So recently I decided to write some articles about some issues that I think are being overlooked in today’s music industry. The first of these articles, which criticizes the excessive use of gore in heavy metal videos, was published at No Clean Singing. The editor, Islander, is a really cool guy and he published almost immediately. Swing by and check out my article here. While you’re there, check out the blog, especially if you like really brutal metal.
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.
I love the generation that I live in. There are a number of reasons why, but one of the most important is the easy access to so much amazing music. With the internet blazing its way into the furthest reaches of the earth, nothing is ever too far outside of our reach anymore. Additionally, technology is advancing in such a way that it is allowing the growth of the creative minds of the world to reach new heights. Musically speaking, the availability of home recording equipment and recording programs are making it easy for bands or even a single person to record great music and show it off to the world without having to rely on record deals or hundreds if not thousands of dollars in studio fees.
Enter Sithu Aye, a one man troupe from Scotland. In 2011, Sithu (Yes, his name is Sithu) released the album Cassini on Bandcamp for free. He has since released an EP and another album, both of which are also free to download. However, his playing on Cassini has proven my favorite so far. He plays all the music himself, programming the drums, which has become common place in home studio guitar driven albums. While the album as a whole is very competent, this is a guitarist’s album.
The first song I heard from the album was Double Helix, and it remains as one of my favorite tracks. Sithu plays a very fun blend of progressive metal and djent here. His style is very light, usually characterized as a “happy” brand of progressive metal. Periphery’s Bulb comes to mind while listening to the tracks, although I wouldn’t say that the music is a duplicate or imitation. The songs are full of stellar guitar work and ample electronic breaks in the shred. Being without vocals, the soundscapes rely on well balanced playing and planning. This isn’t a shredfest. While he does shred, he understands the importance of ambiance and used it to create some fantastic moods throughout the album.
Probably the strongest part of Cassini, the album closes with a three song suite called Multiverse. The suite starts and ends with what reminds me of a submarine radar beeping under a quick and funky bass line that gradually grows into a soaring lead. The layering here is nice and not overdone. Even the djent-y fretwork doesn’t detract from the almost maritime flow of the suite. In the second part, Divergence, there is a tasty synth line that weaves its way in and out of the guitar. This along with the throbbing bass line probably makes for one of my favorite moments on the album.
The rest of the songs on the album are competent and have moments in the sun as well, but for a free album, I’ll let you download or just listen on Bandcamp and see for yourself. Check out Double Helix below. If you dig it, follow him on Facebook and check out his other album, Invent the Universe, that was just released earlier this month.