Tag Archives: Post-Rock

Eight Bands Helping to Make San José, Costa Rica an Indie Music Paradise

Los Waldners

Los Waldners

Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity and eco-tourism, making the Central American nation a great place to visit no matter what your interests. But if you get the chance to hang out in San José, you might want to consider taking the time to check out a concert. The city’s indie scene has become home to an outsized amount of musical diversity.

Thriving in the shadow of both green hills and an active volcano, Costa Rica’s busy capital of San José is cosmopolitan but, with a population of less than 350,000 in the city proper, relatively small. The city has fostered the kind of close-knit but musically heterogeneous scene that can flourish in a just-big-enough town. Indie music within its confines and surrounding principalities doesn’t have one single sound; bands range from enigmatic bedroom electropop to loud-as-hell post-rock. Still, there’s a cohesive scene, one with plenty of variety, inventiveness, and raw energy.

The short music documentary In San José offers a snapshot of the city’s music scene via interviews and live footage. But, much like this list, it’s just an introduction to a music community that’s quickly expanding. And if this Tico indie starter pack leaves you wanting more, take a dive straight into the DIY deep end in the volumes of audiovisual fanzine Súper Legítimo.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Art Punk, Celestial Jazz, and Hip-Hop

7 essential

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Album of the Day: Wear Your Wounds, “WYW”

If your only exposure to Converge has been gnarly teeth-gnashers like “Concubine”, “No Heroes”, and “Eagles Become Vultures”—three of the hardcore band’s ‘hits’—Jacob Bannon’s Wear Your Wounds project is gonna sound like it came way out of left field. It shouldn’t, though; the singer’s been hinting at a solo record as lush and layered as WYW for some time. The clearest through-line to the long-awaited LP would have to be Rust, a 2009 compilation that paired lots of four-track fiddling with the Supermachiner recordings Bannon cut alongside bassist Ryan Parker and Converge bandmate Kurt Ballou a decade earlier.

Wear Your Wounds embraces Bannon’s epic inclinations wholesale, as well as such admitted influences as Swans, Sparklehorse, and—no, really—Pink Floyd. As suggested by its moonlit album art, this is a record that reaches for the stars rather than the pavement, often pushing its post-metal experiments well past the six-minute mark. Bannon also knows when to let other musicians shine, as evidenced by a solid backing band that includes Ballou and heavy hitters who have logged hours with The Red Chord (guitarist Mike McKenzie), Coliseum (drummer Chris Maggio), and Hatebreed (guitarist Sean Martin).

It’s not going to convert any Converge hardliners who still listen to Petitioning the Empty Sky religiously, but that’s okay; Bannon transcended the scope of those scorchers years ago, and is showing no signs of slowing his creative growth anytime soon.

Andrew Parks

How The Eagles Inspired Trans Am’s Latest Anti-Post-Rock Record

Trans Am

Nearly 30 years into their career, with 11 studio albums under their glittery belts, Trans Am show no signs of moving to a retirement home in Florida. Now living in separate cities, multi-instrumentalists Nathan Means, and Phil Manley have other jobs and families to raise. Drummer Sebastian Thomson recently committed to playing percussion in the metal band Baroness.

Less-dedicated musicians would have failed to keep a long-distance project alive on a part-time basis, or would have at least been susceptible to diminishment in the quantity or quality of their output. This hasn’t been the case for Trans Am.

By drawing on a seemingly discordant range of influences—including arena rock, synth pop, prog, metal, krautrock and sci-fi soundtracks—the trio created an amalgamated, largely instrumental style that is wholly their own and has shape-shifted through the years. They cut their teeth in the Washington, D.C. hardcore scene, and were initially lumped in with contemporaries such as Tortoise and Labradford; but Trans Am had little in common with the urgent, earnest polemics of the former movement, nor the chin-stroking intellectualism of the latter.

But just because they were considerably more fun than their peers doesn’t mean Trans Am were never sincere. 2004’s Liberation was a reaction to the George W. Bush administration, and their latest album, California Hotel, was recorded as Donald J. Trump was huffing his way to electoral triumph. Packed with fuzzy riffs, glistening synth tones, vocoded voices, and luxuriant rhythms, the album’s overall vibe is one of pre-dystopian melancholy mixed with a more optimistic defiance. This is especially true when it comes to tracks such as “Staying Power,” which the band nailed in one take, immediately after hearing the result of last year’s presidential election. Still, Trans Am have seen off Reagan, George Bush and his junior and aren’t going stand by idly in the face of another administration they oppose. We spoke to Trans Am’s Phil Manley about stupidity, distance, fatherhood and The Eagles.

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Twenty-Five Years of the Brain-Melting Sounds of SKiN Graft Records

Skin Graft

U.S. Maple

In 2016, the St.Louis-based label SKiN GRAFT quietly celebrated its 25th anniversary. To commemorate the milestone, the label re-released the very first full-length LP it issued back in 1991: Dazzling Killmen’s impossible-to-categorize underground rock touchstone Face of Collapse. “That’s a band that changed my life,” says SKiN GRAFT founder Mark Fischer. “I really, really doubt that I’d be talking to you right now if that band hadn’t existed and we hadn’t found each other.”

That’s no hyperbole. Back in the late ’80s, Fischer and a friend, Rob Syers, were publishing a DIY comic-punk ‘zine called SKiN GRAFT that was popular in the St. Louis area. The irreverent art caught the attention of Dazzling Killmen vocalist/guitarist Nick Sakes, who asked Fischer to draw a comic for the band’s upcoming 7”.

Fischer, who had always daydreamed about starting a record label, ended up not only enthusiastically drawing the sleeve, but also releasing the single himself. “It went all right,” he says, “so I said, ‘Well, I guess I have a record label, so I’ll do more.'”

This sonic and aesthetic ambition would distinguish SKiN GRAFT in the coming decades, as it released albums that combined challenging music with elaborate packaging. For example: The label released a Chinese Stars EP shaped like the titular weapon—which actually got stuck in one customer’s car stereo, Fischer says—while Made In Mexico’s Zodiac Zoo LP boasts a pop-up band photo in the gatefold. “I always thought of SKiN GRAFT as a comic book company posing as a record label,” Fischer says with a laugh.

The label maintained this creativity-driven DIY ethic as it moved its headquarters to Chicago for a time and started releasing music by bands outside of the Midwest. However, over the years, SKiN GRAFT has amassed a loyal community of musicians and collaborators. In fact, Fischer still works with Sakes: The musician’s latest band, Xaddax, is set to release a new single this summer.

Having that enduring, supportive community means a lot to Fischer—it’s a trait he respected about other indie labels, like Dischord. It’s also helped SKiN GRAFT maintain momentum over the years. “It became easier to find stuff the more I went along,” Fischer says. “The people that were making the kind of music that was appropriate for the record label, we all just sort of found each other.”

Fischer, who now lives in Europe with his wife and young daughter, patiently and enthusiastically told us about the significance of select SKiN GRAFT catalog releases.

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