~An article by Jordan Volz
25) Timeout Drawer | Nowonmai
Website: The Timeout Drawer
Label: Consumer's Research and Development Label
Throughout its years together as a band, I've never thought that The Timeout Drawer has really gotten down what it sought to accomplish as a musical force. Nowonmai is a huge step in the right direction. Flaring guitars and skittering drums soar over experimental compositions, triggering a close comparison to the likes of Saxon Shore. Electronic samples tear across the sonic landscape, reinforcing pedal effects and heightening the efflorescent rock nature of the album. Guest appearances are made across the board--strings and horn puncture the icy surface with unforgiving artistic flair. Songs like "Bursting with Tears, I Commit to Destroying You" and "Blue Eyed and Filled with Horror" are remarkable tracks from this emerging artist. It's a great joy to witness a band finding its niche after so many years of searching. Let's hope they keep reaching for the stars.
Key Tracks: Bursting with Tears, I Commit to Destroying You; Nothing Can Stop Me; Blue Eyed and Filled with Horror
24) Bell Orchestre | Recording a Tape the Color of the Light
Website: Bell Orchestre
Label: Rough Trade Records
Despite Canada's recent decline in the post-rock world, members of the Arcade Fire and Wooden Stars combine forces to keep it on track. Recording a Tape the Color of the Light is an ambitious project that sees the combined efforts of a cornucopia of musicians and instruments. There may not be enough bands utilizing the concept of a horn presence within its compositions, but Bell Orchestre is not one of them. Horns and strings clash and cascade over gentle, rumbling drums in playful songs that stir relentlessly until the end. Although Bell Orchestre doesn't' achieve a Godspeed You! Black Emperor work of artistic genius, it's safe to say that Recording a Tape the Color of the Light is an inspirational piece of art and one of the finer Canadian releases of the year.
Key Tracks: Les Lumieres Part I; Throw it On the Fire; The Upwards March
23) Daturah | Daturah
Label: Graveface Records
After a disastrous demonstration, Germany's Daturah deliver the goods with its self-titled debut album. Daturah warps its natural sound through delay and reverb effects to concoct a spacey/ambient sound that juxtaposes a post-rock foundation with metallic drone techniques borrowed from its European counterparts. A monstrous wall of sound is created and steadily pushed through the auditory system until the surmounting pressure levels the sonic landscape, driving Daturah's sound home with inexplicable smoothness. Daturah is rough around the edges, but overall it is a soulful experience.
Key Tracks: Shoal; Warmachines; Lovelight
22) The Evpatoria Report | Golevka
Website: The Evpatoria Report
Label: Shayo Records
Switzerland's The Evpatoria Report is onto something big. If Golevka is any slight indication, this band is onto the heels of a devastating album. Pushing the quiet/loud archetype to new limits, Golevka reaches points of complete serenity only to transverse almost instantaneously to crushing breakdowns. The approach is jarring and a bit disorienting in some instances, but on a whole it is a powerful testament to this band's talent. Watch out for The Evpatoria Report, for it has set its eyes on the prize and will stop at nothing to reach it.
Key Tracks: Taijin Kyofusho; C.C.S Logbook; Dipole Experiment
21) Bossk | EP .1
Label: Self-Released (2005) | QnotQ Records(2006)
England's Bossk makes a strong entrance into the instrumental world with EP .1. This thirty minute EP features two songs of juggernautic proportion. Spacey segues and ambiance build up to a catastrophic finale where rugged metallic riffs destroy the beautiful scenery as they light the countryside on fire with chaotic, blistering, metallic, instrumental space rock. Just when the fury hits the climax, palpitating hellish vocals send the EP one notch higher into the intensity. When the half hour disc has run its course, Bossk is not a name that you'll easily forget. Anyone else ready for a full length?
Key Tracks: I; II
20) Tarantula AD | Book of Sands
Website: Tarantula AD
Label: Kemado Records
New York trio Tarantula AD's first full length album, Book of Sands continues the work carried out in its two earlier extended plays by fusing together classical compositions and hard rock instrumental vibes to create haunting landscapes that transverse normal temporal constraints and simultaneously progress in all directions. Book of Sands is quite the ambitious project that does take a healthy amount of time to fully appreciate, as it can often come across as contrived and confusing, but eventually the music is just accepted for its presentation and that is more than enough to find enjoyable. It's not always clear what exactly Tarantula AD is attempting to do in Book of Sands, but if the name of the album is any indication, you probably aren't really suppose to get it. It's really more of a journey piece that you sit back and try to enjoy, and allow the band to weave an intricate tale before your ears.
