~An article by Jordan Volz
After the rejuvenating jolt that 2004 gave the instrumental world, it was essential that a new crop of innovative bands follow the example put forth the previous year and expand on this new musical territory. Some may have predicted that this needed to happen in order for the genre to continue to thrive, but I don't think there was a single person who could have foreseen to what extent this would be carried out. The second wave, which had begun the previous year, sees a full maturation in 2005, which will forever go down as a pivotal year for instrumental music.
From every corner of the globe bands emerged with a great vision of the future and a compelling story to tell. While some of these bands were rookies to the instrumental genre, many of them were returning bands that had finally put the pieces together in exactly the right configuration. The United States scores high ranks with a few of the most promising acts in the world: This Will Destroy You, Caspian, Saxon Shore, and Timeout Drawer. This is something we have not seen from the US since the early days of Explosions in the Sky, and it is a wonderful thing to watch it climbing back to the top. Although lacking in notable releases from returning artists, Australia manages to pull together an impressive effort with Pivot and This is Your Captain Speaking and continues to show that it cannot be counted out of the equation. Additionally, Japan begins to get its feet wet in the instrumental world as many bands begin to follow in the footsteps of Mono and attempt to tackle this "post-rock" giant.
But the real story in 2005 comes from two fronts, both European. The first is the riveting British instrumental scene, which undoubtedly puts on its strongest effort to date, and without the aid of Mogwai, the leading artist in the region. 65 Days of Static returns with another brilliant album by tightening up the sound presented in The Fall of Math, Upcdowncleftcrightcabc+start finally move into the big leagues with And the Battle is Won, one of the better crafted albums of this century, and Tracer AMC gets another great album under its belt as it continues to hone its sound. However, the real story from the British world is Yndi Halda, a young band who's debut, self-released album captivated many critics and fans all around the world. Enjoy Eternal Bliss is an instant classic, and we know that this is just the beginning of a very long and successful career for Yndi Halda.
The other headline from Europe is that slowly, but surely, the Scandinavians are taking over this genre. Fueled by a seemingly endless amount of creativity, this area of the world is a hotspot for instrumental music. The Samuel Jackson Five came out of nowhere in 2005 and offer up the strongest album of the year. Despite unforeseen competition, Easily Misunderstood excels like no other album is capable of doing. September Malevolence also sneak in the top five with its stellar song-writing and unapproachable sentimentality, and don't forget Ellis the Vacuumchild, one of Sweden's wildcards.
Is this the beginning of a reign of Scandinavian bands, or will the UK bounce back in 2006 and take back the crown? Can the US carry the momentum gained in 2005 and find itself at the top of the list in 2006? Or maybe Japan's blossoming scene will finally mature and show the world its true colors. With many releases from established artists in 2006 it will be interesting to see whether or not the newer bands can muscle their way through these powerhouses and reach for the stars. In the past bands like Mogwai and Mono were untouchable, but that was all before the second wave began. Will they continue to repeat the same old tricks or have they learned something from these younger, riskier bands and embraced this emerging trend? Only time will tell...
50) My Education | Italian
Website: My Education
Music: My Education
Label: Thirty Ghosts Records
Representing the first of three Texan bands on the list, My Education follows its Five Popes EP with Italian, an album which hones in on the My Education sound while adding some much needed spice to the mix. Drums set the framework for meandering guitars and violin, both of which take turns at the lead and build a steady pulse behind the album. The landscape is washed over ever so gently with cascading instrumentation, which tug at the narrative seams without cluttering the freeform approach of the band. My Education is not forceful, yet neither subtle nor friendly, and this slightly detached approach allows the band to write emotional songs that aren't overly sentimental -- a rare occurance in this age. Overall, all signs are pointing My Education in the right direction, who are well on the way to carving out its own niche in the instrumental world and are on the cusp of a great release.
Key Tracks: Snake in the Grass; Texas Style; Green Arrow
49) Sequence Pulse | Railroad to Heaven
Website: Sequence Pulse
Music: Sequence Pulse
Label: Catune Records
Railroad to Heaven acts as a perfect travel soundtrack. Lush soundscapes contain chugging guitars and pounding drum beats. The music undulates rhythmically from beginning to end, offering a smooth vibe to set pace with on this journey. Railroad to Heaven excels with its staunch consistency, never straying too far into either extreme and avoiding quiet/loud compositions by choosing the middle road at every opportunity. Things could be much rowdier and epic, but they don't escalate into that domain. The title track really shows the promising side of Sequence Pulse, and this is hopefully where it will be taking its music in the future. Peaceful, serene, and enchanting--Railroad to Heaven is a tranquil listen.
