~An article by Jordan Volz
25) You.May.Die.In.The.Desert | Bears in the Yukon
The Silent Ballet Wiki: You.May.Die.In.The.Desert
Early in the year I received a copy of You.May.Die.In.The.Desert's 2005's tour EP (on tour with the wonderful Strangers Die Everyday). While it was roughly produced, the sound was clever -- a combinaton of jazz guitar and math rock, making some of the best use of a delay pedal that I've seen in a long time. I made a point to keep an eye on this band, who was at that point drummerless. 2006 has been a good year for YMDITD, as they've added a drummer to the ranks and released a 6 track EP. The music is temporally challenging, as the delay effects overlap every note with the last, creating a frenzied, surreal stupor which hangs over the music. YMDITD's auditory approach is a nice addition to the US instrumental scene, which is largely pigeonholed into "bands that are loud" and "bands that are not loud." Bears in the Yukon sacrifices a few opportune moments to explode into a caccoon of noise and distortion for the opportunity to raise the level of sophistication by use of clever transitioning techniques. This is a band to watch out for in the future, and unsigned, how does that happen?
Second Opinion: Listening to the EP, it seems hard to believe that You.May.Die.In.The.Desert are only a three-piece, such is the chaotic nature of their music. Focusing on the use of elaborate fretwork and delay effects rather than adopting a typical 'quiet-loud' approach, at times they sound almost like a less depressive, more frenetic This Is Your Captain Speaking... You.May.Die.In.The.Desert are a group whose efforts should pay off, and whose unique brand of jazz-inspired music deserves a much greater audience.
-Richard White (Review)
Key Tracks: Oceanfloor Hijinks; Can I Get More Steel in My Monitors?; The Devil Changes Colors
24) Gifts From Enola | Loyal Eyes Betrayed the Mind
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Gifts From Enola
Last year I prophesied the appearance of a instrumental hard rock band so massive that they'd split heads and steal your beer, because they were so young the venue wouldn't give them free drink tickets. This wasn't extremely insightful. What other country was an enamored with "alternative hard rock" during the late 90s/early 00s? The U.S. What country has the most instrumental acts? Again, the U.S. Gifts From Enola definitely aren't the first band to play this gig, but we had been waiting for one that actually did it like they meant it. Loyal Eyes Betrayed the Mind is the album we've been waiting for. The band deftly navigates through the album with a post-rock handbook in one hand, and an alternative-rock handbook in the other. The scary part is that you can actually hear "Screaming at Anything that Moved" blasting out of your local stadium. Crazy, right? Maybe one day... For now these guys just have to graduate from college. In the meantime, Loyal Eyes Betray the Mind speaks for itself.
Second Opinion: One of the many great things about Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind is that no two tracks sound the same, and over the course of forty seven minutes you’re treated to many delights ...Gifts From Enola will fall under the umbrella of post-rock, but they are in no way confined to this genre, as they seem so adept at bringing others into the mix. There’s metal, rock, math-rock, jazz, and ambience all thrown together here, and it alludes to something quite wonderful.
-James Ould (Review)
Key Tracks: City Lights Scraped the Sky; In the Company of Others; Screaming at Anything that Moved
23) Clogs | Lantern
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Clogs
On Clogs' forth album, the band continues to confine themselves to a world of "classical folk music," which does well to separate them from the rest of the crowd. In this world, Clogs has now shown us four times that there is enough breathing room to create four separate works of art which resemble one another yet are wholly different at the same time. Lantern is a more poignant than it's predecessor and moves more into the classical realm and out of the folky/world influence of Stick Music. Although much of the lethargic feel of Clogs is still dominant ("Canon," "The Song of the Cricket," "Tides"), we see streaks of an band beginning to toy with the idea of energy and movement in its music. "5/4" and "Voisins" are particularly good examples of this rhythmic evolution. Wether or not this will be developed with more depth in future releases is unknown, but its presence on Lantern does give it an unmistakable feel.
Second Opinion: With sounds that allude to world, ethnic, folkloric and classical, Australian-based Clogs make inevitable comparisons with Rachel's. The group continue their unique, eclectic brand of post-rock on Lantern, the 2006 follow-up to the critically acclaimed Stick Music. Clogs are boundless in their creativity and musical allusions, in which the presence of a vast and delicious collection of instruments can be felt on Lantern's delicate ambient sounds, from the acoustic pluckings of "Kapsburger", to the gorgeous strings of the title track, to the tranquil ukelele sounds of "Tides of Washington Bridge".
