|Cultural origins||Late 1980s and early 1990s, United Kingdom, Canada and United States|
Post-rock is a form of experimental rockcharacterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbre over traditional rock song structures, chords, or riffs. Post-rock artists are often instrumental, typically combining rock instrumentation with electronics. The genre emerged within the indie and underground music scene of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, due to its abandonment of rock conventions, it often bears little resemblance musically to contemporary indie rock, borrowing instead from diverse sources including ambient, electronica, jazz, krautrock, dub, and minimalist classical.
Artists such as Talk Talk and Slint have been credited with producing foundational works in the style in the early 1990s.The term post-rock itself was notably employed by journalist Simon Reynolds in a review of the 1994 Bark Psychosis album Hex . It later solidified into a recognizable trend with the release of Tortoise's 1996 album Millions Now Living Will Never Die . The term has since been used to describe bands which differ widely in style, making the term controversial among listeners and artists alike.
The concept of "post-rock" was developed by critic Simon Reynolds,who used the term in his review of Bark Psychosis' album Hex , published in the March 1994 issue of Mojo magazine. Reynolds expanded upon the idea later in the May 1994 issue of The Wire . Writing about artists like Seefeel, Disco Inferno, Techno Animal, Robert Hampson, and Insides, Reynolds used the term to describe music "using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords". He further expounded on the term,
Perhaps the really provocative area for future development lies... in cyborg rock; not the wholehearted embrace of Techno's methodology, but some kind of interface between real time, hands-on playing and the use of digital effects and enhancement.
Reynolds, in a July 2005 entry in his blog, claimed he had used the concept of "post-rock" before using it in Mojo , previously referencing it in a feature on the band Insides for music newspaper Melody Maker .He also said he later found the term itself not to be of his own coinage, saying in his blog, "I discovered many years later it had been floating around for over a decade." In 2021, Reynolds noted that the term had developed in meaning during the 21st century, no longer referring to "left-field UK guitar groups engaged in a gradual process of abandoning songs [and exploring] texture, effects processing, and space," but instead coming to signify "epic and dramatic instrumental rock, not nearly as post- as it likes to think it is."
Earlier uses of the term include its employment in a 1975 article by American journalist James Wolcott about musician Todd Rundgren, although with a different meaning.It was also used in the Rolling Stone Album Guide to name a style roughly corresponding to "avant-rock" or "out-rock". The earliest use of the term cited by Reynolds dates back as far as September 1967. In a Time cover story feature on the Beatles, writer Christopher Porterfield hails the band and producer George Martin's creative use of the recording studio, declaring that this is "leading an evolution in which the best of current post-rock sounds are becoming something that pop music has never been before: an art form." Another pre-1994 example of the term in use can be found in an April 1992 review of 1990s noise-pop band The Earthmen by Steven Walker in Melbourne music publication Juke, where he describes a "post-rock noisefest".
The post-rock sound incorporates characteristics from a variety of musical genres, including krautrock, ambient,psychedelia, prog rock, space rock, math rock, tape music, minimalist classical, British IDM, jazz (both avant-garde and cool), and dub reggae, as well as post-punk, free jazz, contemporary classical, and avant-garde electronica. It also bears similarities to drone music. Early post-rock groups also often exhibited strong influence from the krautrock of the 1970s, particularly borrowing elements of "motorik", the characteristic krautrock rhythm.
Post-rock compositions often make use of repetition of musical motifs and subtle changes with an extremely wide range of dynamics. In some respects, this is similar to the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Brian Eno, pioneers of minimalism.Typically, post-rock pieces are lengthy and instrumental, containing repetitive build-ups of timbre, dynamics and texture.
Vocals are often omitted from post-rock; however, this does not necessarily mean they are absent entirely. When vocals are included, the use is typically non-traditional: some post-rock bands employ vocals as purely instrumental efforts and incidental to the sound, rather than a more traditional use where "clean", easily interpretable vocals are important for poetic and lyrical meaning.When present, post-rock vocals are often soft or droning and are typically infrequent or present in irregular intervals. Sigur Rós, a band known for their distinctive vocals, fabricated a language they called "Hopelandic" ("Vonlenska" in Icelandic), which they described as "a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music and acts as another instrument."
In lieu of typical rock structures like the verse-chorus form, post-rock groups generally make greater use of soundscapes. Simon Reynolds states in his "Post-Rock" from Audio Culture that "A band's journey through rock to post-rock usually involves a trajectory from narrative lyrics to stream-of-consciousness to voice-as-texture to purely instrumental music".Reynolds' conclusion defines the sporadic progression from rock, with its field of sound and lyrics to post-rock, where samples are stretched and looped.
