Compelling atmospheric post-rock
Creating an engaging post rock record is trying in the best of times. During a moment as chaotic as our current one, it’s nearly impossible. Luckily for us, NOUS has taken up the challenge. NOUS III delivers one of the most accessible and exciting post-rock releases this year, despite lacking a clear narrative arc across its songs.
To clarify, most post-rock comes with some sort of baked-in statement. Godspeed You! Black Emperor operates from a Marxist or Leftist lens while other groups like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai weave complex narratives through song titles and emotions. NOUS on the other hand isn’t really interested in putting together a full statement. Instead they are content to focus on the sounds contained within each track, giving the whole record a more ambient approach despite not sounding anything like ambient music. Of course, this approach may not seem so unorthodox when compared to the past work of the various members of the group. NOUS was spearheaded by experimentalist and composer Christopher Bono, and includes former members of Swans, Yoko Ono and Liturgy, crafting an outfit that exists to push boundaries.
This particular creative ethos is in full force on NOUS III’s opening track “We Hope The Weather Will Continue.” This track falls perfectly in line with its title, and is filled with remarkable sounds that rarely make it into post-rock. While the violins and guitars we’ve come to expect are there, the main draw are the mallet instruments. By adding these instruments, the track gains a lightness of foot that communicates hope and belief, despite no evidence that the hope is well placed.
NOUS III, unlike many albums that one could compare it to, is also happy to set the scene. While a GY!BE track or a EiTS track would do full builds, crashes and crescendos across a single track, NOUS has decided to insert tracks like “A Falling Tear” and “Dust Suspended” which serve as establishing shots for the record. These tracks often incorporate high pitched whines, creating a desolate environment in which NOUS can craft their art.
Ever the patient ones, NOUS holds their trump card until the final seconds, revealing it the instant that “Kindness” begins. Stretching out past the 14 minute mark, this track is the closest any track on NOUS III gets to being a standard post-rock track. Of course, much like how the band took their time getting to this track, the track itself takes its own time. A lengthy piano section spans the majority of the track, then at the ten-minute mark it finally breaks open, spilling layers of delectable synths and strings into the ear of the listener.
Though the record is perhaps a bit slower paced than it ought to be, the clarity of the emotional messaging is impressive enough to earn it some merit. On top of that, NOUS takes some serious risks with their instrumental choices on NOUS III. Thankfully, these risks pay off in spades, making this one of the better post-rock releases this year, despite its lack of narrative cohesion.