Key Tracks:The Century Trilogy II: Empire; The Lost Waltz; The Century Trilogy III: The Fall
19) Subtract By Two | Agoniser Ecrire
Website: Subtract By Two
Music: Subtract By Two
Label: This Generation Tapes
Subtract By Two is a compositional duo with a minimalist mindset and a love for sad music. Agoniser Ecrire abandons normally rock instrumentation for the majority of its work and instead focuses mostly on violin, piano, and electronic samples. Subtract by Two isn't the first band to explore the interaction between violin and piano, nor will they be the last, but there aren't many artists doing so within the confines of the experimental post-rock arena. This widely classical approach lends itself to some beautiful music, as seen in "A Transgression Suite." Agoniser Ecrire is an excellent dive into the neoclassical world, and Subtract by Two present an engaging half hour of music to tantalize the senses.
Key Tracks: Les Miserere; Existentialism/Philosophies of a Bada Yada; A Transgression Suite
18) Don't Look Back | Brighter
Website: Don't Look Back
Label: Noise Digger Records
For the most part France is missing from the instrumental world. Every now and then a French band appears with an interesting sound, only to disappear again into obscurity without making a mark on the world. Don't Look Back might be the first French instrumental band you really need to pay attention to. Taking a multifaceted approach to the post-rock genere, Don't Look Back combines audio samples with gut-wrenching screams and slams it on top of a post-rock instrumentation that quickly drops from angelic, quiet sounds to blistering metallic riffs. Brighter is one of those albums that many will sit through with jaw wide-open, shocked and amazed by the sounds washing over their body. Much like Rosetta's The Galilean Satellites, Brighter leaves the listener with the punched-in-the-stomach feeling that begs for more. This may or may not be the beginning of a movement for French instrumental bands, but in any case Don't Look Back has shown that they are a band to be taken seriously.
Key Tracks: Remove All Trace; Farewell to the Bright Side; Ask the Dust
17) Ellis the Vacuumchild | Peace By Extermination
Website: Ellis the Vacuumchild
Label: ChalkSounds Records
Perhaps clocking in as the most fun instrumental album of the year, Ellis the Vacuumchild's Peace by Extermination is an energetic powerhouse the spills contradictions in every direction. This is truly the instrumental album for people who don't like instrumental music. Guitars buzz, hum, and bend, and the drums pound out a jangy beat, almost so swift as to invoke dancing. Songs are concise--generally clocking in around the four minute mark, and not really skimping out on any of the great post-rock details that are seen in larger works. Ellis the Vacuumchild boils down the genre into a prepackaged form unlike anyone else, and Peace by Extermination never allows the listener's attention to wander. Playful sounds are constantly being thrown into the musical space, and it's difficult to escape from the repeated bombardment of the auditory system. With two squeaky clean releases under their belt, Ellis the Vacuumchild are beginning to set its sites outside of its native Sweden and begin dropping its music all over the world by way of peace by extermination.
Key Tracks: Peace By Extermination; Decapitation Spree; Ellis fear Chloe
16) Explosions in the Sky | The Rescue
Website: Explosions in the Sky
Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Explosions in the Sky's The Earth is a Cold Dead Place will probably go down as one of the most influential instrumental releases of this generation of artists. While the band works on material for its next album, they made the time in between tours to record The Rescue over the course of eight days. Explosions in the Sky took the opportunity to get a little experimental with its sound, drastically cutting down their compositional approach and implementing more instruments than we normally see from this generally conservative band. While the end result is definitely pleasing--tracks like "Day 6" and "Day 7" open up a series of ideas that we'd love to see further explored in future works--ultimately it lacks the emotional response of a typical release from EitS, and when much of the appeal of the band's sound is built upon that premise, it's difficult to look past this shortcoming. Still, The Rescue is a solid release that may be the beginning of a new face from this Texan quartet.
Key Tracks:Day 1; Day 6; Day 7
15) World's End Girlfriend | The Lie Lay Land
Label: Noble Label
On the experimental side of the genre, World End Girlfriend's The Lie Lay Land is a bizarre, chaotic collection of songs that have the potential to shine in their own radiance and send chills down the spine with haunting, nightmarish samples. The artist has an ear for the surreal, sampling eerie voices that penetrate a foundation of instrumental music that fluctuates between experimental, classical, and circus-inspired compositions. The blueprints themselves are a recipe for chaos, sonic landscapes that function in a musical space unfamiliar to many Western ears and it takes a patient listener to fully grasp the implicit driving force of the album. Although no band truly compares to the complex sound put forth by World's End Girlfriend, fans of Mono and Kayo Dot should find much to celebrate in the material presented on The Lie Lay Land. Most likely World's End Girlfriend is exploring an avenue utterly unknown to many ears, but those who stumble upon this album and are prepared for the highly cerebral experience that follows will discover a truly blissful experience.
