It can be heard in commercials, in film scores and even in many Sunday morning church services, yet it is often left unrecognized. Post-rock is a style of rock music with a focus on atmosphere and either groove or build-ups. Usually, most post-rock has a minimalistic composition with lengthy songs involving large dynamic contrast between soft ambiance and large sounding drum beats matched with overdriven, tremolo-picked guitars.
Taking influence from ambient, jazz, dub reggae, German krautrock and early British electronica, post-rock bands have a wide range of possible sounds. The style originated in the early 1990s in the U.K. with bands such as Talk Talk, Stereolab and Bark Psychosis. These bands sound different from many post-rock bands today, but they set an example of what journalist Simon Reynolds noted as musicians’ “hijacked elements of rock for non-rock purposes.” Post-rock has continued to mean the usage of rock instrumentation for more atmospheric purposes than normal rock riffs.
Post-rock is primarily instrumental, but there are some exceptions. The most iconic example is the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The vocalist sings in a way to make his voice sound like an instrument, adding to the atmosphere of their music. There are a few other bands that employ vocals in their music, but they are often few and far between.
American bands in the 2000s such as Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor created a style of post-rock that continues to be emulated by bands. Godspeed You! Black Emperor popularized long song times in post-rock by having songs that are often 20 minutes in length. Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai have become major icons in post-rock, playing tours around the world and having songs featured on multiple films.
Throughout the 2010s, post-rock began to lean into its electronica influence with many bands investing in synthesizers and exploring the worlds of beats and pads. Tycho has been one of the bands leading the charge into this foray. Explosions in the Sky has also released some recent albums focusing heavily on synthesizers. This Will Destroy You, Caspian and Mono are among the bands that have continued in the vein of the early 2000’s American bands, rising in the scene to become mainstays. Some other bands like Lights & Motion have chosen to pursue a more cinematic sound, eager to provide background music for commercial use.
Post-rock has infiltrated the Christian music scene as well. Many worship bands have taken the post-rock equation and layered worship lyrics over it. Jesus Culture, Bethel Music and Hillsong United have written many songs between 2009 and 2017, including “Break Every Chain” and “Oceans.” Bethel Music’s “Without Words: Synesthesia” album is almost entirely post-rock. Besides worship, however, there are not very many Christian post-rock bands. Lowercase Noises and Blien Vesne are great examples of Christian post-rock. Lowercase Noises consists of a single artist, who has a YouTube channel dedicated to explaining how to create lush, atmospheric sounds from a guitar and explains his ever-changing recording equipment. His channel has received millions of views from both Christian and secular audiences.
Post-rock is a great genre to listen to while doing other tasks and would feel very familiar to many ORU students who grew up on contemporary worship. From dramatic cinematic crescendos to soft ambient pads, post-rock has a lot to offer its listeners.