, November 8th, 2011 11:50
In his fabled 1994 essay 'Post-Rock', Simon Reynolds argued that the titular movement was about 'using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs and powerchords'. It was a label for an unashamedly forward-looking group of bands who drew on the developments of dub and electronic dance music, and who were united by an eagerness to embrace new sonic possibilities.
The name stuck but the definition didn't. Most bands labelled post-rock augment their music with non-rock instrumentation or rely heavily on riffs, and a term that once seemed pregnant with futurist possibility is now shorthand for a conservativism that displays little sonic imagination beyond Stepping On The Distortion Pedal. So I doubt Nottingham's Kogumaza would thank me for bringing up the term in relation to their fine debut album, but cast off these colloquial dispersions and this is a record that brings to mind the sense of possibility which accompanied Reynolds' original use of the term.
It's certainly the case that they sculpt their sound in astonishing ways: close your eyes and you can almost see the electricity being manipulated in your speakers, and it's worth noting that Kogumaza consider soundman Mark Spivey to be a fourth member of the band. This illuminating interview reveals how - inspired by dub soundsystems - he uses tape delays to modify their live sound, and his contribution is particularly important on record where the greater possibilities of the studio allow all kinds of glorious tinkering. There might only be two guitars and a minimal drum kit on this record but they howl, scorch and throb in the most unholy ways, lulling the listener into an ecstatic, hypnotised stupor until - at the risk of sounding like a hippy - you feel like you become one with the record. This is helped by the fact that there's so much sonic space here: you can live inside the sounds rather than submitting to them, as you have to with so many noisy guitar bands (again, the dub influence is telling).
It's not just about texture and timbre though, and there might be plenty of 'post-', but Kogumaza don't forget the rock either. Indeed, this album calls into question the binary that the opening of Reynolds' essay erects between the egghead 'coldness' of post-rock and the 'warmness' of conventional rock. It captures a band pushing their sound to the limits, but this doesn't come at the expense of rock's kinetic physicality. The tom-centric drumming (no snare, and cymbals are used only for colour) locks into some propulsive grooving and the riffs - with more than a nod in the direction of Dischord cosmonauts Lungfish - are equally strong, providing a solid grounding for numerous sonic lift-offs. Urgency is injected with subtle polyrhythms and gradual shifts in tempo meaning you can sway your body and tap your feet even as the textures sweep you into a parallel dimension.
It seems futile singling out individual tracks for praise or analysis: this is very much an album album, if you get me (it's only available digitally or vinyl and the former the version comes as two MP3s: one per side). Tracks blur into one another- which is no bad thing- and the result is a singular, cohesive and persuasive whole.
That speaks of a maturity and an ability to know what you're good at and stick to it. Therefore Kogumaza is perhaps not an album that a young band could make. It never overreaches, and speaks of a wisdom acquired through years of gigging and recording (the band's collective CV is impressive, with members playing, sometimes together, in a variety of UK DIY luminaries including Reynolds, Wolves! (of Greece), Bob Tilton, Lords, Not in This Town, I Am Spartacus and Felix). Yet it's still a record bursting with enthusiasm and a sheer love of the sounds rock instruments can make. It's a record to cherish; a record to play loud, and a record to inhabit.