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by Stephanie Benson

November 16, 2010

Cheat Sheet: Post-Rock

by Stephanie Benson  |  November 16, 2010

Post-rock may be something of a vague term; the emphasis on "rock" negates the complexity of this subgenre that is virtually boundless in its fusion of elements from jazz, metal, punk, shoegazer, Krautrock, classical and electronic music.

The term took off in the early '90s as an attempt to categorize bands as varying as Tortoise, Stereolab, Bark Psychosis, Talk Talk and Slint. From there, artists like Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros have helped lift post-rock's status into the 21st century. Still, many of these artists are not particularly fond of the label.

In general, post-rock is dense yet graceful and minimalist; if vocals are present, they are often sparse and secondary. Basically, post-rock is a man of few words, yet powerful, pensive and provocative nonetheless. So really what bonds these bands together is not necessarily any rhythmic or melodic connection, but rather the sense of mood these artists so meticulously create. Often sprawling and grandiose, a post-rock piece has the power to unravel like an Oscar-winning drama: characters (that is, instruments) gradually become introduced; they harmonize, they struggle, they vie for your attention until a shattering climax shakes you to the core. And once it's all over, you kind of can't stop thinking about it.

So what we have here is a guide to celebrate this mood, this enigmatic form of music we hesitantly call post-rock. Dig in, and prepare to be lifted, moved, devastated, destroyed.

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