Wider experimentation and blending of other genres have recently taken hold in the post-rock scene. Cult of Luna, Isis, Russian Circles, Palms, Deftones, and Pelican have fused metal with post-rock styles. The resulting sound has been termed post-metal. More recently, sludge metal has grown and evolved to include (and in some cases fuse completely with) some elements of post-rock. This second wave of sludge metal has been pioneered by bands such as Giant Squid and Battle of Mice. This new sound is often seen on the label of Neurot Recordings.Similarly, bands such as Altar of Plagues, Lantlôs and Agalloch blend between post-rock and black metal, incorporating elements of the former while primarily using the latter. In some cases, this sort of experimentation and blending has gone beyond the fusion of post-rock with a single genre, as in the case of post-metal, in favor of an even wider embrace of disparate musical influences as it can be heard in bands like Deafheaven.
Post-rock takes a heavy influence from late 1960s U.S. group The Velvet Underground and their "dronology"—"a term that loosely describes fifty percent of today's post rock activity".A 2004 article from Stylus Magazine noted that David Bowie's album Low (1977) would have been considered post-rock if released twenty years later.
British group Public Image Ltd (PiL) were also pioneers, described by the NMEas "arguably the first post-rock group". Their second album Metal Box (1979) almost completely abandoned traditional rock and roll structures in favor of dense, repetitive dub and krautrock inspired soundscapes and John Lydon's cryptic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. The year before Metal Box was released, PiL bassist Jah Wobble declared, "rock is obsolete". Dean McFarlane of AllMusic describes Alternative TV's Vibing Up the Senile Man (Part One) (1979) as "a door opening on multi-faceted post-rock music," citing its drawing on avant-garde, noise and jazz.
This Heat are regarded as having predated the genre because of their unique combination of avant-prog, krautrock, and industrial music.Their music has been compared directly to Slint, Swans and Stereolab. Stump have been referred to as "a significant precursor to post-rock" due to the "strictness" of the band's avant-garde approach.
Bands from the early 1990s, such as Slint or, earlier, Talk Talk, were later recognized as influential on post-rock.Despite the fact that the two bands are very different from one another, Talk Talk emerging from art rock and new wave and Slint emerging from post-hardcore, they both have had a driving influence on the way post-rock progressed throughout the 1990s.
Originally used to describe the music of English bands such as Stereolab,Laika, Disco Inferno, Moonshake, Seefeel, Bark Psychosis, and Pram, post-rock grew to be frequently used for a variety of jazz and krautrock influenced, largely instrumental, and electronica-tinged music made after 1994.
Groups such as Cul de Sac, Tortoise, Labradford, Bowery Electric and Stars of the Lid are cited as founders of a distinctly American post-rock movement.The second Tortoise LP Millions Now Living Will Never Die , made the band a post-rock icon. Many bands (e.g., Do Make Say Think) began to record music inspired by the "Tortoise-sound".
In the late 1990s, Chicago was the home base for a variety of post-rock associated performers. Both John McEntire of Tortoise and Jim O'Rourke of Brise-Glace and Gastr del Sol were important producers for many of the groups.One of the most eminent post-rock locales is Montreal, where Godspeed You! Black Emperor and similar groups, including Silver Mt. Zion and Fly Pan Am record on Constellation Records, a notable post-rock record label. These groups are generally characterized by an aesthetic rooted in, among other genres, musique concrète , chamber music, and free jazz.
In the early 2000s, the term had started to fall out of favor.It became increasingly controversial as more critics outwardly condemned its use. Some of the bands for whom the term was most frequently assigned, including Cul de Sac, Tortoise, and Mogwai, rejected the label. The wide range of styles covered by the term, they and others have claimed, rob it of its usefulness.
In 2000, Radiohead released the studio album Kid A ,marking a turning point in their musical style. Sigur Rós, with the release of Ágætis byrjun in 1999, became among the most well known post-rock bands of the 2000s. In part this was due to the use of many of their tracks, particularly their 2005 single "Hoppípolla", in TV soundtracks and film trailers, including the BBC's Planet Earth . Their popularity can at least somewhat be attributed to a move towards a more rock oriented sound with simpler song structures and increasing utilization of pop hooks.