Key Tracks: Masquerade; Railroad to Heaven; Flowage
48) Apse | Apse
Label: Acuarela Discos
The first of two experimental bands from New York on the list, Apse have been at its craft for longer than Tarantula AD, and the sound it has come to love is much different. Apse concentrates on subtleties, contrasts it with Gothic compositions, and then gives everything a desolate feel with haunting vocal melodies. The music gets trippy and unnerving, but an appreciation for Apse's music surfaces because it's really aiming more to invoke a feeling than to tantalize the senses. Apse is weighty cerebral material that is difficult to approach and even more difficult to digest, but those who do will discover a deep appreciation for the band. Allow it to sink it and pull you underneath the surface of the routines of everyday life.
Key Tracks: Leer; Keep; Balat
47) Brass Knuckle Surfer | The Art of Life
Website: Brass Knuckle Surfer
While Brass Knuckle Surfer doesn't have the coolest name in the instrumental world, it does make some waves through guitar driven instrumental rock. Atlanta isn't known for it's lively music scene, which pales in comparison to Athens, but Brass Knuckle Surfer are a strong addition, presenting an eclectic mix of songs on The Art of Life. The sunrise/sunset combo is clearly the strong points of the album, as the rest doesn't challenge the listener too much. However, there is an ample amount of material for the band to work with in route to its next effort, which may be a heavy hitter in the future. BKS needs to take the initiative to set itself apart from the emerging group of US based instrumental rock bands and really claim a piece of this movement for itself.
Key Tracks: Apollo; Galapagos; Sunset
46) Shelter Red | Masters of the Universe
Website: Shelter Red
Shelter Red literally wastes no time blowing the doors wide open on Masters of the Universe. From the first chord the band is exploding full speed out into its musical space and destroying anything and everything that gets in its way. The acidic nature of the music decays as quickly as it is created--nothing has a shelf life of more than a few seconds here. This kind of invigorating, devestating music is what the instrumental world needs and Masters of the Universe is more than happy to provide just that. Shelter Red offers a superb album that is almost too good for a duo to perform. They might not be masters of the universe, but they have the hard rock gig down to a tee.
Key Tracks: Eyes on the Floor; The Legacy; Little Heaps of Dirty White
45) Trizteza | A Colores
Label: Better Looking Records
A Colores is not the Tristeza of old. It is not a deeply exciting, captivating piece, and it does not draw into the raw human emotional response. It is, however, a curiosity of sorts, blending together various sounds and instruments to give it an eerie and mystical feel.Trizteza keeps stepping further and further away from the post-rock genre, as it shifts its compositions as readily and smoothly as a shapeshifter in search of a lasting foundation. This particular presentation of the band was less enchanting than the Tristeza of old, but as we've seen before, it always has a trick or two up its sleeve. I'm not totally convinced that Tristeza has completely adjusted to the loss of Jimmy LaValle, and it may never completely adjust, but the band desparately needs to find a new rhythm for itself. On the positive side, the band does appear to be experimenting with exactly that, and it's only a time when they'll find themselves on top again.
Key Tracks: Liquid Pyramids; Aeroaviones; Stumble on Air
44) By the End of Tonight | Tribute to Tigers
Website: By The End of Tonight
Label: Temporary Residence Limited
It seems like Temporary Residence has seen brighter days. With pretty inconsequential releases by Parlour and The Drift, and no full releases by Explosion in the Sky, Mono, and Sunna, 2005 was pretty skimpy for this label. This leaves By the End of Tonight as the only band holding the Temporary Residence flag in 2005, as the label quickly loses its once optimal US instrumental lineup to up-and-coming independent acts and amazing imports. Tribute to Tigers is less edgy than previous releases, so perhaps By the End of Tonight is starting to to take cues from its label-mates. The band's sound is steadily evolving into a mature form where it can adequately contain the band's aggression and not fall prey to overzealous compositions. Tribute to Tigers is fitting, for like the animal, By the End of Tonight is graceful, yet powerful.
Key Tracks:4's, 5's, and the Piano that Never Made it Home; Tigers; 7:30 Easter Morning
43 Tides | Resurface
Label: Teenage Disco Bloodbath Records
The most intense bands always precede their sound with names that are equally as largely sweeping and all encompassing. Tides mimics the natural phenomenon on Resurface by switching between metallic, bone-crushing epic songs and short, quiet (sometimes acoustic) pieces. The band has no qualms about erupting in unpredictable ways at unforeseen moments--any time is a time when disaster can strike. It's great to see such a forceful band carry so much momentum with such little effort, and this is perhaps the key to Resurface.High tide, low tide, and everything in between, Resurface is a treat.