Key Tracks: Canon, 5/4, Tides
22) Dysrhythmia | Barriers and Passages
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Dysrhythmia
There was a two year period where Dysrhythmia was arguably my favorite instrumental band on the face of the planet, No Interference was just that good. Since then Dysrhythmia has undergone a lot of changes. The band is now part of the Relapse Records family, picked up Behold...the Arctopus bassist Colin Marston, and saw a side-project with the ambient debut of Byla on Translation Loss Records. Unsurprisingly, Barriers and Passages takes on a tech-metal influence and is by and large the most technically advance album that the band has produced. I say "unsurprisingly" because anyone who knows anything about Marston's work knew that the day he joined the band was a good day for everyone with ears. In terms of instrumental metal, it doesn't get any better than Dysrhythmia, and 2006 is no exception.
Second Opinion :Forget what you know about music; about melody, about chord progression and traditional rhythm and you’ll enjoy Barriers and Passages . Pop this into your stereo an audiophile virgin and you’ll come away feeling like the Don Juan of instrumental rock... This is not Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai. Its melodies do not float on the crest of a wave before breaking into blissful, swinging lullabies that make your heart palpitate and the sun set in your eyes. Dysrhythmia is as hard and as busy as Ron Jeremy sandwiched between the Olsen Twins. This album is not polite. It will not RSVP or say please and thank you. It will simply come to your party, steal your beer, more than likely piss in your bathtub, and then laugh, leaving you with your jaw on the floor, wishing you could be half as cool.
-Jonathan Brooks (Review)
Key Tracks: An Ally to Comprehension; Sleep-Decayer; Luminous
21) Because of Ghosts | The Tomorrow We Were Promised Yesterday
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Because of Ghosts
Whenever I see the words "Because of Ghosts," I envision the phrase flashing up on the screen of Jeopardy and I begin to ponder the correct question - "What is an Australian instrumental band?" Surely that's too easy. "What is the Southern hemisphere equivalent to Grails?" No, it's more complex than that. "Why did you build your house on a frozen lake, you fool?" A bit off the topic, perhaps. Whatever the "correct" answer is, or if there even is one, Because of Ghosts' first proper album is a welcome addition to the always immaculate Australian instrumental scene. The Tommorrow We Were Promised Yesterday (the answer to another question?) is one part Dirty Three (warm, acoustic instruments), one part Grails (broken compositions), and one part mysterious analogue mastery. Feedback fights with melodies and the resultant clash is displayed with all of the messy details in full view. Tracks like "No Stars in Tokyo" and "The Story of Alex Steinbach" marvel in the band's creativity, easily trumping many of the predecessors whose work they've built upon. And then the question is perhaps revealed: "Why Not?"
Second Opinion: From the chaos to the order, the dissonance to the resolution, the album provides a whole new experience in music, that which subverts the normal image of post-rock. In a genre that pigeonholes itself so easily, Because of Ghosts are to be applauded for presenting music that is so challenging and off the beaten path. There is a beauty in abrasiveness that is so hard to tap in this modern world of digital perfection.
- Marcus Whale (Review)
Key Tracks: Fall Short of Certainty; No Stars in Tokyo; The Story of Alex Steinbach
20) Souvenir's Young America | Souvenir's Young America
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Souvenir's Young America
On occasion I'll pick up an instrumental cd that I think is complete garbage, yet I will continually listen to it. While that doesn't appear to be productive, the thought behind it is that you need to understand not only the music that you enjoy and believe is worthwhile, but also that which is the aforementioned complete garbage. I'm sure this is covered pretty early in the Critic's Guide to Reviewing Music. Souvenir's Young America got under my skin earlier in the year and for months I couldn't get it out. I didn't particularly enjoy the album, but I couldn't really say why it plagued me so damn much. Eventually it became clear to me: Souvenir's Young America use some largely unorthodox sounds en route to creating their debut album, but it still basically fits inside the instrumental framework that we all know and love. It took me a few months to then figure out whether or not this was a failure on the band's part or an effective twist of the notion of familiarity. In the end I went with the latter. What is great about bands like this is that they can only go up from here. 2007 could very well be the year of Souvenir's Young America, and after a solid September demo, I'm inclined to think this is may be the case...