Key Tracks: We Are the Massacre; Garden in the Ceiling; Scorpius Circus
14) God is an Astronaut | All is Violent, All is Bright
Website: God is An Astronaut
Label: Revive Records
Ireland's God is an Astronaut continues it's tradition of excellent in the world of ambience and electronica with All is Violent, All is Bright. Rich, textured music is repeatedly processed and superimposed upon a post-rock framework to created a layered product that stands out as a polished work of art. Although the songs themselves are short and sweet, they pack quite a powerful punch and tug at the heartstrings like a skilled harpist. Ambient sounds wash over the musical landscape, creating a dreamy watercolor-esque effect that builds upon the coherent vision of God is an Astronaut. Over the years together, the band has steadily evolved into a full creative musical force that is beginning to show signs of breaking out into their own front. All is Violent, All is Bright is the first sign of this new band. The sound this trio harvests is too addicting to ignore, and soon the world will know the sounds of God is an Astronaut.
Key Tracks: Fire Flies and Empty Skies; A Deafening Distance; Suicide by Star
13) Pelican | The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
Label: Hydra Head Industries
2005 was a good year for Pelican. The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw was the album that the band needed to make. Not only did it define the band's sound enough to separate them from the crowd of metal-influenced instrumental bands, it was received well enough to place it at the front of the pack--meaning that every hard rock instrumental album will now contain a comparison to Pelican. Free promotion is never a bad thing. Metallic riffs and ambient guitar lines fuel Pelican's arsenal throughout the unforgivingly aggressive length of the album. Tracks like "March into the Sea" surge forward with unsurmountable momentum and explode with an energy that is normally not seen in the instrumental world. Even in the acoustic styling of "-", the passion of Pelican is clear, who are unable to hide the overwhelming energy of its music. Although it's likely that Pelican will ultimately be overtaken by a sea of clones, The Fire in Our Throats... marks the beginning of a trend that we shall see spill into 2006 and beyond.
Key Tracks: Autumn into Summer; March to the Sea; Sirius
12) Tracer AMC | Islands
Website: Tracer AMC
Label: We Love Records
Islands is an subtle change from Tracer AMC's 2004 release, Flux and Form. The band diversifies both in terms of its sound and presentation of its music. Much akin to Up C Down C, Tracer AMC has a knack at creating a diverse collection of complex, intelligent songs that push the notion of a "complete" post-rock album. From the epic opener "Paper Machete" to the equally epic closer "You Follow the Snow and are Wasted", Tracer AMC cut out a wild path and hit every point from beginning to end, leaving no corner unexplored. Albums like Islands are a testament to the growing strength of the post-rock world; years ago it would be a rare occurrence for a band to be able to make an album that was so smooth and full and devoid of kinks. Today, bands like Up C Down C and Tracer AMC show that the genre isn't necessarily about fancy tricks, but instead a solid performance is more than enough to push a band over the top.
Key Tracks:Paper Machete; Concorde; Indiscopia
11) Pivot | Make Me Love You
Label: Sensory Projects
Pivot's long awaited debut album finally surfaced in 2005, much to the betterment of Australia's instrumental scene. Whereas much of Australia's intrumental history has followed traditional post-rock routes with bands like Dirty Three, International Karate, and Silver Ray, Pivot takes a deep draw of the electronica world and mixes it with free-flowing, jam styled improvisation to create a work of art that somehow (miraculously) pulls itself together into a coherent piece. Samples and glitches work together with a skittering jazz backbone to create smooth, appealing songs that quickly becoming addicting and pull the listener in with catchy beats. Australia hasn't really seen anything like this before, and Make me Love You is a strong first impression.
Key Tracks: Make Me Love You; Artificial Horizon; Helps None But Hurts None
10) Saxon Shore | The Exquisite Death Of
Website: Saxon Shore
Label: Burnt Toast Vinyl
Often tagged as "Instrumental music for people who don't like instrumental music," New York/Philadelphia native Saxon Shore are still able to charm this instrumental enthusiast. The Exquisite Death Of... shows the band giving its best and brightest performance to date. There's little not to like with the sound produced by this quintet as wandering guitar lines find a home amidst a safe haven of electronic sampling, ambience and the occasional call of the piano. A moderate amount of ambience is produced as a byproduct of this mixture, which only adds to the overall appeal of the album. Saxon Shore keeps is concise for the most part; only three songs break the five minute mark, and perhaps this is why they are said to appeal to people disenchanted with the post-rock world. The band doesn't mess around with lengthy compositions and ridiculously spacious segues, but instead boils everything down to the core of the music. It's taken the band awhile to get its sound as perfect as it comes across in The Exquisite Death of, but not that it is here, it is quite the wonderful experience.
