I met Maurice Beckett last year after his band Jakob played their incredible album Solace live at The Tuning Fork in Auckland. I sheepishly admitted that I was the one who had once referred to him as a “hairy behemoth” in a review. Beckett just laughed. He was great to chat to, super laid back and didn’t take things too seriously.
Regular Will Not Fade readers should need no introduction to Jakob, the mighty post-rock trio from Hawkes Bay. Desbot is another post-rock trio with Beckett on bass, but despite sharing these similarities, they are very much a different beast.
Desbot released their debut album Pass of Change back in October, and I’ve been thrashing it the entire time.
Something I love about Desbot’s music is the feeling of momentum that each song exudes. The drums [play by Tom Pierard] are often driving, especially with open hi-hats, bright crashes and harsh china cymbals – big explosive, washy sounds. And the bass – often the star – is usually pulsing, throbbing, compelling us to nod our heads and tap our feet – to feel the music and the hypnotic energy it radiates. One of the best examples of this is the breakdown in “Eclipsed” – crushingly heavy as the band pummels us with dense slabs of sound that they conjure up.
Rounding out the trio is Nick Blow on keys. Most rock music is centred around guitar riffing, so the omission of guitar is enough to make this mix unique. The keys here are more ephemeral, often just colouring the feel and creating the mood with sci-fi swells and interesting effects. It’s a great move, being able to draw on countless crazy synthetic sounds that keyboard soundbanks can offer.
It’s an interesting dynamic: the rhythm section locking in tight to push the music, with keys plucking flavouring from the stratosphere to make it all interesting. And while the structure can feel linear and a bit simple, it is never boring. The music is often incredibly heavy and distorted, yet somehow feels hopeful and not oppressive.
The band explores texture and tonality, playing with space and sounds to bring a fresh, otherworldly feel to a lot of the songs on the album. They use so many interesting effects and inorganic timbres that it borders on industrial at times, with odd mechanical screeches and whirrs that make me envision a robotic production line, or even a futuristic spacecraft. Listen to the fantastic reverberating drumming in “No Response or Benefit”, or the warning siren sound that phases out slowly during the outro of “Pass of Change”.
It’s possible that this experimental feel arises from their writing process. Drummer Pierard shares that the trio all wrote and demoed ideas at home individually during lockdown periods – which pushed them to be more creative – and delays caused by the pandemic forced them to slow down and really take the time to craft and hone these songs and add more depth to the music..
In short, Pass of Change is great. A solid album that I happily keep returning to. I’m really hoping that they come to Wellington at some point this coming year because I bet their music sounds absolutely monstrous played live through a decent speaker system.
Regular Will Not Fade readers should need no introduction to Ranges. I’ve been covering music from the Montana post-rockers since they released “Night & Day” in 2015. I also joined them on tour across America for their 2017 tour in support of their breakthrough album The Ascensionist, and again when they went on tour in Europe and played dunk!festival the following year. CJ (guitar) and Wilson (art direction) also co-own A Thousand Arms, the screen-printing company come distro/record label responsible for the awesome Open Languageand Hemispheres post-rock compilations that come out every year.
Most Ranges releases have an underlying concept. “Night & Day” was a 24 minute song that mirrored the 24 hour day. Gods of the Copybook Headingswas inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name. I’ve always liked how their music had extra elements that you could chose to delve into and find deeper meaning in.
CJ playing guitar for Ranges in Lyon
The albums often have amazing physical elements as well, especially with the two most recent albums, The Ascensionist and Babel. Handmade booklets for liner notes on recycled paper; ceramic mugs and shot glasses; screen printed b-side records, wall banners, t-shirts, guitar pedals, cassette tapes with riddles and maps, black market currency… Seriously, the band made their own coins which could be redeemed in exchange for exclusive merch items that were only accessible on certain days discovered by decoding a calendar.
Loads of their releases and merch have cryptic hidden puzzles and codes and meanings that hint at upcoming releases or unlocking more secret b-sides. I know Aaron “Foofer” Edwards was the first to decipher on of the puzzles that came with a cassette tape the band released.
