What Is Post Rock?

Post rock is one of music's more enigmatic genres. Defining itself by what it's not (rock) gives little clue as to what it is. Ironically, given that the phrase 'post rock' literally translates to 'after rock', it is in fact a sub-genre of rock music, something that is immediately obvious to anyone who hears it.

The difficulty in pinning the genre down stems from the large number of sub-genres lurking within it. Although typified by tremolo guitars swathed in reverb and delay inevitably building to a heart stopping climax after 7 or 8 minutes of wonderful noise, there are the much heavier variants that bear more relation to heavy metal and prog rock than they do to post rock forefathers Godspeed You Black Emperor! (for example).

As such, post rock should perhaps be taken to be more of an ideal and an attitude expressed through music that shares certain characteristics than it should be as a musical template. Much the same as punk music before it, post rock musicians tend to eschew the mainstream music industry and the traditional capitalism in it and treat music as art much more than as commerce. It is a genre that sees itself as underground, as niche, as counter-culture.

This is as much to do with the attitude of the musicians involved in it as the music they make. Tending towards sprawling soundscapes and instrumental rock, it is never going to reach the mainstream success required to 'make it big'. The most musicians in the genre with aspirations to making a decent living out of it can hope for is to get a song (or more properly, a piece) onto an advert or film.

Although there is much differentiation between the various sub-genres of post rock, attendees to gigs will note some constants between all of the bands. Namely, tattoos and a surfeit of effects pedals. A prevalent trend in the genre is to rely on effects pedals enormously to create interesting sounds, and laptops have appeared at drummer's sides more and more frequently in recent years. The quest for interesting sounds overrides all else with some bands deploying cheap amplifiers and instruments in order to afford multiple boards worth of effects pedals.

Post rock is the use of rock instrumentation to create music more complex than 3 minute pop songs. It is an attitude that rails against the mainstream and prides itself on its alternative status. It is a celebration of musicianship and sonic discovery.

Check out Nice Weather for Airstrikes Records for some of the best up and coming post rock and shoegaze bands in the UK.

by Nicolas Lewis; Tuesday, May 17, 2011 @ 06:27 AM [15860]

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