Foofer Friday: Wang Wen – Eight Horses

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15 years, and 8 albums. This is the mark of a truly impressive band, by anyone’s standards. Wang Wen, China’s largest Post-Rock band, just celebrated their 15th year together as a band by releasing their 8th album, Eight Horses. I know I’ve already mentioned this album in passing in my Sundry Commentary article, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to delve deeper into this album. The fact that none of the other writers are willing to write about Wang Wen made me a bit sad and sympathetic.

If you’ve ever listened to Wang Wen’s remarkable discography, you’ll notice they mature and develop their sound very steadily. I first heard of Wang Wen after they released 0.7, which has grown to be one of my favorite Post-Rock albums, even to the point of paying an absurd amount of money for the vinyl record. My wallet is thankful that the Eight Horses vinyl has yet to be released (They say it’ll be pressed by this September, but the vinyl world is a finicky world to say the least.)

I firmly believe that this album could be a good soundtrack to the “Wild China” documentary series. My point is driven by the opening track ‘Northern North’, which brings pictures of all sorts of wildlife and majestic landscapes to my mind, with its sweeping sounds and subdued ambience. Like the sounds of nature waking up, the song gradually adds more layers until it reaches its climax, complete with vocals and horns. I think this is the first time I’ve heard a post-rock breakdown with this eclectic combination. It definitely makes for a very unique experience.

The rest of the album has a mysterious sort of feel to it, almost exotic in nature, but they still make everything feel like it belongs there. From the Sigur Ros style of bowstring on guitar to the lyricless vocals to the horns and strings, it all feels so expertly orchestrated. It feels familiar and new all at the same time, because it’s conveniently accessible and simultaneously ground-breaking. This is one of the biggest technical achievements I’ve heard all year.

Something I thoroughly enjoy throughout this album is the fact that they continuously avoid sounding like other bands. Just when they start to sound like Sigur Ros, they change it up. When they begin to resemble Mono, they flip the music on its head. The impossibility to mistake Wang Wen for any other band is something I truly admire.

However, I have listened to this album over and over again, and there’s something that keeps nagging at me in the back of my mind. It’s not anything that has to do with song structure, instrumentation, recording quality, or even the overall feeling of the album. Heck, even the titles fit the mood of the tracks. But for the life of me, I can’t get anything from this album stuck in my head. It’s just not a memorable album, in my opinion. Every other album has some point or another that gets stuck in my head, but this one fails in that infinitesimal aspect.

If I had to rate this album, I’d give it 100%, absolutely no doubt about it. It’s like Mary Poppins; Practically perfect in every way. I would recommend this to anyone who likes anything related to instrumental music, ambient, post-metal, whatever. If Wang Wen decided to disband with no more recordings, they would certainly be ending on a high note.

Go ahead and try to prove my opinion wrong via twitter @Foofsies or via email at fooferfridays@gmail.com

Next week: The Wax Girl – Anosmic EP

    

By popular demand: Postrockstar 50-two #2 – A spotify playlist series!

Because we had such a warm response to our first playlist, James has gone ahead and created a follow-up playlist in what will now be a likely ongoing series entitled Postrockstar 50-Two. This playlist features two songs from 50 different post-rock artists and is over an hour of excellent musical goodness. This time around we’ve gone with a heavier theme, crossing into the boundaries of post-metal. Next month our third incarnation of 50-Two will be a much more ambient group of artists. So sit back, put on some good headphones, click the banner above and enjoy!

Foofer Friday: Ranges – Solar Mansions

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It’s hard to believe that in a small town like Bozeman, there’s more than one talented band dipping their toes in the post-rock scene. And yet, here I am to tell you about Ranges.


They’ve been around since 2012, but haven’t rel
eased anything until earlier this year, with their “AB SA RO KA” EP (Which I recommend) and just recently they released their first full-length album, “Solar Mansions”.

From the introduction to the sendoff, the entire album has this sort of dreamy quality. The first half of “The House of Aries” is an excellent example with it’s floaty melodies, slowly making its way into a more deliberate riff, still maintaining it’s rather sleepy demeanor. Like when your dream lazily makes its way from sheer nonsense to something a bit more coherent, like when I dreamt I was flying around inside my grandparent’s house.

