Here’s a thing I’ve noticed recently: so-called post-rock is an inherently dramatic genre of music; good by itself, but best experienced in conjunction with some other media. It honestly doesn’t matter what you are doing, as long as it’s something mundane. Just stick a moody fin de siècle soundscape on the speakers, and your day is instantly imbued with significance and meaning.
To be honest, I’ve never really understood what gives post-rock its qualifying label. Mostly, it just sounds like rock to me, albeit of an over-serious, ponderous species. Perhaps it’s a distancing tactic, to distinguish serious artists with proper ideas from hairy drunkards shouting about motorcycles. Or perhaps it’s just popular with postmen.
To say more would be nothing but speculation on my part, and the last thing I want to do on this blogzine is call my own professionalism into question. What I can say is that Quest for Fire have got their post-rock credentials in order. The line-up featuring upon their second album, Lights From Paradise, boasts a woman from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who is making violins do a plaintive wail on some of the songs.
I actually typed ‘throughout’ just then, but having double checked, I realise the violin is actually only on two or three tunes. For the most part, there’s a strong vein of heavy psychedelia that pulses through this album; and the odd synth noodle here and there will naturally suggest the otherly climes of planet Hawkwind or other such destinations. But the violin, though understated, adds a hint of folkish whimsy, leaving you with an overall impression of a cosmic odyssey undertaken by a group of morris dancers. Such is the impact it makes, the entire mood of the record is altered.
It’s not a quiet record, and for all its languorous lucid dreaming, it retains a strong riffing sensibility, and even a raucous garage rock clatter from time to time. Confusion’s Home exemplifies the former, oozing magmatically across its seven-minute span to engulf the brain in a sulphurous hellsmog. It’s draped, like the rest of this album, in Chad Ross’ strangely compelling vocals. Not far off monotone, they are almost sighed out into the world, as if emerging from a depressed Dave Gilmour. Even in the quicker tunes, there’s very little in the way of snarling antagonism. Far from serving to undermine, it buttresses this thick, noisy soup. As a result, Quest for Fire stand well apart from their peers, texturally speaking.
The Greatest Hits by God is no less dense, but lacking the driving intensity of other cuts here, it drifts around like a melancholy thunderhead looking for someone to piss on. Also, I just realised why nobody calls songs ‘cuts’ anymore. Between this tune and Confusion’s Home, you feel the stall is well and truly set out, and everything else seems to split the difference between them, in varying proportions.
The main thing about Lights from Paradise is that there’s loads going on, and it’s really blooming good, guv’nor. But it seems trite to try and eviscerate it for its wisdom, like some sort of cliché-spouting anthropomancer. The atmosphere it evokes is a finely-honed thing, and its elements are so well-blended that it bewitches and hypnotises without ever explaining itself. Even lacking the aggression and anger that typifies much of the blander end of stoner rock, Lights from Paradise does precisely what a good psychedelic record should; it forms an eight-inch masonry nail out of its moods and sets about methodically pounding it through the front of your skull.