Journeys in Post Rock: Tides of Man / I/O / Equals / Glories

This feature covers four instrumental rock albums released this year that I have had in heavy rotation thanks to their fresh approach, bright energy, and uplifting melodicism.  They all happen to come from places around the USA – Tides of Man based in Tampa FL, I/O based in Boston MA, Tracts based in Austin TX, and Glories based in Birmingham, AL. 

Tides of Man – Young and Courageous

Most bands go through personnel changes and shifts in creative direction at one point or another and all too often those changes have a diluting, or even artistically fatal, effect.  Not so in the case of Tides of Man, a band based in Tampa, Florida.  As they say on their Bandcamp page, “We’re a progressive rock band gone post-rock instrumental. We’re kind of in the middle of an identity crisis, but we’re loving it.”  After months of having their new album Young and Courageous in heavy rotation, I can say I am loving it too and based the evidence of the response on social media and other music blogs I see I am not alone.

The original incarnation of the band prominently featured vocals (check their prior releases Empire Theory and Dreamhouse) but the departure of their lead vocalist in 2010 precipitated a gradual move toward an instrumental direction. Young and Courageous is their first full length instrumental release and furnishes powerful evidence that the new approach suits the band right down to the ground.  The album marries their song craft and well-honed chops with huge sonic vistas and bold cinematic flourish to deliver one of the best instrumental rock albums of the year.

Young and Courageous is an album that will delight the post rock crowd, but could very well win over scores of new fans that don’t typically listen instrumental music with pacing, variety, and melodicism that defies the stereotypical quiet-loud-quiet-loud song construction so often used in the genre.  The songs burn from the first note and are never longer than they need to be.  Only two tracks, ‘Eyes Like Strange Sins’ and ‘Measure Your Breath’ go past the five and half minute mark and they have enough melodic shifts and ideas to be well deserved in doing so.

The recording aesthetics on the album are outstanding as well. The keyboards and guitars are bright and clean, with sharpness and heaviness kept in perfect balance.  The bass always has more than enough gravitas to drive the music at all levels, but is given space to shine with some nimble lines when called for.  And the drums, which are all too often blunt and washed out in post rock albums, are tuned, played, and recorded beautifully so as to capture the range from subtle ghost notes on the snare to the fat, wet sound of the toms to the splash and crash of the cymbals on the big crescendos.

Young and Couragous can be purchased digitally or on CD from the Tides of Man Bandcamp site.  As an added bonus, for only $2.50 more you can order a signed copy.  Also check the site for a pair of bonus tracks that can now be obtained, ‘Bloodhound’ and ‘Capes’.

Order: http://tidesofman.bandcamp.com/album/young-and-courageous-2

‘Eyes Like Strange Sins’ by Tides of Man

I/O – Saudade 

Saudade is the debut album from I/O, a five piece post rock band hailing from Boston, Massachusetts.  The group has a sincere appreciation for the transcendent experience that the best expressions of the genre can create. “For us, post-rock and ambient music make the listener engage on a whole other level. There are no words telling you what the song is about, or how to feel. The listeners have to take a part of themselves and put it into the song. Whatever the song means to you is what it is about, because at that point the artist’s meaning and intention is no longer important. The meaning is so different between listeners, and even between separate listens, that it has the power to transcend the original context. That is why we write and play post-rock.“.  – from an interview with the Arctic Drones webzine (link below)

The music on Saudade certainly reflects that emotional sincerity, delivering an expansive and immersive set of songs.  I/O proves they can deliver a fine melodic post rock opus, as they do on standout tracks like ‘Input/Output’, and ‘Warships’, and create an evocative ambient atmosphere, as they do on the opening track ‘Lakehouse’ and ‘Beta Fish’.  That would be satisfying enough, but the band lifts the album to an even higher level by stirring energetic doses of math rock in to the mix on propulsive tracks like ‘Anna’ and ‘Weather Fields’ or uplifting jams like ‘Twins’ and ‘Noise Floor’.

This album should be a welcome addition to any post rock fan’s album collection. It balances big emotion and cinematic scope with moments of intimate reflection and energetic optimism, all delivered with solid and unpretentious musicianship. The band cites Explosions In the Sky, This Will Destroy You, Maybeshewill, Hammock, and Mutemath among their influences and you will almost certainly hear elements of all of these in the music.

