Post-rock as a genre relies heavily on formulae and structure. For a style so bent on hurling into cavernous abyss and frantic spine-tingling arenas of sound, there really is a lot of strict order – you may not necessarily expect a timbre so unforgiving to be constrained to a set of conventions, but they’re there. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós, 65daysofstatic and Mogwai all rely on rigidity and laws to ensure a specific tone is achieved; there are copious dramatic fantasy/sci-fi soundscapes, waves of pedal board FX and that almighty crescendo where everything simply explodes – silence is often the catalyst.
Obviously this is a bit of a generalisation, but these are the aspects that tend to spring to mind when you imagine post-rock. There’s no qualms with this however – lots of music follows guidelines (in fact, it’s the entire basis of genre as a concept) – and post-rock is often a thoroughly emotionally rewarding brand of noise, though the inherently formulaic nature it possesses tends to lead to accusations of being uninspired, unoriginal or just plain boring.
God Is An Astronaut are not uninspired. They are not unoriginal. They are certainly not boring. Though they are very much glued to formal rules, they also display a flair for colouring outside the lines on their upcoming sixth LP, Origins. There’s a lot of the usual monolithic, titanic, hyperbole-worthy climactics, but also a Jackson Pollock splatter of new stuff.
Opening the album, ‘The Last March’ ticks and stutters á la shoddy internet YouTube buffering. Shimmering pads of harmonic guitars, bathed in golden reverb, provide a warmth for this percussive focal point. As the ode wears on, familiar, Herculean axe notes vibrate and careen through the music, severing rhythm and harmony. It’s standard fare, but oh so gorgeous, a bleeding-heart overture for the mammoth sonic deluge about to unfold.
Just as you begin to think you’ve pegged Origins or indeed, shrugged it off, ‘Calistoga’ rears its Cerberus-like head(s). GIAA showcase one of their most overtly fresh efforts on the record, churning with Homme-pomp and swaggering shredding. It’s sort-of Gothic, kind-of metal, but not since Kanye West has an artist used vocoder to such a grand effect. It’s a gristly, hormonal track, and it veers away from the band we thought we knew so well. ‘Transmissions’ is another prime cut of eviscerated post-rock; there’s an R&B groove and an Ed Banger twang in the shuffly dance-funk they spew. Like ‘Signal Rays’ – a dreampop tune with Flea on bass – there’re lots of gooey innards to adore on Origins that won’t have appeared before on a GIAA record.
The Irish five-piece had come under before for playing the game too strictly and lacking any development, but that’s just untrue. There’s definitely an evolution to their sound. It doesn’t necessarily stretch the boundaries of their chosen genre, but the outfit, who have been together over a decade, consistently present change within their confines. Just because something isn’t ground-breaking, that doesn’t at all mean it can’t be good. They still unleash stunning music on Origins without always seeking to shock. It’s no gimmick-riddled muck they peddle for the numbers-game, and they don’t alienate or warp listeners in a gamble to stand out; they conjure thundering space-opera paeans with gusto, guts and gumption.