Second Opinion: As if Richmond, Virginia didn't kick enough musical ass, they had to go ahead and provide the world with Souvenir's Young America, an instrumental-rock band with as large a pair as their hometown predecessors. While many have placed them on the metal side of the vocalless world, they certainly do not belong in that sole categorization as they are just as equally twangy and atmospheric as they are heavy. For all the peolple out there complaining that this genre is largely analogous, Souvenir's Young America are a prime example of how false that statement truly is. Their self-titled album is exemplary on pretty much all counts and reaches out to even the most unattentive listeners. If you're even remotely interested in seeing the current direction of the post-rock scene, there's no better place to start than SYA.
Key Tracks: Still Like the Hummingbird; Letters from the Planet Earth; Sagan's Equation
19) Efterklang | Efterklang
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Efterklang
Burnt Toast Vinyl's latest offering in its one-sided LP series is the magnificent Efterklang, who will follow this stream of thought next year with an EP and a full album. The most immediate change on this release is the departure from the triumphant emotions which so heavily dominated Tripper, yet the transcendant feel of the music remains all the same. Efterklang begins to concern itself with more organic, earthy matters. The instrumentation itself is less liberated than before: strings and pianos make short appearances, vocals are detached and uninviting, and the electronic component is not as vibrant and invigorating as it once was. Over the course of three tracks, Efterklang provides a nice selection of tracks that foreshadow next year's work on the Leaf Label. From the sounds of it, this will be one to anxiously await.
Second Opinion: After Tripper, I didn't think Efterklang could do much to improve their music, it was as near perfection as one gets. Burnt Toast Vinyl raises the bar by making it available on vinyl, and we all know everything sounds better on vinyl. Pick up one of these before it's too late.
Key Tracks: Falling Post; God Vind, Kaptjn!; Tu Es Mon Image (ft. Martin Hall)
18) Anoice | Remmings
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Anoice
I don't think a year would be official without some fun melding of the neo-classical and post-rock genres. Remmings is the first taste of Anoice to US ears, with Important Records formally presenting the sextet to the world. The listener would have to consciously try to not be impressed by the work of these Japanese musicians, whose compositions are a balancing act. Instruments quickly enter and exit the scene, careful not to clutter the fragile tension, but also adding delicate detail work to the pieces. "Liange" is truly breathtaking, showcasing the appeal of this approach and the wonderful compositional skills of the band. Much of the music revolves around the viola and piano, but very subtle contributions are made via guitar and percussion to heighten the listening experience and add depth to the body of work. Unfortunately Remmings is a short listen, made even more so by five inconsequential "untitled" tracks that separate each proper track, but we have high hopes for Anoice in the future.
Second Opinion: From track 4 onwards the band seems to open up, they break into stunning neo-classical compositions and, I think, come into their own. The music is mostly centred on mournful viola pieces with picked guitars and pianos, in fact the electronics they claim are in there are very hard to detect so readers put off by that shouldn’t be too worried – conversely, don’t expect something like 65DoS...
- Ian Nicholls (Review)
Key Tracks: Kyoto; Liange; The Three-Days Blow
17) Cam Butler | See (Symphony No. 1)
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Cam Butler
For over five years Cam Butler has been screaming, "Give me a movie to score!" at the top of his lungs. First he did so in his instrumental band Silver Ray, and when that was not enough to satisfy his appetite he started his own solo project where he was the sole composer. Quickly he discovered that he was unable to play a full orchestra all by his lonesome, so the Shadows of Love Orchestra was assembled to do his evil bidding. Apparently no one took this hint with the first two albums so See (Symphony No. 1) is Mr. Bulter going all out and scoring a non-existent film. Album Opener "Does Your River Run Deep?" is the catchiest piece of art he's ever composed and immediately settles the listener in for the ride of a lifetime. Much of the music on the album is in similar fashion -- captivating, expansive strings and strong guitar lines -- the exception being "Exist," which pulls us under the water and into the ambient realm. Someone please get this guy a movie, it might be dangerous if we allow him to continue on like this.
Second Opinion: The guitarist and main driving force behind Australian instrumental band Silver Ray, See (Symphony No. 1) is Cam Butler's third solo release. With backing from a ten-piece string section, Butler uses his guitar to create highly-textured, stirring melodies which sound like they belong on a film soundtrack. Clint Mansell beware, for it is only a matter of time before Hollywood turns to Australia for inspiration.