Key Tracks: Resurface; Aurora; Wash Away
42) Irepress | Samus Octology
Boston's Irepress leads the pack of a new breed of instrumental hard-rock bands hailing from the US. Other bands include Shelter Red, Brass Knuckle Surfer, and We Followed Tigers, but Irepress excels by branching off into the experimental arena and tackling a fierce bass/drum duo that is almost too hot to handle. Utterly ferocious breakdowns capsize Samus Octology time and again, forcing it to rebuild and re-attack. And how relentless the band is; the attacks become increasingly brutal and invigorating, each surpassing the last in passion and undying devotion to the band's craft. Irepress is a powerful band capable of moving mountains with a single tap of the foot, and the music is inescapable.
Key Tracks: June Ipper; Frid Ohm-Martin E.E.K.; Nano Grafistole Adendum (Trampled to Death, By Love)
41) Souvaris | Matador of Shame
Label: Bulbphone Records
Proficient in all forms of instrumentation, Souvaris stitches together a patchwork of sounds and techniques in the Matador of Shame EP. The band foregoes the temptation to become loud and aggressive and instead focuses its efforts into restraining itself and developing an organic, ethereal sound. As a result, The Matador of Shame encompasses a very moving and beautiful sound, but at times it may feel flat. With a bit more punch to its work, Souvaris would be ready to challenge the bigger names in the instrumental world, but as of now its still has a few kinks to work out. The highly experimental nature of this band is a double-edged sword; although it manages to stay a step or two ahead of the trend it hasn't sucessly made a totally coherent release. This should be the next item on the band's "To Do" list, but I think instead we will see it branching off into some other adventurous territories.
Key Tracks:Looking for Excuses for a Long Face; Mnemonic
40) Loss of a Child | The Future Symphony & Caught and Loss
Website: Loss of a Child
Label: Lost Children
British experimentalists, Loss of a Child released a double album for its first mark onto the music scene. The Future Symphony and Caught and Lost combine ambient sounds with a large dependence on the piano and throws it into the mix with typical rock composition. The only thing bringing down this release is a less than perfect production--typical of an independent band, but the projected sound of Loss of a Child with proper handling may prove to be stunning. Loss of a Child seemingly has an endless amount of great ideas, it just needs the right sources to get them out to the world.
Key Tracks: Gone and Forgotten; Beau; Feelings, Falling, and Farmers
39) Shora | Malval
Music: Conspiracy Records
Music: Conspiracy Records
Malval simmers like a rising star. Large waves of constructive sonic mayhem wash over the musical landscape and percolate deeply into the soil. The tide recedes, only to return again in full force, building an undulating rhythmic structure that manually constructs a monolithic wall of sound too tall to ignore. What else would you expect from a Swiss band, whom have clearly found a compositional style that haunts the very essence of its musical space. Although this repetition does tend to get redundant, Malval is a cryptic offering, sparse and plentiful in terms of originality. Expect big things from Shora in the future, they are tapped into a very good pool of knowledge.
Key Tracks: Parchelion; Arch and Hum; Siprodias
38) Detwiije | Would You Rather be Followed by Forty Ducks for the Rest of Your Life?
Label: Gizeh Records
Bringing back the violin with full force, Detwiije's Would You Rather... is a promising release from this young band. Detwiije flourish at songwriting, presenting epic compositions that excel in most every direction. "La Guerre des Mondes" displays this holistic ability; spread over fifteen minutes, Detwiije explores every avenue and alley in this song and does so while making it all look effortless. Guitars flare in blistering heat and then cool to the point of stagnation, as they are careful not to encroach on the violin's fragile sound, but as the reverb steps it up, the violin must fight violently to keep pace with the more intimidating physical force. If that isn't a surefire recounting of an epic battle, I'm not sure what is.
Key Tracks: Would You Rather Be Followed By Forty Ducks for the Rest of Your Life?; Mispelt Dutch Architect; La Guerre Des Mondes
37) Low Frequency in Stereo | Astro Kopp
Website: Low Frequency in Stereo
Music: Low Frequency in Stereo
Label: Rec 90
The Low Frequency in Stereo throws down some groovy beats in Astro Kopp, and although this EP doesn't live up to the amazing work of the band's past, it is a fun foray into some new territory. Still, the band proves time and again that it continues to be one of the most overlooked European instrumental acts. The Low Frequency in Stereo is so fluid that is overturns normal stylistic problems in the genre; this is the difference that a talented drummer can make. All the pieces fit perfectly together, and this solidifies The Low Frequency in Stereo as one of Norway's top acts. With a greatly expanding regional scene, perhaps The Low Frequency in Stereo will finally grab some well deserved attention and take the world by storm.
