Post-Rock Instrumental Music: A Beginner’s Guide

A Beginner’s Guide

Post-Rock Instrumental music is perhaps not a genre that too many people are overly familiar with, it can be difficult to immerse yourself in but the real key is patience and trying to develop an appreciation of the sheer scale and intricacies upon which these songs rely. One of the defining features of a lot of Post-Rock is the ‘crescendo’, wherein the soundscapes gather weight and momentum and build into quite climactic, regularly sublime, slabs of noise. Being largely ‘voiceless’ has always been an unavoidable obstacle for the genre but quite frankly I think that the melodies and instrumentation employed create as much if not more emotional depth than the majority of music out there. If you want to listen to some amazing Post-Rock Instrumental music, follow me.

Mogwai are one of the forefathers of the genre. Forming in Glasgow, Scotland in 1996, the Quintet have now released 7 full length studio albums, notably ‘Come on Die Young’ (1999) and ‘Hardcore Will Never Die but You Will’ (2011). Their career now spans three separate decades and shows no indication of slowing down, as the band now own, run and release their music through their own label ‘Rock Action Records’, although in the US they are signed to the legendary SUB POP records. The sound Mogwai have created and polished over their 15+ years of activity is absolutely tremendous, famed for their cinematic dimensions they have been called upon to score films and most recently the hit French TV drama ‘Les Revenants’ . Building songs upon guitar melodies, Mogwai have a knack of constructing masterful frameworks around essentially straightforward structures, Using intriguing drumbeats and basslines to bolster the tracks, they build slowly and steadily using an enormous range of effects and guitar parts until they reach wonderful pinnacles of sonic class. Mogwai are probably one of the best bands of the genre in terms of creating narrative and emotional detail within songs rivalled only really by This Will Destroy .


TWDY hail from San Marcos, Texas. The four piece formed in 2005 and released their last album ‘Tunnel Blanket’ in 2011. Inspired by the likes of Godspeed You Black Emperor and fellow Texans, Explosions in The Sky, TWDY create atmospheric, ambient instrumental pieces which like Mogwai use massive amounts of dynamics and reverb-laden guitar parts. To date they have released three LP’s a number of EP’s (look up ‘Young Mountain EP’) and have, this year, release a live album recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland. The band’s sound often leans towards darker, heavier dimensions and has, before, been referred to as ‘Doomgaze’. In fact the band often seek to completely shirk the ‘Post-Rock’ label, famously in an interview with the Dallas Observer quoted as saying ‘Fuck post-rock, fuck being called post-rock’. However this label is going to be hard to shift because it’s a genre that they not only fit into so well but also a genre that they are at the forefront of. They are probably one of the best bands out there alongside the likes of Mogwai, Hammock and Sigur Ros in terms of creating these beautiful and expansive soundscapes that almost have the ability to transcend music due to their sheer enormity. It’s all too easy to get lost in the oceans of sound these bands so effortlessly create but it’s also important to take note of the subtleties and the distinct musical parts. At their most bare and direct (See introduction to ‘Quiet- Young Mountain) TWDY still create an unerring sense of emotion and immediacy.

This Will Destroy You

Moving away from the ambient side of Post-Rock instrumental music, there is a whole other side to the genre, a side which is a little more playful and a whole lot more rocky. Here we find bands such as Russian Circles, Vasa, MaybeSheWill and And So I Watch You From Afar.

Russian Circles, often referred to as Post-Metal, are known for their slightly heavier take on Instrumental music. This however, shouldn’t put you off as they still explore delicate and intricate passages within their music. The Chicago 3-piece create an incredible scope of noise considering they are strictly a trio. They have previously toured with the likes of Coheed & Cambria and Tool. Their 5th studio album, ‘Memorial’, is imminent (released 29th October) and is sure to be a very welcome addition to what is already a seriously imposing back-catalogue. 2008’s ‘Station’ and 2011’s ‘Empros’ are phenomenal collections of work and with ‘Memorial’s reviews stating that it sounds as if it was “captured echoing through ice-capped mountains” and contains “whirlwinds of mood shifts, drum hits, and satisfyingly punchy riffs” the future of Post-Metal seems to be safe in the hands of Russian Circles.

The band are known for their energetic and impressive live shows which often expand on their recorded sounds. Russian Circles are really one of the most exciting post-rock bands out there right now, even there ragged, visceral approach sounds clean and distinct enabling them to create intricate yet colossal plains of sounds that caress as much as they attack.

Russian Circles

And So I Watch You from Afar, a four-piece from Belfast, Ireland are an amazing example of a post-rock band that have really carved their own niche in the genre, very far removed from the swathes of bands that only ever try to imitate and replicate bands like ‘Isis’ and Mogwai.

Here is a band, with an insatiable appetite for fast-paced, exciting prog that often builds into huge, weighty concentrations of sound. Their musicality and technical ability is beyond any doubt, with insane guitar licks and melodies throughout their music which at times hark to the sounds of The Mars Volta and The Fall of Troy. ASIWYFA effortlessly create, just as well as those with a propensity for ambience, an energetic and sprawling sense of space and atmosphere. Having formed in 2005, the band now have three albums to their name, most recently this year’s offering, ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ and hopefully there will be much, much more to come from these guys.

And So I Watch You from Afar

Ones to Watch: Vasa’s music has been described as that of “Unhinged percussion, epileptic riffs and boxer bass lines”. Sounds good. They are a quartet based in Glasgow, who have recently been coming into the wider regions of public consciousness on the music scene thanks to slots at Festivals such as T in the Park and the landing of some serious support slots; Vasa bill be supporting Deafheaven in Glasgow on 27/10/13.

Their last EP ‘Never Have Dreams’ came out just under a year ago in December of last year and is one of the most promising Post-Rock releases for a very long time. They manage to combine many of the attractive elements of the post-rock genres; atmosphere, heaviness, intricacy, melody and emotion with the prowess and confidence that it would take other bands years to come close to achieving. Really exciting band.

Words: Leo Bargery

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