So it’s interesting how they’ve approached this record. It seems clear that something is coming. They’ve dropped a lot of singles in quick succession over the past month. But no clear news about what was coming. No album title, no pre-order. I guess they’ve always loved the air of mystique attached to their music, and now they’ve built up a big enough fanbase that they can really have fun keeping people speculating.
They’ve even kept me in the dark – and for all intensive purposes I’m an honorary band member. I’ve been able to listen to the album for a month or two, but they haven’t given me any hints. I guess I can review the music, but any true Ranges fan knows that the music is only one component of a release. I guess information about artwork and physical media will be revealed in good time…
L-R: Joey Caldwell (guitar), Wilson Raska (art direction), Jared Gabriel (bass), CJ Blessum (guitar, band dad). Front: Me (Joseph aka Baggins), Mark Levy (NYHC drum legend)
OK, here are some juicy details you’ve been after. You’ve actually heard most of the songs if you’ve been keeping up with their recent releases. There’s the four tracks we’ve already heard; four interlude tracks named after the directional points of the compass; and the title track: “Cardinal Winds”
CJ was responsible for a lot of recording and mixing duties in the past because he ran a studio, The Low Country. For Babel they chose to give CJ a break so he could focus on songwriting, rather than worrying about taking on too much responsibility. They drove down to Texas and recorded with Chris Commons, an experience that they all enjoyed. But the a global pandemic made it harder just to get out of the house, let alone out of the state, so Ranges went back to self-recording.
This album also saw Ranges reduced to a trio of musicians. Jared Gabriel was the the bass player in Ranges for quite a while, but he moved from Montana to Ohio last year to live with his fiancé, so doesn’t feature on this record. Hope you’re doing awesome Jared!
“Deluge” was the first track we heard, featuring on the recent Open Languagecompilation put out by A Thousand Arms. It’s a great song to create first impressions with, but actually features as the last track on the album. It starts out with a murky sound that makes me think of whale song, and a great bass tone that gives off Kerretta vibes. The guitar line is fantastic. You can always trust Joey to come up with a great melody and it’s what makes this song what it is. Mark plays some tasty rolling beats on the toms that sound thunderous but not overpowering. And CJ brings the swells and ambience. It’s a solid song but watch out: that melody will get so stuck in your head!
The actual album opener “Abyss” (debuted on Everything is Noise) comes in strong and intentional. We’re hit by a barrage of overdriven guitar. I remember CJ saying how he wants to incorporate more tremolo strumming into his playing during the writing of Babel, and I can picture him here rocking back and forward, hands a blur as they flutter over the guitar pickups. Mark is really laying into his cymbals too and you can feel the intensity of his hits.
This subsides somewhat to allow an opening for the melody line. Joey and CJ work well together, both playing just what they need to complement the other. There’s some lush beauty that the two work together to weave throughout the song, a very rewarding listen. “Abyss” is a strong statement as an opener and it works brilliantly.
We have four tracks that I’ll call the ‘compass’ tracks. They serve as interludes, giving breathing space and breaking up the album. They sound like samples of cassette tapes; of needles on record grooves; static on the radio; or of some forms of analogue media at the very least. It’s ethereal and we hear gales of wind howling through “North” atop a speaker crackling. It’ll be interesting to hear how the four ‘compass’ tracks sound on vinyl. Very meta, I assume.
Mark is one of my drum heroes. I have so much love for the guy. I even have a photo of him up on my bedroom wall. He gave me advice when I needed to buy a snare drum, and often recommends music to listen to. My old band just released an album that I drummed on and in all honestly, Mark’s thoughts are the main thing I care about. If Mark approves of my playing then that’s all I need. Mark has a custom drum company named Duradero and if he ever makes me a snare drum I will die a happy man.
Mark had been accused of ‘playing it safe’ in the past, and he openly confesses that it was true. But it’s not true on this album. His playing is just what the music needs. It’s driving and passionate. You can hear the energy of his strokes and how it propels and elevates everything. It sounds great. It’s tight, it’s creative, it’s musical. He’s a beast but his playing serves the music instead of overshadowing it.