Key Tracks:Astro Kopp; Hilversum; Strobecontroller
36) Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson | Unnoticable in a Tiny Town, Invisible in the City
Website: Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson
Label: Dead Letter Records
Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson threw a surprising wrench in the machinery of the post-rock world with Unnoticable in a Tiny Town, Invisible in the City, which breaks apart the pack of cold, mechanical post-rock bands with a warm, honest approach to songwriting through gentle guitars and smooth drumming. The band uses audio samples to highlight the social commentary of their work, conscious of the larger problems facing the world, but careful not to let this override the music itself, which is an immaculate display all together. As the final seconds of "A Letter Not to be Read At Your Wedding" come to a close, the repetition of the words "You Are Not Alone" hammer home, and for a brief second, we almost believe it. Kudos to Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson; this album begs you to shed some tears.
Key Tracks: Van Gogh Kept Painting Himself Because He Was The Only Model He Had; Yet We Continue to Build There, The Structure; We May be Remembered by What We Did When We Sat Down
35) Laura | Mapping Your Dreams
Label: Alone Again Records
Laura's Mapping Your Dreams sticks closely to the traditional post-rock formulas and utilizes the quiet/loud technique. The band shares a stark resemblance to International Karate in vision, and the album plays out almost like A Monster in Soul. Tracks like "Levodopa" are charming like no other, and several others breach a similar realization of their own value. The vocal component to Mapping Your Dreams is a deterrent to the joyous, beautiful music that these musicians craft, and this is not an isolated event on the album. However, Laura covers its missteps by offering more and more material for the ears to feast upon, and for that we cannot complain. Mapping Your Dreams isn't the best this band has to offer, so I anxiously await its next release.
Key Tracks:Levodopa; Non Serviam; We Are Mapping Your Dreams
34) Aether | Apart
2005 was a quiet year from Ohio for the most part. Two of its better known instrumental bands, Mortimur and Silencio took the year to tour and work on new material, which opened up the spotlight for other instrumental acts. Luckily, Aether steps up with Apart to pick up the slack. The album starts with the title track, introduced with a swift drum beat, violin accompaniment, and ambient guitars. Quickly it progresses into epic, cresting waves of sonic bliss. "The Stares" tops off the album, complete with bouncy guitar riffs offset by an anti-climatic, crunchy segue. We've not heard guitars this raw in the instrumental genre in some time, but Aether pulls it all together in Apart EP.
Key Tracks: Apart; The Stares; Mantra
33) Port Royal | Flares
Website: Port Royal
Label: Resonant Label
Flares comes in three parts, and some burn brighter than others. Although there is a good amount of unnecessary instrumentation in Flares, when Port Royal gets down to business, its very capable of holding its own. With breakdowns that explode on the drop of a pin and painfully long segues, the band stretches from breakneck speeds to screeching stops. It's done to the point of nauseum and annoyance after several listens, but an underlying beauty of Flares always drives me back for more. It's good to see an Italian band moving in for the kill-let's hope that others follow soon.
Key Tracks; Spetsnaz/Paul Leni; Zombione II; Flares III
32) Bright Red Paper | Bright Red Paper
Website: Bright Red Paper
After listening to this Oregon band's debut album, I was surprised that they had almost slipped through the cracks in 2005. The band is an excellent representation of classically minded musicians catering to a post-rock crowd. Much in the spirit of contemporaries such as Rachel's and A Silver Mount Zion, Bright Red Paper is largely led by the violin with guitars making subtle contributions for most of its work. Yet, true to the post-rock dogma, Bright Red Paper sets the tension high, reaching breathtaking climaxes and earth-shattering cathartic releases. This band is more artistic than your average post-rock band, and all signs indicate that they are working with a winning formula. Now they just need people to discover this fantastic quartet.
Key Tracks: D is For Dead Sea; A World Collapsed; Western Waves Crashing
31) Byla | Byla
Label: Translation Loss Records
You wouldn't expect the combined sounds of Dysrhythmia, Infidel?/Castro!, and Behold...the Arctopus to sound like Byla, but it does. Extremely minimalist and so atmospheric that the word cloudy doesn't even begin to describe it, Byla is an exercise in patience. Time is completely lost as the music invokes an existential drift that submerges the listener in his own thoughts and fantasies. Byla doesn't provide all the answers in Byla, but it inserts all the right pauses and asks the listener to participate as well. Patience is key, but in time this plays as a soundtrack to your dreams, complementing your thoughts like an intense psychological therapy. And what more can you ask than that?