On top being absolutely dreamy, every song is very well structured, and none of them seem to drag on for too long. There’s an undeniable sense of purpose in their sound, like they’re still in control of the dream. It makes for a very deliberate feeling sometimes, which is a bit distracting from the emotional side of the album, but in no way do I find this to be a real flaw.

The only other thing that dulls the shine of this album is the production value. The guitars, effects, synth, bass all sound great. The main issue is the drums, but I understand why, because recording drums is one of the toughest challenges about recording music. (Hey, it’s still better than a drum machine)

Overall, it still shines brightly in my eyes. It’s not every day you see a band so dedicated to their craft. They even mixed and mastered their own music beautifully, and even put together own DIY release on CD. It’s beautiful, and I should know; Ranges was kind enough to send me a press kit, complete with t-shirt. You should buy everything because that shirt is sooooo soft.

Who knows, maybe Inaeris and Ranges will make a split album?

Next week: Wang Wen – Eight Horses

    

Music InWallved – Orange Album

Music InWallved - Orange AlbumSome countries are just proving to be breeding grounds for talented post-rock bands. The US has its fair share, of course England and Japan do as well. Russia has made quite a presence over the past few years, and any list of countries spawning notable post-rock bands wouldn’t be complete without Iceland (even if only for Sigur Ros, though there are certainly others who are more than worth mentioning). When you go down this list of countries and the number of noteworthy post-rock bands (you know, the list that I just made up about 20 seconds ago), you don’t really see Lithuania on there. Like, at all. If “Orange Album”, the debut from Music InWallved (which has been in the works for 5 years!) is any indication, you might want to keep an eye on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.

The album tells the tale of a final night in your home city, before embarking on a journey to space. While space isn’t anywhere near a new concept in the realm of post-rock, I really enjoy the way this story is told, as stated by the band:

Orange City – A journey through the city, full of memories. Orange Beach – Last evening with friends, family. Orange Sea – A sea voyage with your favorite. Orange Island – The last night before the flight. Orange Base – Voltage and decreasing time. Orange Rocket – Start. Flight. The ultimate goal.

I don’t exactly know how the final track, ‘Phoenix’, fits in to this narrative (I’m assuming it’s tied in to the flight of the rocket, phoenix in flames sort of thing), but given how the final “orange” track goes, I’ve got my ideas (more on that later). Of course, given that the band calls ‘Phoenix’ a bonus track, it may not be tied into it at all. This is very keyboard driven post-rock, and it’s done really, really well. I think that the entire band should obviously be commended for crafting the songs, but I’m especially impressed with the keyboard playing of Edgar Sokolov. While it’s not necessarily very difficult music that he’s playing, it’s just done so well that it becomes the driving force behind each of the songs. That said, I have to admit that one of my favorite moments on the album comes courtesy of bass player Anton Avin at about 2:40 into the track ‘Orange Island’. I don’t feel like you often have the bass setting the tone for the crescendo as is the case here, and I love the way the rest of the musicians come together to pull it off.

By the time the story reaches it’s conclusion, you’ve definitely gained a sense of that last night pretty well. From enjoying the time spent with your friends and loved ones, to the realization that you’re leaving them behind, culminating in the darker, uneasy feeling on ‘Orange Rocket’, the flight of the rocket itself. The tone of this final song is definitely heavier than the rest of the album, as though perhaps there was a problem with the flight…

One of the things that is most striking to me about this album is that, according to the band, they didn’t “learn to play” post-rock. Instead, after creating these songs, they found out that the music that they had written could be characterized as post-rock, which is pretty awesome to me. If you’re not setting out to create a specific style of music, but rather just writing based off of your influences and ideas, I think the final product comes out much better than trying to cram what you want to write into a tidy little genre name. Now, the question is if they’ll be able to avoid that pre-disposed categorization and the trappings that come with it on future recordings. My guess, based off of ‘Phoenix’, is that future music will definitely be a bit more defined by post-rock, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress, and just hope that it’s not another 5 years before they release a new album!

Side note, I strongly encourage you all to visit Music InWallved’s website and poke around a little. Really, really clever.