Explosions in the Sky, 65daysofstatic, This Will Destroy You, Do Make Say Think, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Mono are some of the more popular post-rock bands of the new millennium.Following a 13-year hiatus, experimental rock band Swans have released a number of albums that exhibit post-rock traits, most notably To Be Kind , which was named one of AllMusic's favorite indie pop and rock albums of 2014. The Swedish post-rock band Oh Hiroshima received positive reception for their album In Silence We Yearn , released in 2015.
Industrial music is a genre of music that draws on harsh, mechanical, transgressive or provocative sounds and themes. AllMusic defines industrial music as the "most abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music" that was "initially a blend of avant-garde electronics experiments and punk provocation". The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by members of Throbbing Gristle and Monte Cazazza. While the genre name originated with Throbbing Gristle's emergence in the United Kingdom, artists and labels vital to the genre also emerged in the United States and other countries.
Stereolab are an Anglo-French avant-pop band formed in London in 1990. Led by the songwriting team of Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier, the group's music combines influences from krautrock, lounge and 1960s pop music, often incorporating a repetitive motorik beat with heavy use of vintage electronic keyboards and female vocals sung in English and French. Their lyrics have political and philosophical themes influenced by the Surrealist and Situationist movements. On stage, they play in a more feedback-driven and guitar-oriented style. The band also draw from funk, jazz and Brazilian music, and were one of the first artists to be dubbed "post-rock". They are regarded among the most innovative and influential groups of the 1990s.
Gothic rock is a style of rock music that emerged from post-punk in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The first post-punk bands which shifted toward dark music with gothic overtones include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, and the Cure.
Alternative rock, or alt-rock, is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1990s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to musicians influenced by the musical style or independent, DIY ethos of late-1970s punk rock.
Shoegaze is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock characterized by its ethereal mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume. It emerged in Ireland and the United Kingdom in the late 1980s among neo-psychedelic groups who usually stood motionless during live performances in a detached, non-confrontational state. The name comes from the heavy use of effects pedals, as the performers were often looking down at their pedals during concerts.
Dream pop is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that emphasizes atmosphere and sonic texture as much as pop melody. Common characteristics include breathy vocals, dense productions, and effects such as reverb, echo, tremolo, and chorus. It often overlaps with the related genre of shoegaze, and the two genre terms have at times been used interchangeably.
Tortoise is an American post-rock band formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1990. The band incorporates krautrock, dub, minimal music, electronica and jazz into their music, a combination sometimes termed "post-rock". Tortoise have been consistently credited for the rise of the post-rock movement in the 1990s.
Math rock is a style of progressive and indie rock with roots in bands such as King Crimson and Rush as well as 20th-century minimal music composers such as Steve Reich. It is characterized by complex, atypical rhythmic structures, counterpoint, odd time signatures, angular melodies, and extended, often dissonant, chords. It bears similarities to post-rock.
Can was a German experimental rock band formed in Cologne in 1968 by Holger Czukay, Irmin Schmidt (keyboards), Michael Karoli (guitar), and Jaki Liebezeit (drums). The group used several vocalists, most prominently the American Malcolm Mooney (1968–70) and the Japanese Damo Suzuki (1970–73). They have been widely hailed as pioneers of the German krautrock scene.
Krautrock is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among artists who blended elements of psychedelic rock, avant-garde composition, and electronic music among other eclectic sources. These artists generally moved away from the rhythm & blues roots and song structure found in traditional Anglo-American rock music, instead exploring hypnotic rhythms, musique concrète techniques, extended improvisation, and early synthesizers. Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül II and Harmonia.
Slint was an American rock band from Louisville, Kentucky, formed in 1986. The band consisted of guitarist and vocalist Brian McMahan, guitarist David Pajo, drummer and vocalist Britt Walford, Todd Brashear, and Ethan Buckler. Slint's first album, Tweez, was recorded by engineer Steve Albini in 1987 and released in obscurity on the Jennifer Hartman Records label in 1989. It was followed two years later by the critically acclaimed Spiderland, released on the independent label Touch and Go Records.