Mark playing drums for Ranges in Lyon
“Sojourner” [featured on Heavy Blog is Heavy] feels majestic and powerful, with a pulsing beat. There’s some really cool electronic sounds at play – a wavering, shimmery sound and some warm synth bass – that provide nice textural elements for the guitars and drums to build upon.
Title track “Cardinal Winds” is the song that they’ve saved for the big reveal. I’m guessing that they wanted to keep the album name secret. It commences with a neat percussive sampled intro before launching into the big crescendo sound that is recognisably Ranges. It comes in at just under nine minutes long, so it’s fair to say it’s an epic, comprised of a number of movements.
In fact, there are two other songs of similar length, the aforementioned “Abyss”, and “Solace”.
“Solace” [premiered on the YouTube channel wherepostrockdwells] gives of feelings of solitude freedom, as the name would suggest. 2017’s The Ascensionist was the soundtrack to conquering a mountain, and we return to similar feelings of finding ourselves reckoning with the wild forces of nature here. This is the lull in the album, focused more on ambient textures and tender guitar picking than sheer force or melody. Of course, there’s the obligatory crescendo, but “Solace” is the song that helps you catch your breath.
It’s a shame I can’t comment on the artwork, packaging or merch. Wilson always knocks it out of the park with that side of things. They did such an amazing job with Babel that I’m excited to see what they have planned. I feel that my review is incomplete, but I can at least assure you that the music is worth your time.
These guys are my good friends. I’ve spent 3 weeks in a tour van with them traveling around the world. Of course I have favourable things to say about them. But I truly mean it when I say this is a great album. Their last album Babel was their best work to date, but Cardinal Winds tops it. This record really is a triumph of songwriting. I can’t wait to receive a physical copy and let me neighbours experience it as well when I blast it on my turntable.
Joey playing guitar for Ranges in Ypsilanti
Cardinal Winds is out on Friday 27 August. There’s a countdown clock at https://www.rangesmusic.com/ but I’m not staying up til 3am local time to see what happens. I imagine there’ll be some awesome content available to purchase at the A Thousand Arms and dunk!records websites.
Just Neighbors are an awesome math-rock band from Gainsville, Florida. They play wonderful happy tappy music with care-free vibes. They are about to release a new album, Inside Voices, which showcases a slightly different sound for the band.
Will Not Fade: Here in New Zealand, we put a “U” in “Neighbour”. I read somewhere that Americans stopped putting “U’s” in some words because when putting listings in classified ads they had to pay by the letter, so began dropping letters that weren’t vital in order to save money. No idea how true that is, but it’s interesting. Also, partly off topic, but the band Living Colour has a “U” because their guitarist Vernon Reid is English. [Real talk, I discussed this in an interview with Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun, and someone cited me on the Living Colour wikipedia page. Am I an academic now?]
Just Neighbors: Interesting fact, we always assumed it was another way to rebel against the Monarchy.
I’ve listened to Inside Voices a handful of times now. It’s quite a departure from your usual style. What motivated you to write such different music? It’s still got the chill vibes, but it’s a lot more straightforward.
Inside Voices is beginning to feel like a detour as opposed to a departure. Some of these songs were written years ago and some came about during the process. I think we were partly motivated by wanting to try our hand at home recording and wanting to change up what we were doing. Another reason this album came together was that two members were moving at the time and we wanted to get some ideas recorded before they left.
What is your stance on 4/4?
Overrated (we can swing it ;()
What artists have you been listening to lately?
Aerial M, Charlie Martin, Homeboy Sandman, Russian Circles, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, Cassandra Jenkins
Who influenced your songwriting with this album?
Land of Talk, Silver Jews, George Strait, Fog Lake
America confuses me. Places considered Midwest are on the eastern side of the country. Anyway… Do you get Southeast vs Midwest emo beef? Like West Coast/East Coast hip-hop where rappers do drivebys and gun down each other and also say hurtful things with their words?