Key Tracks: Closer to the Center; Lake Opulia; The Last to Leave
30) From Monument to Masses | Schools of Thought Contend
Website: From Monument to Masses
Label: Dim Mak
The Impossible Leap in One Hundred Simple Steps, although quite revolutionary, failed to really make that monumnetal connection that it so desparately sought (a year later 65 Days of Static would do just that). It was a little rough around the edges, unfocused at points, and a difficult digestion for some, but the political instrumental band with full audio samples hadn't really been attacked exactly like this before. A year later, Canada's Coming Home From Traffic Patterns tried a similar method with even less rewarding results. Instead of following up with another album, From Monument to Masses re-groups and attacks with a remix album, featuring remixes by some of the underground's top acts--65 Days of Static, Thunderbirds are Now!, Loquat, and more--each adding it's own spin on the FMTM sound. These albums can often turn disastrous, but Schools of Thought Contend bring out the genius in From Monument to Masses while removing the rougher exterior. Additionally, the two new tracks from the band are its best work to date and wet the appetite for the sophomore album, while "Deafening" is certainly one of the year's best songs.
Key Tracks: Deafening; Comrades and Friends (Loquat Remix); To Z Repeat (65 Days of Static Remix)
29) Amiina | AminaminA
Label: Worker's Institute
This was an easy pick for 2005. The string quartet that is famously known for supporting Sigur Ros bites the nail an puts out its debut EP. As we are accustomed from this band, the work is very professional and top notch. Those with an affinity for the string section will drool for this work. It was a great comfort to me to see the band branching away from the style seen in Sigur Ros' work and really carving a name for itself in AminaminA. And isn't there something utterly sexy about a girl with a saw? While only a short four songs long, the EP leaves the listener craving more, and hopefully we get that soon.
Key Tracks: Hemipode; Fjarskanistan
28) El Ten Eleven | El Ten Eleven
Website: El Ten Eleven
Label: Bar None Records
Californian instrumentalists exchange blows in its self-titled debut album. For some reason--maybe PR--El Ten Eleven was picked up by the indie rock scene this year and saw a marginal amount of success, and even though it's a very solid offering, it doesn't challenge the skill or honesty of some of its lesser known US contemporaries. El Ten Eleven is an album that is masterful, if not perfect, as meshing loops with live instrumentation, but it doesn't quite shrug off that gimmicky cloak and break into the real world. Tracks like "My Only Swerving" and "Fanshawe" are neat ensembles, but by and large the album is too repetitive and stagnant for its own good. El Ten Eleven does have all of the pieces together for a stellar release, but this debut album seems to not be challenging the duo as musicians. This is a band to keep an eye on, when it gets riskier with its music it will truly be a fun act to watch.
Key Tracks: My Own Swerving; Sorry About Your Irony; Fanshawe
27) Crombie | Forest Walk
Label: This Generation Tapes
This Generation Tapes brings Crombie's solo debut effort, Forest Walk. As you'd might expect from a solo project, there is not much organic material found here, aside from the samples of nature sounds, so the title is a bit misleading in that regard. This is an electronic piece of art, akin to Four Tet or Boards of Canada, and the ride throughout the album is a soothing, mellow experience. This was my favorite computer piece of the year; it has a nice even flow that many in the field overlook in favor of "glitching." Crombie, however, pushes all the right buttons.
Key Tracks: Support Vegetarianism; Communist Propoganda Film Soundtrack; Take a Walk into the Forest
26) Red Sparowes | At the Soundless Dawn
Website: Red Sparrows
Label: Neurot Recordings
This was another easy one. Take members of metal's biggest bands, place them into the instrumental arena, and you have an instant success. Members of Isis and Neurosis (visual component at least) team up for some dark-natured post-rock that buries hints of country style similar to Japancakes or Tulsa Drone. Red Sparowes hits heavy, hits hard, and hits often, like we would expect from a band with such a history. The album is solid from start to finish, although the band still finds itself in the middle of this illustrious list. To make the jump to the top, it'll have to abandon the techniques brought over from its other bands and have a try at tackling the instrumental scene from the inside out. As it currently stands, it's merely a tourist in foreign territory.
Key Tracks: Alone and Unaware, the Landscape was Transformed in Front of Our Eyes; Buildings Began to Stretch Wide Across the Sky and the Air Filled with Reddish Glow; Our Happiest Days Slowly Began to Turn into Dust
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