Key Tracks: Does Your River Run Deep?; Exist; See
16) Blueneck | Scars of the Midwest
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Blueneck
A year after the United Kingdom exploded with more underground instrumental bands than we knew what to do with, Blueneck arrive with its debut album, Scars of the Midwest. Blueneck sticks out on this list like a sore thumb do to the fact that much of Scars of the Midwest contains singing. Yet, at the same time it's very clear that the band functions on the same level as a "post-rock" band in all of its cathartic quiet/loud glory. The vocal component and piano are often the center of attention as the rest of the instrumentation swirls around the auxilary creating a depressing backdrop for an even more depressing center. These are not happy songs; the eventual moments of catharsis are not "releases" as much as statements of frustration. They never quite clear the palette and the resulting emotional baggage is carried to the end of the the album and slowly dissipates. This isn't a critique of the band's shortcomings, as it's evident that this is the desired effect of the tracks -- to continue a fluid emotional response instead of having to rebuild with every song. Effectively this shortens the compositonal time required, and Blueneck jumps at this opportunity and repeatedly hits hard (and depressingly so) in the five to six minute range. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.
Second Opinion: What’s most refreshing about Blueneck is that there’s a distinct subtlety and craft about their music that forces the listener to really engage with Scars of the Midwest before getting something familiar out of it, as Blueneck move in different circles than a vast majority of instrumental bands... Scars of the Midwest is an album with many depths, that has been painstakingly crafted, and, while it will no doubt pass over many people’s heads, those who embrace it will be richly rewarded.
- James Ould (Review)
Key Tracks: Judas! Judas!; Oig; Epiphany
15) The Ascent of Everest | How Lonely Sits the City
The Silent Ballet Wiki: The Ascent of Everest
With just more than a year under their belt, The Ascent of Everest stunned the post-rock community with their debut album. How Lonely Sits the City is a complex montage of traditional post-rock elements, paying homage to those who came before them and not leaving the political richness of the genre out of the picture. "Alas! the Breath of Life" is a bizarrely focused combination of styles taken from Godspeed You! Black Emporer and Explosions in the Sky, but it works, and even stands out as the strongest moment on the album. The album follows a similar path throughout its course, drawing on influences and filling in ideological gaps when necessarily. The only issue we can take with the album is the lack of "The Ascent of Everest" in the material. Certainly the band has a great understanding and love of the genre they find themselves in, and have shown a diverse range of styles in their debut, but it is sometimes difficult to understand where the influences end and The Ascent of Everest begin. This does give the band ample room for improvement, and we'll likely see a much different act when they shed their freshman skin, but for the time being we can bask in the greatness of How Lonely Sits the City
Second Opinion: No, it isn’t always the most original music but it is done so well here – and by a band that are barely 18 months old to boot - that I can’t help but feel this is going to be one of the best releases the post-rock world will hear this year. Some will find the familiar ground being treaded a turn-off no doubt – though the number of influences and the bands own vision avoid complete plagarism. How many bands can claim absolute originality these days anyway?
-Ian Nicholls (Review)
Key Tracks: Alas! The Breath of Life; Molotov; If I Could Move Mountains
14) Sweek | The Unbelievable Cinematic Crash
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Sweek
Belgium's rising star returns in 2006 with another stellar album. Out of all the bands working in the aftermath of the demise of GY!BE, Sweek are one of the more original bands. Sweek infuse The Unbelieveable Cinematic Crash with the energetic flair of a chamber rock band, making a stark distinction between them and the sea of GY!BE clones. The Unbelievable Cinematic Crash transitions from slow, minimalist ambience to uplifting, danceable climaxes. This is music that moves the feet as well as the heart, grabbing the listener's mind and body in the process. This diverse range is displayed all too well in "Tequila Fitness Club" and "Thanx For Sundays (Nothing to Do With Any God)," where the band moves together as a solid unit instead of a disjointed collective. While most bands of this sort aim to be "epic," and Sweek certainly could accomplish this, the band's intent is to provide fun, engaging, entertaining music. Stripped of the cliche epic quality, The Unbelievable Cinematic Crash suceeds in not exhausting the resources of the listener and lends itself to an easy replay value. Optimism goes a long way in this genre.
Second Opinion: For those disillusioned with the haunting and dark minimalist post-rock that seems to be popular of late or those simply looking for a fresh style, Sweek were made for you. The Unbelievable Cinematic Crash is experimental while remaining enjoyable on a periphereal level. This isn't the type of post-rock you need to sit down and concentrate on, this is music that will draw you in and keep you listening no matter what you are doing.