And if I may go off on a short tangent, I would like to give special compliments to the playing and recording of the bass guitar on this record. Coming up music in the 70s and 80s, I was always big fan of bassists like Geddy Lee (Rush) and Tony Butler (Big Country) who had the tone and chops to both propel the music as well as add lots of dynamic and melodic elements, even taking the spotlight at times. That style of bass playing is present on Saudade and was particularly enjoyable to hear.

Saudade is currently available as digital download on the I/O Bandcamp site on a pay-what-you-want basis.  I highly recommend checking it out and throwing a little well-deserved support their way.

Order: http://iomusicofficial.bandcamp.com/album/saudade

Interview with Arctic Drones: http://arcticdrones.com/interviews/io/

‘Input/Output’ by I/O

Equals – Tracts

Being a post rock band from Texas is probably not an easy thing to live up to these days.  But as their new album Tracts proves, Equals certainly brings something fresh and exciting to that venerable table which deserves to be heard.  And it does not hurt the pedigree to have the album produced by none other than Alex Bhore of This Will Destroy You.  The band’s modus operandi eschews typical post rock constructs in exchange for dynamic progressions and inventive arrangements using a highly organic approach and a juxtaposition of analog and electronic elements along with instruments you don’t often hear in this context like the Wurlitzer organ.  The result is something that sounds both playful and progressive and is full of infectious energy.

It only takes a couple of minutes listening to the opening track ‘Conveyor’ to dial into the zeitgeist of this record.  Starting off with just handclaps and a jaunty keyboard, the layers are added on one by one, guitars, electronics, driving percussion, and propulsive bass until it boils over to a full-on staccato attack. The album continues on with delightful unpredictability.  Among the high points are the playful, heavily syncopated ‘Slab Avalanche’, sparkling, melodic tracks ‘Glistener’ and ‘Telefoto (the latter with a particularly lovely acoustic guitar outro), the raw power of ‘Rattle the Husks’ & ‘Sweat House’, and the dynamic ‘Grand Paw’, a rollicking jam sandwiched between graceful introductory & concluding sections.

It is hard not to love the enthusiasm and resourcefulness on display in this album.  The music is hard to classify, but it doesn’t really need to be, does it? Just listen and enjoy and if you don’t end up pulling out your air guitar or imaginary drum sticks at some point, or at least end up with a smile on your face, then you are made of stronger stuff than me.

Order: http://equals.bandcamp.com/album/tracts

‘Conveyor’ by Equals 

Glories – Put the Beast Out of Mind 

Glories is a post-rock collective based in Birmingham, Alabama and Put the Beast Out of Mind is their second full length album, a follow up to the stellar 2013 release Mother Reverb.  I’ve been enamored with their sound since they first released a 3 track EP on Bandcamp and had a handful of followers on Facebook.  While comparisons to Explosions in the Sky may be overdone, their sound certainly references it significantly both in the tone of the guitars and the exuberant lyrical romanticism, but Glories is less abstract than EITS and one can also hear the influence of more direct, melodic giants of the genre such as Caspian.  The final ingredient in the secret sauce is a voicing all their own which, to my ear, sounds like a tinge of Southern Gothic.

However one tries to break it down, the bottom line is that Glories’ music resonates deeply on an emotional level as it is able to simultaneously reflect longing, melancholy, and introspection as well as ardent hope and glowing optimism.  It is reassuring to hear their sound expand and mature without losing that inner light that was in evidence from the beginning. Things get off to a strong start as the opening tracks ‘Crowns’, ‘Of Good Fortunes’, and ‘Just Be Remembered’ will feel like home to fans of the last album. The band then shows a new dimension with the driving shuffle and frenetic crescendos of ‘An Unquiet Mind’, something a bit heavier than what we have heard from them before.

It is on the last four tracks, however, that the band steps it up a notch and turns in their most expansive and moving music yet.  By the second half of ‘Sonoma’ I felt like something special was happening. Then came ‘Not Everything, Not Yet’ and ‘I Can’t Stay Forever’, a pair of very strong tracks which I found exceptionally moving. Finally, ‘Lands’ closes out this section of the record with grace and power.  Forgive me if I seem to be gushing, but I really do connect with Glories life-affirming sound and Put the Beast Out of Mind delivers it in a big way.  It is a lovely album that will be in heavy rotation for the foreseeable future and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Put the Beast Out of Mind boasts some striking cover art by Merillee Challiss, who also did the art for Mother Reverb, so you may well want to order the album on CD, but you can also obtain it digitally on the Glories Bandcamp site.

Order: http://glories.bandcamp.com/album/put-the-beast-out-of-mind

‘Not Everything, Not Yet’ by Glories 

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