When my reviewing took a big shift from folk-pop/indie-pop to instrumental music in 2018, I spent a good amount of time explaining that I had just gotten into new things. That was true in many genres: I was not really reviewing trance at that time, and now I have reviewed several of Traversable Wormhole’s works.
But it was not true about post-rock. I have been listening to post-rock almost the entirety of Independent Clauses’ existence: the first mention of the term is in 2004 (although I wouldn’t use the term that way now), and I covered my first real post-rock track in 2005: an early track by Industries of the Blind. 273 of our 3063 posts have the word post-rock in them. That’s almost 10% of our posts! That’s surprising even to me.
So, what I’m saying here is that I’ve listened to a surprising amount of post-rock over the course of this blog, but this is only the second post-rock premiere (and first full album premiere) we’ve ever done. Every day brings something new!
JuffBass’s Monolith is also something new for Juffbass. The solo outfit previously made post-rock only with bass guitar and percussion, creating long, shifting tracks that appeal to my sensibilities as a bass player and as a fan of post-rock. With Monolith, Juffbass has added electric guitar to the bass-and-drums approach, creating an album that pays homage to the soaring aspects of post-rock now available to Juffbass while not forsaking the subtle, nuanced takes of previous work.
There are, of course, two major schools of electric guitar-based post-rock: the slow/dark/heavy onslaught of Explosions in the Sky / Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the soaring/twinkling/major key rush of Lights and Motion et al. Monolith is on the soaring/twinkling/major key side of things. Yet Juffbass’s prior work in an unusual vein brings a unique sensibility to these pieces. While the guitars go suitably acrobatic and some of the guitar pedals/effects will be well-known to post-rock fans, a focus on bass brings a different vibe to the work. To accent the bass, Juffbass (generally) doesn’t fill out the space between the soaring treble and the thrumming bass with dense, mid-range electric guitar; instead, there’s just, well, space. The results are a wide-open, expansive sonic experience: there’s no clutter or claustrophobia, just parts moving together in a wide plain. It’s an engaging take on the style.
The guitar-heavy opener “The End of the Spectrum” suggests that Juffbass is very aware of the shifts in sound from the last album to this one. This is one of the few tracks that has prominent mid-range guitar in it below the lead lines, giving this a very iconic post-rock vibe and putting it at the far end of the sonic spectrum from his bass-only recordings in complexity. (Several of the tracks have counterpoint guitar lines, but less often does Juffbass go for chunky chords more traditionally found in the rhythm section of a post-rock band.) “Rooftops of Montréal” supercharges the cymbals to match a standout guitar melody, making this one a highlight of the outfit’s new sound and the record.
But it’s “Meet Me Where We Can Hear the Trains” that starts to show off what Juffbass’s vision can really be. “Meet Me” carries much of the pensive, slowly-transforming approach from the bass-only work into the guitar-and-bass space. The results are a subtle approach to a gentle groove, with the guitar, bass, and drums working together to create a uniquely evocative experience. Highlight track “Personal Reminiscence” is another example of this working perfectly, as punchy drums punctuate carefully-meted-out guitar notes. The contrast is perfectly landed, making for excellent listening. “Planes II” is a rework of an earlier bass-only track–even with added guitar, this one is bass-heavy and elegant. It’s one for the old fans.
Even though Juffbass has added electric guitars to the mix in this record, this collection of tunes still feels light and easy to listen to. The careful composition and unique mixing make Monolith a distinctive collection. Fans of big, light-dappled, splashy post-rock will find lots to love here, while also being treated to a novel sonic perspective. Highly recommended.