While the west coast/ east rapper beefs died in the 90s, the southeast Vs Midwest emo beef is very much alive. Most southeast emo bands get labeled Midwest because they wrote a riff that sounds like American football. This is unfair because the last place we want our music to be associated with is the Midwest.
Did you grow up on MTV Unplugged albums?
I am a bit young to really say that I grew up on the unplugged albums, but I did grow up getting ready for school and watching MTV. Like I remember when Dashboard Confessional dropped ‘vindicated’ for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack – that was big for me.
Just Neighbors is mostly an instrumental band. Do you find it scary or daunting writing music that features singing? [I’m a drummer. I did some backing vocals when my new band played recently and although I’d practiced a lot, it was terrifying.]
Justice Diamond: In a way it’s scary and daunting. It’s also exciting and challenging which has been the appeal to pursue it lately. It’s really nice to be able to add vocal melodies and lyrics to our songs.
Dan Lohr: It’s scary in that it’s so damn vulnerable. Rather than sitting, meditating, and writing a song based on a feeling and having the melodies do the talking – I am actually directly speaking about it; that’s a lot.
How did the writing and recording process differ with this album? Have you been stuck at home much over the past year?
Our past albums were huge undertakings for us with a lot of time spent preparing parts and tracking them in a studio. With this project we didn’t set out to make a Just Neighbors record in the traditional sense, we were really just interested in recording some song ideas we’ve been sitting on for a while. Inside Voices was recorded at home and was much more of an intimate recording process. We’ve all been stuck at home over the past year so it was nice to be able to continue writing and recording despite the circumstances.
I’ve noticed you have a visual theme of lights from what I’ve seen of this album. Do you have an overall theme or message with the music?
We don’t have an overall theme with this music but sometimes they emerge unexpectedly after the fact.
I remember that for your last album, If It Ever Comes Back, you made the album available for purchase and download on Bandcamp a week or so before you put it on streaming services. Talk me through how you settled on that decision.
We’ve always appreciated Bandcamp as a service that connects music supporters with the artist. Spotify and streaming services lack that connection, so we wanted to try and direct fans to our Bandcamp where they could purchase the music and more directly support us. It also helped us fund our tour to Mexico.
You also made extended versions of songs available for the people who supported you by purchasing your music. Is this like how Japanese CD’s often have bonus tracks?
It’s similar, we really wanted to provide something additional to anyone who bought the album and keep the streaming experience more succinct. Appreciate that you took notice! Those tracks have become some of our favorite moments from the album.
I notice that your URL link on your instagram leads to “Capture” on Spotify. So you still want Spotify streams?
Despite our criticism, yes. The fact is most listeners are on streaming services so it only makes sense to bring the music to the masses. It’s sad, because Spotify really has the opportunity to throw it back to the artists by *actually* paying them or integrating merch shops for any artist.
While we are on the topic of different listening formats, I love that I can support you through Bandcamp without needing to pay for expensive shipping fees by buying digital music. But you also have CDs and Vinyl for sale. How do you personally prefer to listen to music? I have a record collection, but just can’t afford to buy records most of the time. I saw on the witter page that someone recently bought Weezer’s Pinkerton.
We love listening to records on vinyl. It’s also a good time to pop in a CD while driving.
Have Bandcamp Fridays made much of a difference for you as a band over the past year?
In all honesty, not really. It’s a nice gesture from Bandcamp but it hasn’t made a particularly big impact on sales or revenue from us.
What is your relationship with Refresh Records?
Refresh Records are good friends and partners. They pressed a limited vinyl release of Being Where I Thought I’d Be and have done a great job at managing orders. They have some other kickass bands as well, shout out Cuzco and Catholics.
Tell me about the Gainesville music scene. I’ve never been to Florida but I have spent some time traveling around America with bands and I loved seeing DIY music communities and how the musicians support each other over there.
