~An article by Jordan Volz


A Year in Review
Due to the past year's influx of instrumental and otherwise "post-rock" artists, The Silent Ballet strongly believes that 2006 will be remembered as a pivotal year in the genre's development. In past years, many of the most significant contributions were from established artists or small, somewhat unknown artists who lacked a recorded history but not necessarily a history altogether. It was not uncommon to see a "new" band releasing a debut album with more than three years of experience, and in that sense the genre has already held an inherent sophistication which has separated it from others. This year the rules have changed. Young artists are embracing instrumental music without second-guessing themselves and the youthfulness of their creativity is breathing new life into this art-form. This is an exciting period of time for instrumental fans, ensuring that the longevity of the music is well secured.

With this transformation, the inevitable begins to occur: more and more bands are instilling the music with a vocal presence. Although this is sacrilegious to some purists, many are not troubled by this development, and rightly so. "Post-rock," or more generally, instrumental music, is not a condemnation of vocal expression. Not at all. Instead, the roots of it were to turn away from the predictable, formulaic song-writing that had slowly permeated itself into popular music, specifically "rock music" in the late twentieth century. This resulted in the formation of a few different subgenres, but "post-rock" is generally noted for it's long, brooding compositions, and I suspect the lack of vocals started not necessarily as a conscious effort to remove them from the framework of song-writing, but instead because musicians were focused on longer compositions, and singing through a ten minute song can become quite cumbersome. Additionally, these artists were by and large not singers, and with an emphasis on instrumentation, vocal melodies were soon forgotten in lieu of stronger instrumental backbones. This is not to say that "post-rock" bands have remained silent over the years, which is certainly not true, but the majority of them opt to leave vocals out of the picture.

In 2006, we witness the largest, and strongest, presence of vocals infiltrating our pristine world of instrumental rock. But, this is all done without compromising the foundations that were established over a decade ago, which is the key for the evolution of the genre. Vocals are present to supplement an already rich instrumental composition, and instead of being the center of the music, vocals are now carefully placed and selected. I believe we have far too long taken for granted that music and singing go together, and it is a curious development in the instrumental world that this process is being rediscovered, as if for the very first time, but with a methodology that would only exist in such a meticulous form of art. Fret not, we seek not to reinvent to wheel, but rather to understand why it has become so important in our lives in the first place.

All things aside, the more immediate summation of the year surely must mention the temporary deflation of strong releases from the United States and England. For several years both have more or less dominated the list, but this dominance is increasingly threatened by European, Australian, and Japanese artists. Scandinavia again appears to be set on one-upping the world, and it doesn't look like this will end anytime soon. Instrumental rock is beginning to sweep through Japan and the number of impressive acts increases every year. This trend will be one to watch; The Japanese are never one to underestimate.

2007: A Sneak Preview
From all indications, 2007 will be one of the biggest years for instrumental music in perhaps a decade. The timing is such that the year will see releases from all sorts of artists, both new and old -- many to make good on promising material laid down in debut EPs and albums, and many who are returning after several quiet years to reclaim their territory. The United States, in particular, is playing with a loaded deck, mainly fueled by two labels: Temporary Residence and Burnt Toast Vinyl.

Temporary Residence has a long tradition of producing excellent albums, and it contains some of the more influential albums of the genre in its catalogue. Over the past three years we've witnessed the label slowly losing its monopoly, which, to the label's credit, looked like a conscious decision as it began to focus on different forms of music by branching out of its post-rock roots. In 2006, Temporary Residence made a bold move by signing Grails and Maserati, two well-respected US bands with a strong history who will both release new albums in 2007. This move can only be interpreted that the label is back in the running, and with more resources at its disposal than others, it'll be difficult to top in 2007. New albums by Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium certainly do not hurt either.

On the other hand, Burnt Toast Vinyl strays from the conservative style of Temporary Residence and has quickly assembled one of the more promising lineups in the United States. In 2006, BTV signed Yndi Halda and Foxhole, two bands who are difficult not to love, adding to the lineup of Unwed Sailor and Saxon Shore, among others. Although Yndi Halda has been praised on The Silent Ballet for over two years now, the retail date of its EP, Enjoy Eternal Bliss, is not until 2007, which means that many people will be experiencing their music for the first time. Foxhole has plans to release its sophomore album next year, and if Push/Pull is any indication, it might be one of the stronger releases of the year. New material from Saxon Shore would also likely push BTV over the top, in addition to anyone they might pick up along the way.

However, independent bands and those on labels with smaller influence in the post-rock world will be making large contributions as well. Caspian looks to release its debut album in the first quarter of next year, an album which evolves from the fantastic material of their debut EP, and presents one of the the most emotionally dynamic records since The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. Coupled with the complexity that the band is infamous for, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Another crowd favorite, This Will Destroy You, has plans to record and release their debut album next year on Magic Bullet Records, it's too early to speculate what this endeavor will entail, but TWDY is not a band to second-guess.

Of course, this says nothing of the strength of returning bands who have gone missing over the years. Next year will see new releases from Six Parts Seven, The Mercury Program, From Monument to Masses, Gregor Samsa, and Pelican. Any or all of these can make a big impact, and likely will.

Then there are the unsigned bands. Recently, The Silent Ballet reviewed Tulsa Drone's Songs for a Mean Season, which already has shown the power of independent artists. Along similar lines, Joy Wants Eternity has plans to release its debut album, You who Pretend to Sleep, with no announced label support. But that isn't even half of it -- many bands who grabbed our attention this year have plans to get a second helping in 2007. Gifts From Enola, Souvenir's Young America, and You.May.Die.In.The.Desert plan to return in the next with with new efforts. S o far all are fair game, and prelimenary demos have us at The Silent Ballet anxiously awaiting further development.

The rest of the world will likely be reacting to movements in the U.S. next year, but some bands have devious plans. We will see releases by 65daysofstatic, Do Make Say Think, Pivot, God is An Astronaut, Efterklang, Scraps of Tape, Destroyalldreamers, Upc Downc, and Mt., among others. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; there's no telling which new bands will appear out of thin air over the course of the next twelve months and captivate us all.

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