VARIOUS ARTISTS Postrockology (Deep Elm)
In the gospel according to Deep Elm Records, you have the corporate sell-out pseudo indie labels who work hand in hand with major record companies for distribution and publicity, and then you have the keepers of the true faith, as exemplified by Deep Elm Records themselves: untainted by commercial interests, true indie labels undyingly devoted to the music with a singular passion.
It must be a demanding spirituality that consumes the good people over at Deep Elm—how indie are you, really? How fucking indie?
Thoughts on the indie versus mainstream debate aside, one thing Deep Elm Records have been known for over the years has been the quality of the music released. Starting with their first release in 1997’s The Emo Diaries (a compilation series that has gone on to clock 11 volumes now, with a 12th coming up), Deep Elm Records have made a name for themselves as champions of the independent artist.
Though the label might have made their reputation on emo, for years now Deep Elm Records have been quietly gathering for themselves an arsenal of fine post-rock acts. Postrockology, a 12-track compilation available for free download on their website, is the first salvo in Deep Elm’s attempt to stake a claim to the post-rock scene.
In true Deep Elm fashion, of course, the music here is both obscure and achingly brilliant; the likes of Dorena and The Appleseed Cast all contribute to a compilation swimming in ambient, shoegazy goodness. Like the name would suggest, Postrockology is post-rock by the book. This is no brazen attempt to redefine the postrock landscape; the spacious, moody textures here are exactly what you would expect. There goes the quiet expansive synths, there goes the cooing e-bow guitars—Postrockology represents a certain shoegazer post-rock ideal and it doesn’t depart far from that formula.
It’s alright. On tracks like Why Aren’t I Home? (Athletics) and Steps and Numbers (The Appleseed Cast), the post-rock formula is played up to achingly beautiful emotional effect: sweeping, naturalistic atmospheres, meditative quiet passages that burst into aggressive slabs of riff attack, melodic guitar lines that are beautifully fragile. From time to time the record even tiptoes past the shoegazer cliches; I Am Sonic Rain contributes the fearlessly dark piece Fog Is Drowning Us, which serves as a refreshing shot of cojones. Elsewhere, Moving Mountains switches off the power plug and brings out the acoustic guitars for the delightfully folky Sol Solis. All in all, Postrockology is exactly what you’d expect from it, but that’s not such a bad thing, not when said expectations must be sky-high on the back of Deep Elm Records’ name for quality. Take a listen, make the download: It’s the indie thing to do.
(Samuel C Wee)