The Gainesville music scene is pretty eclectic and it has always felt very supporting. You can find just about anything here. Impressive how many scenes can exist in what started as a small college town. We were lucky enough to be a part of a mathy/progressive side of it. There are too many good bands we’ve shared the stage with getting started; you know who you are 😉
Have you got connections to the hardcore/punk scene? Do you know about the legendary band Jud Jud? [if not, please educate yourself and report back]
Not really and no but holy shit Jud Jud rocks.
My friends in Tides of Man are from Clearwater. That’s not a question, it’s just Florida related.
How are the local venues doing? Do you see yourselves playing shows or touring at any point in the future?
It’s hard to say at this point. It seems like shows are going to come back this fall so we are hoping our favorite spots survived. Shout out to the hardback cafe. As of now, we’re no longer all in Gainesville so we have no plans for shows or touring in the immediate future.
You featured on a Ripcord Records fundraiser compilation recently. Tell me about how that came about.
They actually reached out via email and we sent them a track to feature on the compilation. When the compilation dropped we couldn’t believe how good it was. It also raised a lot of money for a charity called Refuge that helps victims of domestic abuse. Both the link for the compilation and charity are below in case anyone is interested https://www.refuge.org.uk/
What have been some of your most effective ways of reaching wider audiences? [ I can’t even remember how I discovered your band.]
Releasing music has always seemed to be one of the most effective. The internet has its ways.
Some of the best math-rock bands come from Japan. How was your time touring there? [I went to Tokyo in 2014 I think. It was incredible. Toe are also on top of the bucket list for bands I need to see before I die]
Our time touring Japan was incredible. It’s wild how different the shows are from the US and It’s honestly surreal we were there in the first place. We wholeheartedly enjoyed meeting so many new people and bands. We got to play with so many kick ass bands like Paranoid Void, Nengu, pFpG, momoku, and the enigma RIL.
And you’ve played in Mexico a bit, right?
We’ve played in Monterrey, MX twice and absolutely loved it. We’d like to extend further down next time but it is a massive country. Our friends down there have a collective called Monterrey Emo Club and play in a band called ‘Local Champion’.
Let’s hear some tour stories! Got any crazy things that happened to you on tour? Interesting foods you ate? Strangest venues?
Well on our first tour we all got Norovirus *redacted* after one member (Justice) ate street clams so things got pretty hairy. We also have fond memories of muffulettas on the Mississippi, tacos in Mexico, and ramen in Japan. We’ve played just about any venue at this point: Rooftops, apartments, basements, ballrooms, verandas, offshoots, fouriers, truck stops, bowling alleys, Applebees, Chuck e. Cheese, Red Robin, Ace Hardware, Amazon Fulfillment Centers.
Nintendo time. What are your go-to characters in Super Smash Bros? Favourite video games? Fave video game soundtracks?
Justice Diamond: Ice climbers are my main and falco comes second.
Dan Lohr : I run villager
Reid Casey: Lucas that guy
Justice Diamond : Spelunky and spelunky soundtrack
Dan Lohr : FORTNITE!!! Was a good game :c
My friends in Man Mountain managed to get onto the Borderlands 3 game. What game would you most love to get your music onto?
We’d love to get featured on the Borderlands 4 actually, dm us.
Which band member is the most neighborly and why?
Jrok (Jarrett) because he was always the one to get the mail and he introduced himself to our current drummer (Reid).
If you were to get a face tattoo, what would it be?
(っ◔◡◔)っ ♥ based ♥
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for taking the time to interview us, this was really well done!
Sora Shima were staples in the New Zealand post-rock scene for some time. They shared the stage with royalty like Jakob and Mono, and put out some great music.
The band slowed down and fell into a hiatus about five years ago. You know the score – guys get a bit older, work commitments start taking over, suddenly they have families, and the band goes on the back burner. Their last release was the 2014 album You Are Surrounded.
I remember in late 2016 my friend David Zeidler (of Young Epoch fame) asking me to recommend some post-rock acts from my neck of the woods for an A Thousand Arms compilation, which were relatively new at the time.