Key Tracks: The Revolution Will Be Streaming; This Shameless Moment; The Shaping of a Helpless Joy
9) This Is Your Captain Speaking | Storyboard
Website: This Is Your Captain Speaking
Music: This is Your Captain Speaking
Label: Self-Released (2005) | Resonant Label (2006)
Marking the top Australian release of the year, Storyboard is an exercise in patience. In a time where bands fight over who can be the most epic, and who can write the longest, most intense songs, This is Your Captain Speaking finds little need to be loud. Repetitive guitars force a hypnotic trance on the listener, who quickly succumbs to a dreamlike trance. If This is Your Captain Speaking ever got loud, they might be comparable to a drone band, that's the commitment it has to its craft, but as it is, the band simply crafts beautiful instrumental music that applies a minimal amount of force and just lets the landscape develop through its natural use of the organic sounds they harvest. Storyboard doesn't initially stand out as a knockout album, but every listen impresses just a little bit more than the previous, and in time the full magnificence of this album reveals itself.
Key Tracks: Gathering Pieces; A Wave to Bridget Fondly; Angels
8) Sigur Ros | Takk
Website: Sigur Ros
While not exactly an "instrumental" band, Sigur Ros is included on this list more due to its direct influence on just about every other instrumental band on the market. Although it has already charmed over most of the music population who would care about its existence, Sigur Ros continues to deliver angelic music with Takk, which sees the ban in familiar grounds musically, backed by string support and not afraid to borrow from the horn section during cathartic exchanges. Takk is not as patient as its predecessors, as it continually goes for the cathartic releases much earlier than the band has ever dared to, but this shift in presentation doesn't detract from the whole, which is a much more optimistic offering from the band. And for those of us who don't understand a single Icelandic word, the vocals may as well just be another instrument anyway...
Key Tracks: Glosgoli; Saeglopur; Gong
7) Caspian | You Are the Conductor
Label: Dopamine Records
The one-two-three punch of "Quovis," "Further Up," and "Further In" from Caspian's You Are the Conductor is perhaps the best eight and a half minutes of music released this year. It's epic, smooth, unrelenting, and breathtaking all at the same time. Caspian sounds like a lot of other bands, but when you try to really put a finger on exactly who they do or don't resemble, it's difficult to ultimately make that decision. It might be most accurately compared to Mogwai meets Isis, minus the vocals, but I'm reluctant to apply that label for fear of ruining the originality of Caspian. Talent excretes from every pore of this band, and by the end of You Are the Conductor, it's easy to see that the band can, and will, do much better than this. Although it is a brilliant release in its own right, You Are the Conductor doesn't quite do justice to the potential of this band, who should find themselves playing with the big guns soon. Anyone who can sit through "Last Rites" and tell me any different is insane.
Key Tracks: Quovis; Further Up; Further In; Last Rites
6) Up C Down C Left C Right C ABC + Start | And the Battle is Won
Website: Up C Down C
Label: Tap n' Tin Records
After years of fine-tuning its sound, Up C Down C finally connects with And the Battle is Won (appropriately titled). It's albums such as this that make it truly a joy to partake in the post-rock genre. And the Battle is Won is the result of the last four years of song writing, and the selection of tracks on the album could not be any more diverse. At times you might liken the band to Pelican, and at others to Mono, and still at others you might describe them as a space-rock band. Each song adds it's own unique flavor the to album, and no matter what your preferences may be--quiet, loud, long, short, epic, subtle--Up C Down C has it covered. It looks like all of Up C Down C's hard work is beginning to pay off with And the Battle is Won, which shows a stunning drive in the band. It's difficult to say where the band will embark from here, but they've shown that no matter the direction, they've got a good place to start.
