-intensity austerity of fully instrumental guitar songs—and there’s not a lot other than guitars, bass, and drums here—feels extreme to my ears. Not grating, but I think I will always listen to another style of music after this album. I greatly overpaid on eMu since they’re NYP on Bandcamp (I prefer 2013’s Embark, Embrace, also NYP and w/ occasional vocals)

    10. “Battery”- Guerraz (2020). (now gone from eMusic) Guitars and electronic backing beats make for a fine, long EP or a short album that won’t rock anyone’s socks or offend.

    11. “Sons of Boy” - Stationary Odyssey (2014). The first track is one to put on while taking out anger and frustration. Somewhat repetitive and employing almost dirge-like walls of sound peppered with intense fretwork and outright noise, at times the quieter and louder guitars alternate in conversation with one other within individual tracks. Fans of aggressive guitar showmanship will find more here to appreciate than I can. It’s not quite Polvo, but I can hear some similarities. The midsection lightens up a bit, more in line with my usual listening preferences, and the finale plays with a familiar bassline memorably.

    Bandcamp Only (NYP unless otherwise noted): “Paracuaria” - Cromattista (2017). Another short but mighty fine instrumental album of varied moods and textures. It seems they’ve always had a knack for a good waltz. Highly recommended along w/ “Rampas y tuneles” from 2020.

    “One” - Devils of Moko (2020). Piano-led at first, one may initially think this is more jazz than post-rock, but then there’s plenty of electronic funk (even a midsong break into drum & bass rhythms on the first track) as well, from the get-go this one’s a real devil to categorize but a great pleasure to listen to. Guitars are by no means absent, and there’s clearly quite a lot of skill behind every instrument in the lineup.

    “S-T” - Omertà (2017). Raised the price to eight Euros, and it may still be worth it. Very artful and seemingly abstract, this album’s meditative calmness lures the listener in and then surprises with spoken female vocals (in French) and ultimately congealing into a set of real, memorable songs somehow built upon gongs, singing bowls, and who knows what other odd percussion held together by bass & guitar. Most are quite minimalist. Not for those allergic to repetition, however.

    “Howl & Bite”/“New Cinema” - 1939 Ensemble (2013, 2018). I’m sure I’ll own their whole discography for the use of bells, but for now these two show quite enough contrast. The earlier album is slower, mellower, and less produced than the latter, which adds a turntable and more to the mix of bells, guitar, drums, and brass. A bit more rock than The Dylan Group overall.

    “A Series of Disagreements” - Instrumental (adj.) (2015). A three-track EP of kinda funky, instrumental math rock can also sound quite proggy in some passages. I wish there were more than sixteen minutes to take in, but the often blistering tempo might be unsustainable and best in a smaller dose like this.

    “in today already walks tomorrow” - sleepmakeswaves (2008). This is a perfectly adequate post-rock album that knows how to inject some drama and urgency in its songs without really shaking the boat in expectations or a winning formula akin to Explosions in the Sky. The rocking is rather hard and intense at times, taking some elements from math or punk rock as well, with those passages starkly contrasted against atmospheric ones (and then, yes, there are crescendos).

    “Split EP” - Fighting Kites/Broken Shoulder (2011). Fairly upbeat and light at first, these rock instrumentals divided in half as the title suggests reminded me a bit of The Mercury Program. The tone quickly grows more somber, however. The slower numbers can be a bit plodding and noodly, but there’s nothing offensive here.

    “Awalaï” - Onségen Ensemble (2016). I’m no fan of metal, death or otherwise, but the way this album (sometimes) mixes metal-style vocals into its medium-to-hard post-rock steps right up to the line and doesn’t cross into my intolerance. The title track, my favorite, even gets a little spacey.

    “The World without Us” - Glissando (2012). Airy, almost operatic female vocals float around even more ethereal, bleak piano and strings. NYP only on Bandcamp Friday promotions, apparently on Gizeh.

    “I - Merakhaazan - Balazs Pandi” - Svart Lava Sessions (2019). One track a little more than half an hour long seems like abstract noodling at first but before long shows itself to be a series of rather driving, dark improvisations before a live audience, especially the last five minutes or so. Noisy, but in a good way. Raucous without being rock per se.

    “S/t” - Orquestra Patafísica (2019). Guitarwork’s ambience is reminiscent of Steve Hillage’s work for System 7, though this is much less electronic and ultimately not exactly ambient music, especially the third track’s clarinet jam over a beat with guitars in a rhythm-supporting psychedelic role.

    “S/t” - Kurushimi (2016). Driving guitars and wild brass for nearly a full hour and a half, with several tracks well over ten minutes long. They’re decidedly unconstrained by commercial considerations, and this is a rare case where I might say the contents could have been pared down for ease of listening in full.

    Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic:

    & by my evaluation

    & by genre

  • I've been enjoying the righteous babe records on emusic. noticed that one singer HAMMELL ON TRIAL has several albums that are NYP on bandcamp.  It's rowdy folk songs. All are quite fun and occasionally spectacular.  Alas, I thought of him as the ultimate indie, but apparently Robert Christgau has been praising his music for quite a while...  
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