-Dan Wotherspoon (Review)
Key Tracks: Thanx for Sundays (Nothing to Do With Any God); Tequila Fitness Club; A Dead Sleeping Forest
13) Mono | You Are There
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Mono
You Are There is undoubtedly Mono's best album to date (excluding the WEG collaboration). This Japanese quartet continues its study of dramatic compositions through the quiet/loud schema, drawing out the climaxes to maximize effectiveness and perfecting every last note on the album. It's unlikely that any other album on this list would be able to top You Are There in this aspect, so where does the album fall short? Mono has been together for over half a decade and have a more than respectable back catalogue, but very little progress has been made in changing the band's underlying sound other than small changes that result in tighter sounding albums. Much of the creative outlet appears to have been sapped in side-projects and collaborations, but at this point in time we're starting to wonder if Mono is a one-trick pony. We know they can make some of the best post-rock songs around, but we've already heard them by now -- we need to hear something new.
Second Opinion: With You Are There, the reigning Japanese masters of dynamic, epic, post-rock have expanded only slightly on the sound perfected on 2004's Walking Cloud..., adding more intricate melodies, piano, and melancholic strings. Once again recorded by the legendary Steve Albini, this is the closest approximation to Mono's intense live performances yet put to tape. The long, hushed introductions may not be to everyone's taste, but the patient listener will be rewarded by the juxtaposition of intricate melodies with crushing, dramatic climaxes, made all the more powerful by the foregoing quiet.
Key Tracks: The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain; Are You There?; Moonlight
12) Sickoakes | Seawards
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Sickoakes
Seawards is a curious album. Sickoakes have been together for over half a decade and have gradually built up a buzz around them, specifically centered around a song they have been crafting for several years entitled "Wedding Rings and Bullets in the Same Golden Shrine," a post-rock opus of sorts. Although demos of the band's work have circulated for years, little could prepare our ears for their debut album from Type Records. From the unstoppable force of "Oceans on Hold" to the genre-defining "Wedding Rings..." Sickoakes holds nothing back in satisfying the thirst for epic "post-rock." The album resists the temptation to be pigeonholed into the "quiet/loud" category by supplementing the art with long stretches of ambiance, and contrasts it with earthy interludes. Six years ago Seawards would have been a landmark album; today we can't bestow that title upon it, but it is a breathtaking experience nonetheless.
Second Opinion: Seawards...belongs rather to the months of Winter and her cold, sad days; an epidemic laced bleakness and solitude. I mean this in the most complimentary of ways. Any release that can shift your perception and upset your equilibrium is bound to be packed with absolute atmosphere and Sickoakes have perfected this with a mittened punch. All this seems fitting, perhaps, given the Swedish origin of this ghostly soundtrack.
-Jonathan Brooks (Review)
Key Tracks: Taking the Stairs Instead of the Elevators; Oceans on Hold; Wedding Rings and Bullets in the Same Golden Shrine
11) Theta Naught | Sound Weave
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Theta Naught
The day when Theta Naught begins to make traditional instrumental music will be a glum day. For the quintet's third album, poet Alex Caldiero was brought in to add a vocal component to the mix. His off-beat poetic prose intertwines perfectly into the improvisational backbone of the Sound Weave, which was recorded in one day. Reflecting on this fact, it's quite amazing that Theta Naught has reached this form of cohesion -- it's improvisational music that almost sounds completely premeditated. Many improv and jam bands noticeably lack an emotional component, but Sound Weave readily evokes the full spectrum without hesitation. With each release Theta Naught's chemistry becomes stronger and the music becomes increasingly powerful as they come to understand the tools that they use to craft their art. Caldiero's contribution further highlights the strong artistic correlation; there is a lot more to Theta Naught than just the music that they make. In fact, that is just the beginning of the Theta Naught experience.
Second Opinion: We are able to experience the conception, birth, life and death of this swirling life matter. It takes a conscious effort to realize/recall these tracks are improvisational in nature as their structure is tight, flowing, and uncannily complete. It’s difficult to single out tracks as evidence of goodness, as they seem to merge together, each promoting a unique blend of Theta’s atmospherics while retaining a brooding, deep sound these six guys could easily trademark.
- Jonathan Brooks (Review)
Key Tracks: Calneva Drive; Subtracting Up; Axioms that Satisfy
10) Laura | Radio Swan is Down
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Laura
Last year's We Are Mapping Your Dreams came in at #35 on the rankings with the note that a more focused effort would yield stronger results. Laura spent much of the beginning of the year in the studio, producing enough music for over two cds worth of music and boiling that down into what would become Radio Swan is Down. The new album is more powerful than its predecessor, as it outperforms We Are Mapping Your Dreams in almost every way imaginable. Even the grating vocals have been replaced by paper-thin vocals that barely permeate the listener's consciousness. Radio Swan is Down is an album of immense depth and explosive energy for half of its stay and then downshifts into a slower, more somber mood. Although this does leave the listener with a feeling of expectation at the conlcusion of the album, it kind can't cover up the fact that Laura has really challenged themselves with the new album and accomplished quite a feat by turning a near 360 in less than a year.
