I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
…Unless I decide to skip around the alphabet. In fact, I believe I’ll focus exclusively on netlabel releases for all of April…
(Lost Children, 2007)
I’m going to come out and say right now that this is one of the better post rock releases that I’ve heard. And I say that because I keep coming back to it – I keep referring to my London winter of 2008/2009 as my “post rock winter” because I spent quite a bit of time wandering the streets with earbuds firmly in place, soundtracking my treks with newly discovered releases from netlables like Lost Children, Laridae, and Nishi. That type of music was perfect for the cold, gray days, and particularly during the “big” snowstorm (all 5 inches of it) that stopped the city dead in its tracks, I felt like these tunes rendered everything that passed before my eyes in slow-motion cinematic grandeur. The peaks and crescendos, contemplative quieter passages, and periodic found-sound samples lent an air of surreality to the familiar buildings and sights, and gave a whole new perspective of a city normally bustling with life, as if through the dimness the music revealed a point of light and warmth that was just beyond reach, but wouldn’t be for long.
Noise Room was one of the very first bands on the Lost Children roster that I listened to, and they stuck with me for a couple really good reasons. First, in a post rock landscape that had gotten saturated at the time with half-baked Godspeed and Explosions in the Sky knockoffs (and let’s face it, those are the two bands with which you must begin any post rock discussion), delivering bloated, overlong albums whose peaks and valleys were as by-the-numbers as a verse-chorus-verse pop song, Noise Room’s brief mini-album The End of the Lord’s Constellation clocked in at a lean 24 minutes. As contemporaries tried to hoist the weight of 10-, 15-, 20-minute suites with little variation from the norm and boring, repetitive passages (I could be mean, but I won’t name names, *cough*, Milhaven, Oriin – alright, not a lot of names, anyway), Noise Room’s longest song on Constellation, “Friends” at 7:14, is also its best.
Second, Noise Room’s chord progressions and keyboard and string accents tug appropriately at emotions, as the band has really come to understand the importance of the human response to melody and tonal manipulation. Even when the distortion’s on full blast and you get the sense that whatever room you’re in is clinging desperately to every downbeat and stomped floor tom, the band finds this center of human spirit that they can exploit in a universal way. That’s why this kind of music is perfect for film or television soundtracks, as directors and editors can easily tie it to a number of scenes for greater emotional impact. And it goes both ways – in particular, the end of “Friends” recalls Michael Giacchino’s score from the end of Lost’s first season when castaways Michael, Jin, Walt, and Sawyer finally set off in the raft they constructed. The progression and melody, while not exact, are enough to recall the hopeful tone of the scene and enhance my personal listening experience with the proper amount of nostalgia. But the great thing is, this is for everyone – just because I’ve got a specific moment doesn’t mean you won’t have a different one. In a sense, that’s the beauty of post rock music in general – you can imprint your own unique memory or visualization on to the feeling or mood of the music. This is also why post rock bands who have a visual element to their live shows, namely projected video or film, can so easily enhance or change the meaning of their music, by simply suggesting to the listener what he or she should be feeling. It can be a pretty neat trick.
Yeah, so, “Friends” is good, but so is the rest of the album, the title track being another standout as it opens the record with a treated sample repeating “The end of the Lord’s constellation” over picked harmonics for a few bars before the thick pounding of guitars and drums overtakes it in a wave of chaos, presumably as the Lord lays waste to whatever is at its end. A dip into a meditative string arrangement halfway through once again ushers the crash of guitars and drums, a catharsis junkie’s dream. “Hope Channel” follows similar paths but dials down the bombast slightly, while “You X Hey She It Boom” and “A Last Moon” close the album in a more meditative fashion, featuring much less drumming in the former, and not much more than piano in the sub-2:00 final track. It’s over before you know it, but it’s easy to keep on repeat. And just think – downloading this will give you the answer to the trivia item “Name a band from Battipaglia, Italy.” Ding ding ding! Noise Room, dummy.
RIYL: The Six Parts Seven, Mogwai, Stellardrive