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The term ‘post-rock’ was believed to be coined by critic Simon Reynolds in his review of Bark Psychosis’ album Hex, published in the March 1994 issue of Mojo magazine. Reynolds expanded upon the idea later in the May 1994 issue of The Wire.

He used the term to describe music “using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords.”

Post-rock appears to take a heavy influence from late 1960s U.S. group The Velvet Underground and their “dronology” a term that loosely describes fifty percent of today’s post rock activity.

The “Krautrock” of the 1960s and ’70s would also exert a strong influence on post-rock, particularly via the “motorik”, or characteristic rhythm of much Krautrock.

British group Public Image Ltd (PiL) were also pioneers, described by the NME as “arguably the first post-rock group.” Their second album Metal Box (1979) almost completely abandoned traditional rock and roll structures in favor of dense, repetitive dub and krautrock-inspired soundscapes and John Lydon’s cryptic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. The year before Metal Box was released, PiL bassist Jah Wobble declared, “rock is obsolete.” Flowers of Romance (1981), their third album, was an even more radical departure, emphasizing rattling percussion and abstract tape music.

The shoegazing movement of the late 1980s and early ’90s was also a predecessor of post rock, with bands like My Bloody Valentine devoting as much, or more, attention to unorthodox, layered guitar textures than to traditional guitar sounds.

Bands from the early 1990s, such as Slint, or earlier, such as Talk Talk, were later recognized as influential on post-rock. Slint’s Spiderland and Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock are credited as giving birth to post-rock.

Tortoise is also widely considered as being among the founders of the movement. After the second Tortoise LP Millions Now Living Will Never Die, the band became a post-rock icon. Many bands (e.g., Do Make Say Think) began to record music inspired by the “Tortoise-sound”.

In the late 1990s, Chicago was the home base for a variety of post-rock associated performers. Both John McEntire of Tortoise and Jim O’Rourke of Brise-Glace and Gastr del Sol were important producers for many of the groups.

One of the most eminent post-rock locales is Montreal, where Godspeed You! Black Emperor and similar groups, including A Silver Mt. Zion, Do Make Say Think, and Fly Pan Am record on Constellation, a notable post-rock record label. These groups are generally characterized by an aesthetic rooted in, among other genres, musique concrète, chamber music, and free jazz. Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Scottish group Mogwai were among some of the influential post-rock groups to arise during the turn of the 21st century.

In the early 2000s, the term had started to fall out of favour. It became increasingly controversial as more critics outwardly condemned its use. Some of the bands for whom the term was most frequently assigned, including Cul de Sac, Tortoise, and Mogwai, rejected the label. The wide range of styles covered by the term, they and others have claimed, rob it of its usefulness. Today, despite criticism of the term, post-rock has maintained its prominence. Post-rock outfits Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Rós, Pelican and Mono have risen in popularity, showing the longevity of the disputed genre.

Though it has been argued that post-rock as a movement has become obsolete, Post-rock bands are still emerging; Vessels, HREÐA, 65daysofstatic, Youthmovies, Yndi Halda, Caspian, God Is An Astronaut, Sunlight Ascending, This Will Destroy You, Everlasting/Praise: Spring Fist Order and other such bands still maintain the fundamental principles of the genre.

The post-rock sound incorporates characteristics from a variety of musical genres, including ambient, jazz, electronica, and experimental. The traditional method of power chords is replaced with timbre and texture for guitar-play while the song and voice is abandoned by its ambience. The rebellious overtones of rock as we remember it is no longer the theme for post-rock groups. In fact, utilizing dub reggae, hip hop, and rave, post-rock manages to create an androgynous and softer means of subversion. The clubs were also a response to the emergence of a new post-rock vibe where musicians escaped musical genre labels and traded ideas. Early post-rock groups also often exhibited strong influence from the krautrock of the ’70s, particularly borrowing elements of “motorik”, the characteristic krautrock rhythm.

Post-rock compositions often make use of repetition of musical motifs and subtle changes with an extremely wide range of dynamics. In some respects, this is similar to the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Brian Eno, pioneers of minimalism. Typically, post-rock pieces are lengthy and instrumental, containing repetitive build-ups of timbre, dynamics and texture.

Vocals are often omitted from post-rock, however, this does not necessarily mean they are absent entirely. When vocals are included, the use is typically non-traditional: some post-rock bands employ vocals as purely instrumental efforts and incidental to the sound, rather than a more traditional use where “clean”, easily-interpretable vocals are important for poetic and lyrical meaning. When present, post-rock vocals are often soft or droning and are typically infrequent or present in irregular intervals. Sigur Rós, a band known for their distinctive vocals, fabricated a language that critics call “Hopelandic”, which has been described by the band as “a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music and acts as another instrument.”

However, in lieu of typical rock structures in the vein of “verse-chorus-verse”, post-rock groups generally make greater use of soundscapes. As Simon Reynolds’ “Audio Culture” states, “A band’s journey through rock to post-rock usually involves a trajectory from narrative lyrics to stream-of-consciousness to voice-as-texture to purely instrumental music.” Reynolds’ conclusion defines the sporadic progression from rock, with its field of sound and lyrics to post-rock, where samplings are stretched and looped.

Some bands, such as Rachel’s and Clogs, combine post-rock with classical music, while others such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fly Pan Am are so far removed from popular music in their sparseness of arrangement and use of repetition, that they are frequently compared to minimalism.

Wider experimentation and blending of other genres have recently taken hold in the post-rock scene. Isis, Russian Circles and Pelican, among others, have fused metal with post-rock styles. The resulting sound has been termed post-metal. More recently, Sludge metal has grown and evolved to include (and in some cases fuse completely with) some elements of post-rock. This second wave of sludge metal has been pioneered by bands such as Neurosis, Giant Squid, and Battle of Mice. This new sound is often seen on the label of Neurot Recordings.

Screamo has also been influenced by post-rock (and more specifically math rock) with bands such as, City of Caterpillar and Japanese band Envy following in the steps of Mogwai.

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