Second Opinion: From the beginning, Radio Swan is Down is much moodier than its predecessor, demonstrating an excellent use of instrumentation and arrangements. Laura offers much more diversity, and does it well, maintaining a coherent sound without becoming predictable or monotonous. Mapping was a fairly monolithic record, with a lot predictable guitar work, interesting tones, and slow-to-mid-tempo drumming, with the occasional post-rock ‘breakdown.’ RSD runs the gamut from chill to heavy, with acoustic guitars, keys, organs, xylophones, distortion, reverb, tremolo, delay, and unidentifiable noise.
-Joseph Sannicandro (Review)
Key Tracks: Is There No Help for the Widow's Son?; I Hope; It's Kind of Like the Innocent Smiles You Get at the Beginning of a Relationship Before You Fuck Everything Up
9) Jakob | Solace
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Jakob
Struck with a case of Mono, Jakob's Solace appears to be very similar to its predecessor, albeit much better produced this time around. At least, that's what the listeners ascertains after initial listens. At the heart of the album, Solace is a gentle listen (particularly a gentle beast), and after returning to Cale:Drew, it becomes apparent that this is what the outfit was attempting during that album, but who's missteps were fortunate enough to morph it into a different, yet successfull, experience nonetheless. The trio returns on Solace to set things straight, and by noticeable lengthening the songs lengths, the band is able to set the ambient waves into motion. Much of the action of the album takes place in the background, with the drums taking the forefront as crisp ambience floats in and out of the landscape. The "climaxes" are those moments when the guitars take the lead, occasionally switching into "riff mode," but generally just retaliating with a storm of distortion. Subtlety is the name of the game with Solace, and Jakob comes out on top.
Second Opinion: Solace is a strong offering that transcends genres and is built around a couple of simply beautiful tracks that will linger in your sub-conscious and haunt your dreams. For this alone, Jakob deserve your attention.
Key Tracks: Pneumonic; Oran Mor; Safety in Numbers
8) Mogwai | Mr. Beast
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Mogwai
I've been a Mogwai fan for as long as I can remember what it meant to be a "post-rock" band, which turns out to be around the time of Come On, Die Young, but my hubris is likely due to the fact that my birth made me unable to appreciate Young Team when it first destroyed minds across the globe. Several years afterwards Mogwai has released several more cds and they have grown a lot since their earlier days of blowing up amps and destroying ear drums. Mr. Beast didn't receive the warmest reception from the press, but to me a lot of it was unfounded. Mogwai is criticized for not sticking to their roots, that being the bone-crushing, epic noise-rock songs that have given them such a favorable name, but I've always seen them as sticking to their experimental roots. What does it mean for Mogwai to be experimental in 2006? Well, how about try not writing ten-minute rock tracks and writing four minute songs that have some depth to them? Song-writing, that's the key! And this was a success: "Friend of the Night" is the best instrumental song to grace our ears in 2006. Mr. Beast isn't a perfect record, but Mogwai has never made a perfect record and they never will -- this is not on the band's agenda. To craft a "perfect" piece of art, the musician must keep one eye to the past, and Mogwai has consistently held a forward momentum its entire career.
Second Opinion: The vocal led tracks, “Acid Food” and “Travel Is Dangerous”, are noticeable weak links...But just as the paradoxical post-rock genre has warped through various incarnations, the band themselves have continued evolving. In particular, Mogwai is moving away from the aforementioned quiet/loud technique... This record is essentially a millennia away from Young Team and Come On Die Young, but you can’t help but feel that if this wasn’t a Mogwai record it may well be lauded as the masterpiece that it so nearly is.
-Alex Bradshaw (Review)
Key Tracks: Glasgow Megasnake; Friend of the Night; Folk Death '95
7) Foxhole | Push/Pull
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Foxhole
Push/Pull is appropriately named. A year ago it was looking like Foxhole would never release another piece of music, but after many changes of the line-up Foxhole again sees the light of day and makes its debut on Burnt Toast Vinyl with Push/Pull, strengthening an already impressive lineup. In less than thirty minutes Foxhole is able to display all of its strengths by demonstrating a strong skill at assembling arrangements and putting their unique sound on the finished product. Foxhole is blessed with the most appropriate use of a trumpet to ever be employed in the instrumental rock world. One taste of "Torrents" or "Forgiving Monarch" will leave the listener is a haze, dazzled by the roaring brass and pummeling drums. Jason Torrence makes a strong case for "drummer of the year," and the band gels significantly more than it ever did on We the Wintering Tree. With a sophomore album due out in 2007, I wouldn't want to be any other instrumental band planning to release an album next year. This talent is too hot to handle.