Post-hardcore is a punk rock music genre that maintains the aggression and intensity of hardcore punk but emphasizes a greater degree of creative expression. It was initially inspired by post-punk and noise rock. Like post-punk, the term has been applied to a broad constellation of groups. Post-hardcore began in the 1980s with bands like Hüsker Dü and Minutemen. The genre expanded in the 1980s and 1990s with releases by bands from cities that had established hardcore scenes, such as Fugazi from Washington, D.C. as well as groups such as Big Black and Jawbox that stuck closer to post-hardcore's noise rock roots. In the early- and mid-2000s, post-hardcore achieved mainstream success with the popularity of bands like My Chemical Romance, Dance Gavin Dance, AFI, Underoath, Hawthorne Heights, Silverstein, The Used, At the Drive-In, Saosin, and Senses Fail. In the 2010s, bands like Sleeping with Sirens and Pierce the Veil achieved mainstream success. Meanwhile, bands like Title Fight and La Dispute experienced underground popularity.
Drone music, drone-based music, or simply drone, is a minimalist genre that emphasizes the use of sustained sounds, notes, or tone clusters – called drones. It is typically characterized by lengthy audio programs with relatively slight harmonic variations throughout each piece. La Monte Young, one of its 1960s originators, defined it in 2000 as "the sustained tone branch of minimalism".
TNT is the third studio album by American post-rock band Tortoise, released in 1998 by Thrill Jockey. After Jeff Parker joined the band in 1996, Tortoise recorded TNT over the course of a year with drummer John McEntire acting as producer, editor and mixing. Taking influence from their remix material of the 1990s, the band recorded the album using hard disk technology in a "forward-then-back" approach, with members individually adding parts to tracks at different stages until the tracks were completed. As with previous albums, the band members also shared instrumental roles.
Post-metal is a music genre rooted in heavy metal but exploring approaches beyond metal conventions. It emerged in the 1990s with bands such as Neurosis and Godflesh, who transformed metal texture through experimental composition. In a way similar to the predecessor genres post-rock and post-hardcore, post-metal offsets the darkness and intensity of extreme metal with an emphasis on atmosphere, emotion, and even "revelation", developing an expansive but introspective sound variously imbued with elements of ambient, noise, psychedelic, progressive, and classical music. Songs are typically long, with loose and layered structures that discard the verse–chorus form in favor of crescendos and repeating themes. The sound centres on guitars and drums, while any vocals are usually screamed or growled and resemble an additional instrument.
Post-punk is a broad genre of rock music that emerged in the late 1970s as musicians departed from the raw simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock, instead adopting a variety of avant-garde sensibilities and non-rock influences. Inspired by punk's energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock cliches, artists experimented with styles like funk, electronic music, jazz, and dance music; the production techniques of dub and disco; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. These communities produced independent record labels, visual art, multimedia performances and fanzines.
69 is the debut album by British band A.R. Kane, released in 1988 on Rough Trade Records and produced by the band with additional co-production from Ray Shulman. Following the release of their acclaimed Lollita and Up Home! EPs, 69 developed the experimental "dream pop" style pioneered by the duo, blending elements of dub, acid rock, jazz, noise, and pop.
Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique or which experiments with the basic elements of the genre. Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with some of the genre's distinguishing characteristics being improvisational performances, avant-garde influences, odd instrumentation, opaque lyrics, unorthodox structures and rhythms, and an underlying rejection of commercial aspirations.
Electronic rock is a music genre that involves a combination of rock music and electronic music, featuring instruments typically found within both genres. It originates from the late 1960s, when rock bands began incorporating electronic instrumentation into their music. Electronic rock acts usually fuse elements from other music styles, including punk rock, industrial rock, hip hop, techno, and synth-pop, which has helped spur subgenres such as indietronica, dance-punk, and electroclash.
Avant-funk is a music style in which artists combine funk rhythms with an avant-garde or art rock mentality. Its most prominent era occurred in the late 1970s among post-punk acts who embraced black dance styles.
Enter "blackgaze", the buzz term for a new school of bands taking black metal out of the shadows and melding its blast beats, dungeon wailing and razorwire guitars with the more reflective melodies of post-rock, shoegaze and post-hardcore.
Post-rock has its own sporadic but extensive history, which [post-rockers] draw on as much for the suggestiveness of its unrealized possibilities as for actual achievements. In terms of electric guitar, the key lineage runs from the Velvet Underground, through Germany's kosmic rock (Can, Faust, Neu!, Cluster, et al.) and the guitar-loop mosaics of Eno and Fripp, to late-1980s neopsychedelics as Jesus & Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, and A.R. Kane. The Velvets melded folkadelic songcraft with a wall-of-noise aesthetic that was half Phil Spector, half La Monte Young—and thereby invented dronology, a term that loosely describes 50 per cent of today's post-rock activity.