I have been jumping back and forth between a few different genres lately, and I’ve been thinking about the meaning of each individual genre, what makes it unique. While there is plenty of debate about how genres should be classified, there is still little order an the way we classify music. Any number of bands have multiple classifications of their music and it can still sound like a completely different genre. That said, I decided to try to find out what is unique about each “genre” of music and try to describe it without any reference to techniques of playing music. I wanted to try to describe the meaning of the genre itself, not the music.
When I think about serenity, I think about reverberation. The constant reconnection with the already established, the reminder, and the continuation. Moments echoing within themselves, reminding us of the time when everything was perfect. These moments aren’t something that happen often. They are sparse and therefore they are precious. Coming to these serene times is a very involved task. Having the perfect mood, in the perfect place, at the perfect time, and with the perfect spark is a heavy handed undertaking. These things rarely happen by accident. Such is the nature of post rock music.
Layering is important to this genre. Without the layers of ambient ghost notes and echoing rhythms, these songs would quickly topple into a mash of silence and disorganized noise. The carefully laid patterns at the heart of the best songs create a net to catch the anticipation and hold the listener’s attention throughout the buildup. Without careful contemplation about tempo, length, timbre, and a handful of other considerations, attempts at a compelling post rock song can become tedious and fall apart easily. Post rock composing is therefore a game of patience. Stress and anticipation cannot be rushed. They have to be realized.
That being said, there is no easy or fail safe blueprint for great post rock songs. As with any genre, repetition of recognizable structures and derivative templates detract from the originality of the music and as a result weaken the quality, making for a series of clones, each trying to find the best way to make the same song. While the basic elements are consistently similar, the special sauce that makes for good music is the unique organization and implementation of the recipe. With technically involved music, its the best arrangement of notes. With progressive genres, the most inventive arrangement of parts to create a surprising and cohesive piece of music are often considered the best.
With post rock, tension is the greatest attribute to maintain. There always has to be a balance between what is going on currently in the song and what is about to be occur. The progressive layering for these songs act as building blocks, each adding a new element to the song while still not reaching the peak of the composition. A skillful execution will tease at the edge of overwhelming stress throughout the song, and only at the last possible second will it culminate in the resolving crescendo that tips all the anticipation and waiting into satisfying resolution.