Second Opinion: The esoteric aesthetic that Foxhole have created for themselves is both impressive and appealing. We The Wintering Tree built a notable and curious miasmic stage for its brand of post-rock, but Push/Pull is the record that defines and expands its taut sound. By simplifying and shortening its content, Foxhole has crafted an infinitely more accessible record and one that simultaneously retains their avant garde inclinations.
-Alex Bradshaw (Review)
Key Tracks: Wake Up, Get Dressed, We're Sinking; Torrents; Forgiving Monarch
6) Neil on Impression | The Perfect Tango
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Neil on Impression
After a rather lackluster start at the instrumental genre, Neil on Impression ride into 2006 as the black horse. The Perfect Tango functions as a wildly cacophonous album: layers upon layers of instrumentation are compressed until the sonic landscape nearly tears at the seams. While only a short four songs long, Neil on Impression throughly tantalize the listener with a never-ending combination of sounds over the thirty-five minute cd. "The Perfect Tango" and "Stars Paint the Forest Gold" are the strongest examples of the craftsmanship of this talented act. Strings, horns, guitars, piano, and drums slowly build towards earth-shattering finales. Traces of jazz and classical influences can be found withing the framework, giving the body a depth and flavor unlike any of their peers. Feelings for a Grammer Lost in no way anticipated this release, and Neil on Impression has quickly captivated an audience and positioned themselves as one of the main players in the European instrumental scene.
Second Opinion: Perhaps it was the effort to sound different on this recording that made Neil On Impression crowbar as many layers of instruments as humanly possible into the 35 minutes they had...Whatever the case, this album does make an impression and does herald the arrival on the international scene of a group who can write some amazing music.
-Ian Nicholls (Review)
Key Tracks: Stars Paint the Forest Gold; Like Hippos Running to the Moon; The Perfect Tango
5) Triosk | The Headlight Serenade
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It was really only a matter of time until Triosk formulated the correct concoction to set their jazz-tronica monster in motion. Fueled by the leftover energy from Pivot's Make Me Love You, The Headlight Serenade throws a track back to the former effort with "Visions IV," a crisp, eye-opener to the album which is one of the more structured songs that appears on the disc. After that, Triosk decays into an improvisational free-for-all. Pike, Klumpes, and Waples put on their best performance to date as they effortlessly glide through the tracks and birth a hypnotizing mix of tracks. Their combined effort is more than the sum of their parts; the improvisational component pushes the art to the next level where it lies outside the realm of stifled composition and muddled notes. A fresh, invigorating presence enchants The Headlighit Serenade, one that is quickly becoming a Triosk trademark. Triosk again shows that Australia remains among the most cutting-edge players in the musical world. You better get used to the works of Pike and Klumpes, because if they keep making wonderful music in Pivot and Triosk, you're going to have to hear about them from us year after year.
Second Opinion: In The Headlight Serenade, Triosk has produced one of the most tastefully compiled jazz-electronica albums since the two styles began to mix. Throughout the album, Triosk manages to be experimental without sacrificingtone or direction, a pitfall of experimental music that is ever-increasingly difficult to avoid. So much ground has been covered with respects to new sounds, that to be simulaneously unique, interesting and entertaining is one of the most difficult tasks for an experimental musical group. Arguably, The Headlight Serenade is an example of where this obstacle is truly cleared.
- Marcus Whale (Review)
Key Tracks: Visions IV; Fear Survivor; Intensive Leben
4) Gregor Samsa | 55:12
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa's long awaited debut album is a diamond in the rough. 55:12 soaks up the slow, rural southern lifestyle and transforms it into the most lethargic post-rock cd of 2006. Brooding does not even begin to describe the meticulousness of the band, who will go to any extreme to push the very last note out of its instruments. The dual male/female vocals likely marks the most successfull incorporation of vocals into a largely instrumental genre. The words float above the music, hovering in space as the notes slowly march onward. We'd be content to listen to Nikki King sing all day, but the long stretches of bleak ambiance make her appearances rare and, when she does appear, masterfully cathartic. 55:12 was well worth the long wait -- music this wonderful is not a common occurrence.