Key Tracks: Phantoms; Comfort Me, I've Lost My Heart; Silent Fire
5) This Will Destroy You | Young Mountain
Website: This Will Destroy You
Label: Self-Released (2005) | Magic Bullet Records (2006)
No Top 10 list would be complete without a Texan band. This Will Destroy You branch off a bit from its homegrown roots, where it'd be easy to mimic the likes of its predecessors, and instead steadily marches forward with a two-pronged attack featuring energetic, monolithic build-up and cathartic, placating releases. The organic elements of Young Mountain are highlighted with the violin on tracks like "I Believe in Your Victory" and "There are Some Remedies Worse than the Disease", but This Will Destroy You also explores the cold hand of the machine with electronic samples during "Grandfather Clock." This Will Destroy You doesn't really fit squarely into the existing instrumental scene, but instead has to carve out a niche for themselves out of existing archetypes. However, with the creative forces surrounding this group of musicians, this proves to be a trivial task indeed; Young Mountain is one of the more memorable releases of the year.
Key Tracks: The World is Our _____; I Believe in Your Victory; There are Some Remedies Worse than the Disease
4) September Malevolence | Tomorrow We'll Wonder Where This Generation Gets it's Priorities From
Website: September Malevolence
Label: TenderVersion Recordings
They've been called the Swedish Explosions in the Sky, and you can only take such a comparison as flattery. September Malevolence leads a booming Swedish instrumental scene with moody, slightly off-beat post-rock that has a perfect insight into the quiet/loud approach that has dominated the genre over the past few years. Top-notch songwriting sets Tomorrow We'll Wonder... apart from the pack, and it's a skill like that which is an indicator that this band is not a flash in the pan. Tomorrow We'll Wonder... gets darker than one would expect, but this is complemented well by a gloomy atmosphere that looms over the album. While the dark clouds are briefly cast away throughout the course of the album, it's ultimately a losing battle as the intent of the band becomes clear by the album's conclusion. And with that September Malevolence leaves us craving more.
Key Tracks: Sinister; On Our Own; Late Night Episode
3) 65 Days of Static | One Time for All Time
Website: 65 Days Of Static
Label: Monotreme Records
Coming back from the critically acclaimed The Fall of Math, 65 Days of Static had no other option but to plow forward in their conquest of the music world with a new album full of erratic electronic instrumental rock. This time around the band embraces a more humanistic aspect to their music and explores the emotional side of its creation, a catatonic hybrid of computer sounds and aggressive instrumentation. While smoothing out the rough edges in the sound presented in The Fall of Math, 65 Days of Static tightens up the routine in One Time for All Time and hone in on perfection. So far it's the only band blazing along this trail, and by the time any copycats care to venture down the same path, 65 Days of Static shall be solidly established as reigning kings of this territory. Oh, and the remixes!
Key Tracks: Await Rescue; 65 Doesn't Understand You; Radio Protector
2) Yndi Halda | Enjoy Eternal Bliss
Website: Yndi Halda
Yndi Halda presents a devastatingly rich debut release with Enjoy Eternal Bliss, containing three blistering post-rock tracks that feed the instrumental addiction and push it forward to new heights. A cataclysmic journey is portrayed over the three songs that paint a vivid picture of Yndi Halda--one which takes a holistic approach to their genre and leaves no stone unturned. Every note is intricately selected and scrutinized, and the end results is a beautiful portrait of unfathomable radiance. For a group of five young British lads who haven't even broken into their twenties yet, this is a remarkably, nay, amazing work of art. Some would call this a diamond in the rough, but it's more akin to finding a pin in a New York City sewar--it just doesn't get much better than this. One can only guess where the future will take these up-and-coming superstars, but someone has to pick up the pieces of the post-rock world when the current champions graduate to Depends, right?
Key Tracks: Dash and Blast; We Flood Empty Lakes; Illuminate My Heart, My Darling
1) Samuel Jackson Five | Easily Misunderstood
Website: Samuel Jackson Five
Label: Honest Abe Records
A relatively unknown quintet scores the top album of the year in 2005. Samuel Jackson Five cultivate a jazz-influenced instrumental rock sound that is as smooth as it is furious and as smart as it is wild. Easily Misunderstood keeps the listener guessing; some tracks trudge along with a slow, consistent pace familiar to the post-rock world, whereas others race forward with unforeseen speed and put a dance step in the boots. One thing is certain--the band has fully evolved from its 2004 release and there is no questioning its combined talent. In creating an album that is provocative, fun, and expansionary, Samuel Jackson Five accomplish something that few others have successfully done. This is the hottest instrumental band on the market right now, and as evidence, they took 2005 by storm and claimed it as their own. Watch out for this band in the future, for if Easily Misunderstood is any indication of where it is headed, Samuel Jackson Five is years ahead of the pack.
Key Tracks: If You Show Off the Milk, Who's Going to Buy the Cow?; Person Most Likely the Enjoy the Taste of Human Flesh; Michael Collins Autograph
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