Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Post Harbor brings all the post-rock parts together successfully

January 6, 2010

I love chronology. Keeping track of dates and reconstructing timelines is one of my favorite hobbies/mental gymnastics. That’s why I know exactly when I was introduced to post-rock. I was brought up on Christian punk rock (of all the odd places to start from), and so on August 27, 2004, I went to go see Last Tuesday, Philmore, Sleeping at Last and a bunch more at Hear No Evil fest. Stuck in the middle of the punk and emo was this post-rock band named Ember Days. I was so awed by their sound that I bought their EP and an XL t-shirt, because that’s all they had left.

Ever since then, I’ve loved post-rock. And that’s why Post Harbor‘s “They Can’t Hurt You If You Don’t Believe In Them” is near and dear to my ears right now. Post Harbor takes elements from all over the post-rock spectrum and combines them into one incredibly impressive album of sweeping, varied music.

They kick the doors in with “Ponaturi,” unleashing a riff-heavy guitar attack that sounds more like Tool than Sigur Ros. They slam through the riff several times, then pull back into an intricate calm section that features atmospheric synths (in the Appleseed Cast, “I’m about to fight you” atmosphere) and weaving guitar lines. They spend the rest of the album drifting back and forth between heavy and loud, making the most of both of their skills.

They waste no time, closing down “Ponturi” quickly in favor of their statement song “Cities of the Interior.” “Cities” is eight and a half minutes long, almost a minute of which is fade-in and fade-out. In between are heavy guitars, anthemic riffs, a nearly two-minute long section of nothing but vibraphone (or similar percussion) chords, electronic noodling, synthesizers, strings (violin and cello), and sparingly (but pleasantly!) used vocals. In short, Post Harbor throws everything into “Cities of the Interior,” and the return on investment is immense. The track is easily the best thing that Post Harbor has to offer, and it never feels like it takes as long as it does to run its course. The track is simply breathtaking, and there’s no other way I know of to explain it.

Even though the most complex and satisfying track is set at spot number two, that’s not to diminish the quality of the rest of the album. The ebb and flow of the album is perfectly done, with quick tracks flowing seamlessly into quieter ones with no jarring changes. “Alia’s Fane” starts out with the sounds of rain, humming synths and strings; it’s peaceful and wonderful. The rest of the song slowly fades in, and it’s just glorious how the whole thing unfolds. Three songs later, “For Example, This is a Corpse” takes a midtempo approach to math-rock with some serious guitar noodling and rhythmic complexity. That leads in to the final track, “Intro,” which is a delicate, percussion-less piece that floats along on a creaky piano line and background noises.

This album has all of the post-rock idioms rolled into one: guitar noodling, buildups, atmospheric pieces, overarching melodies, heavy parts, quiet parts, heavy/quiet/heavy parts, all of it. The members of Post Harbor studied post-rock, took it apart and put it back together expertly on “They Can’t Hurt You If You Don’t Believe In Them.” Post Harbor has set the bar for best album of 2010. Let all comers come. It doesn’t come out till February, but you can hear clips on their website.

Ember Days

September 6, 2004

Ember Days

www.emberdays.com

emberdaysband@hotmail.com

S/t EP

Self-Released

No website

File Under: Mellow Art Rock

RIYL: Mellow music, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, Radiohead

Summary: Hypnotic art-rock that lulls you into a blissful stupor.

Sometimes I wish that I could write one-word reviews. As rare as it may be, some bands are so much easier explained by one word than by hundreds. Ember Days is one of those bands- their sound is so unique that the greatest diatribe would be spent explaining why Ember Days is so amazingly hypnotic.

Yes, hypnotic. The sparse, haunting music that this quartet churns out is simply trance-inducing.

Ember Days is made up of a vocalist, a guitarist, a drummer, and a combination bassist/synth-master/pianist. Each part of this band is unique: The vocalist wails in a high, trembling voice that reverberates in your head long after the songs end; the guitarist hardly ever plays a chord, preferring atmospheric sounds and single note melodies; the bassist/keys player drives these compositions with a humble yet strong melodic backdrop; the drummer controls the level of intensity these songs reach.

The best song here is the flowing “To Say Goodbye”. It starts out with a gently pulsing synth line and a delicate piano line, then expands to involve drums, then vocals. The vocals in this particular song are distorted, so they all sound like whispers against the subtle beauty of the track. The song crescendos and decrescendos many times, as the intensity is built up with the increasing of the vocal volume. Nothing is overt in this band- everything grows and falls slowly. The five and a half minutes of this song are pure bliss- soft, melodic, unpretentious music that will put you to sleep. This is a brilliant song, and this is a brilliant album.

Even though these four songs make up 21 minutes of music, it’s unfortunate that there are only four songs here. I could listen to this band a lot longer than twenty-one minutes, and once you hear them, you’ll want to hear more as well.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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