Second Opinion: Gregor Samsa have created a majestic piece of work: undoubtedly sombre, unwaveringly slow, yet a masterpiece in the true sense of the word nonetheless.
-Richard White (Review)
Key Tracks: What I Can Manage; These Points Balance; Young and Old
3) Mono & World's End Girlfriend | Palmless Prayer/ Mass Murder Refrain
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Mono & World's End Girlfriend
Teaming up two of Japan's best musicians for a collaborative project can only result in great music, especially when the two have a strong mutual admiration for each other's work. Mono is no stranger to the limelight, as the band is well known for silencing audiences far and wide with one of the most honed quiet/loud routines across the globe. In many places of the world, "Mono" has become synonymous with "epic," and the quartet excretes dramatic compositions. World's End Girlfriend experiments in avant-garde and electronic music, and it's quite surprising that Katsuhiko Maeda is able to put such a large restraint on Mono in Palmless Prayer... and really extract and elongate the elegant "quiet" pieces with a largely classical influence. By all accounts, this is the tamest effort Mono has released, but it is also the first time where the band stretches themselves to such daring new heights. The mark of truely great musicians is to be able to preform outstandingly even when they're out their element, and both Mono and World's End Girlfriend exceed all expectations.
Second Opinion: Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain should appeal to post-rock and neo-classical music lovers alike, and deserves to reach an even wider audience...Truly, it is a breath-taking offering to rival Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony in terms of sheer lugubriousness. Avoid at your peril, for this is one of the finest albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.
Key Tracks: Two, Three; Five
2) Hammock | Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Hammock
When Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson come together to make music, magic is inevitabe. Raising Your Voice... is the second piece of evidence for this phenomenon. Hammock follows up its debut album with another collection of utterly indescribable and magnificent songs. In a sense, it's really unfair that Hammock is around making music; it is so far beyond the skill of other ambient artists that comparisons are laughable -- no one has even begun to ride on this duo's coattails. Two years ago Kenotic shocked the ears of anyone who dare listen, and Raising Your Voice... picks up where the former left off and is no less dazzling. This is music that seeps deeply into the pores and goes straight for the heart while Hammock grabs a hold of the heartstrings and never lets go. Brilliant only begins to scratch the surface...
Second Opinion: Hammock offers a beautiful, expansive, and diverse collection of songs...powerful narratives and evoking vivid scenes and emotions...Hammock excels at communicating moods; hopeful, melancholic, joyful, depressing, etc. They do an excellent job of turning various instruments and tones into ambient compositions, capable of evoking various feelings and shimmering scenes.
-Joseph Sannicandro (Review)
Key Tracks: Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop and Echo; Floating Away in Every Direction; God Send Us a Signal
1) Magyar Posse | Random Avenger
The Silent Ballet Wiki: Magyar Posse
Random Avenger is a perfect blend of three things: mature song-writing, technical excellence, and well-regulated experimentation. Two albums into its career, Magyar Posse has grown enough to know precisely what it sought to accomplish with its third album: creating a rhythmic, energetic powerhouse. The music surges to life with unprecedented momentum and this overpowering force smooths out the band's experimental bent and allows the stunning beauty of the music to shine through. The unorthodox style of the band is not entirely forgotten, however, as the music is both simultaneously familiar and foreign; the song structures are (finally) familiar to fans of the genre, but they've also kept the Finnish flair which warps them them into a form almost beyond recognition. This dualistic approach opens up the canvas enough to allow the band to layer the album with electronic samples and synths, which only further adds to the enchanting feel of the album. While an energetic force propels the album forward, it is not at the expense of the sophistication. The chaotic layers of instrumentation miraculously all fall into form during the scarce climaxes and the ingenuity of Random Avenger comes into full focus. My hat is off to Magyar Posse; this is a piece that few have topped.
Second Opinion: The Finns’ musical style on Avenger is something impossible to describe without the mention of that despicable word: fusion. There’s a somewhat lack of charm in envisaging two mismatched objects being crammed to fit together, which is what fusion has always connoted for me. Magyar’s trenchant blend of non-Western, chivalric instrumental and epic post-rock, however, is actually totally endearing, and almost effective to the point where it has forced me to reevaluate my thoughts on fusion altogether.
-Mac Nguyen (Review)
Key Tracks: Sudden Death; European Lover/Random Avenger; Intercontinental Hustle
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