Last updated on May 16, 2019
I’ve written before about how I’d like to expand the definition of post-rock to include all bands who reject the rock mythos. Over the Ocean‘s Be Given to the Soil is a perfect example of this mindset. The band’s complex, intricately constructed album ranges from thrashy post-hardcore (“God in My Own Image”) to ambient compositions (“Kiss the Ground”) to forlorn piano elegies (“Ecology”) in service of the overall success of the work. It’s relevant that this was initially released on vinyl earlier this month (it will drop April 30th on digital retailers), as the ebb and flow of the mood throughout the 55 minutes is much more in line with a continuous listening experience than the erratic, 3-minutes-and-out listening style that our digital era promotes.
In some ways, the gloomy, wintry album (check that totally prescient album art) has more in common with classical music than pop, rock or metal, as the composition treats every part of the songs as relevant (and mostly equal) in delivering meaning. Vocals aren’t the most important thing here, nor are they even always present: “Obscene” features spoken word, while “God in My Own Image” includes the post-hardcore screaming I previously mentioned. “Air in My Lungs” features mumbled sung vocals. These songs are all next to each other in the album. If you come from a place where post-rock means thinking deeply about composition, you’ll be very interested in Over the Ocean’s excellent Given to the Soil. This is what it means to push boundaries in post-rock.
Light Company takes a different view on post-rock that is closer to Athletics’ view of the genre on their debut EP The Boy Who Sat on Ocean Floors. The band takes the heavy guitars, thrashing drums, poppy vocal melodies and dark moods of modern rock and stretches them out, extracting every bit of emotion that can be had. The band does add in some clean guitar work for foundation and some soaring guitar work for the highpoint of the crescendos, which are genre-savvy moves. The best example of their sound is “Giants and Hammers,” which opens with rapidly strummed guitars and frantic drumming before breaking into a groove for the verse. They ratchet the rock riffs back up for the “chorus” of sorts, demanding that stereotypical rock moves bend and twist to their emotive ends.
While their co-opting of modern rock is fun, their best move comes in the title track. Here they’re able to appropriate the familiarity of rock songwriting structures without adhering to the roaring guitars of the genre; the guitars intertwine with the meticulous drumming to create a fascinating piece. They let the song meander down to its smallest element–a single guitar elegantly plucking sporadic note–before snapping to attention in the heaviest, loudest section of the album. Quiet/loud isn’t a new trick, but Light Company employs it to devastating effect in their title track. They don’t let the heavy section run out very long, either, curtailing it in just over 40 seconds. It’s these sorts of songwriting moves that intrigue me.
Light Company’s take on the post-rock genre is vastly different than Over the Ocean’s, and that’s not bad. Light Company’s work is energetic and engaging in ways that a more measure approach is not. Each side of the genre will have its advocates, but it’s enough for this review to note that Light Company write interesting songs with room to grow and experiment.