From memory I suggested Jakob, Sora Shima, Hiboux, Into Orbit and Kerretta. Three of those acts made it onto the first edition of Hemispheres(Hiboux featured in the following edition).
Chatting with Jason from Sora Shima, the fresh surge of interest in his band as a result of that compilation inspired him to revive the band and get things up and running again.
They’ve had a handful of gigs in the past year and have been working on new material and getting back on track. Out of nowhere they’ve dropped two fresh songs.
“At the Edge of Hope Is Despair” is a brilliant return to form. A guitar line at the start reminds me of Tides of Man – which can only be a good thing. And the drums sound immense – really full and vibrant and spacious. So many drummers try to emulate that sound that John Bonham gave us in the song “When The Levee Breaks” and Sora Shima have come darn close. All the instruments come together in a searing, triumphant crescendo that leaves you panting for more. I’m reminded of the recent Hubris album.
“Loss” is more cinematic ambient, full of mournful swells and dense textures. A nice counterpiece to the first track.
There’s no story behind these tracks, no waffly bio. It’s just shy of 7 minutes worth of music. But it’s damn tasty and exciting to have new content from such a great band. Keep an eye out on the Shora Shima Facebook page for some news being announced in the next week.
While you’re at it, buy their back catalogue off Bandcamp. They’re only asking for $3 for their entire collection, which is criminally underselling themselves.
Sam Butler is likely best known for his time as the bass player for Banks Arcade. Recent life changes have signaled time for new opportunities, allowing Butler to explore different avenues.
He put the word out last year, wanting to start a post-rock group. I even had him over at one point for a jam in my bedroom. But a shift to the sleepy town of Nelson put those plans to rest, so Butler decided to see what he can do on his own. The result is the over time EP, put out under the moniker of Distance.
The timing seems slightly comical, considering all the jokes circulating about how we are about to get flooded with bedroom albums and solo projects due to the covid 19 lockdown period, but don’t worry, this is actually quality output.
Butler shares with me about the inspiration behind the EP. The immense Nelson Pine factory plant in Richmond is responsible for producing a lot of the MDF, plywood and timber that we use in our part of the world. You can see the constant plume of “steam” churning out from it’s chimneys at all hours.
Butler noticed this during a commute to work one day and it got him thinking about the water cycle. One thing led to another, and before long he’d formed a song in his head that revolved around the concept of water. Wanting to extend himself, he expanded upon the theme, introducing other elements of nature, and in the end settling on five elements he loved about New Zealand: water, trees, sky, mountains and people.
Most post-rock music is instrumental by nature, leaving the music open to interpretation by the listener. But I do love when post-rock artists use an overarching concept to influence and inform the songwriting process. It can result in a more interesting final product, which invites the listener to interact with the themes and messages of the music on a deeper level. Take Ranges, hubris. or Lost in Kiev, for example.
“coalescence” is the original water themed track that jump-started this project. Butler shares that “throughout the song, raindrops fall, coalesce, create puddles, rivers and streams, and then finally join the ocean, where they crash about in the final climax.” Guitar notes with plenty of delay and thunderous drums echo within a sparse chamber before sharply plucked bass and monstrous layers of guitar consume everything and engulf you. I especially love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-em drum fills towards the end of the track.
It’s clear that Butler is a fellow believer, having paid his dues at the altar of Jakob. The rolling bass line in “coalescence” and the hollow snare tone on “tectonic” – there’s no mistaking where he drew key inspiration for those aspects of the music from.
Butler utilises wonderful field samples, of rolling water, of crashing waves upon the shore, of tranquil birdsong, of people chatting. These recordings lend themselves to the concept that anchors the music, as well as adding an georgeous textural layer to the sounds.
I just adore the birdsong in “undergrowth”. The music contains tribal percussive elements and grunty riffs that sound like the lovechild of Jakob and Tool.
The heaviest track is “firmament”. It sounds crushing and huge, a dense slab of noise which threatens to overwhelm everything.
One of the better known Māori whakatauki (proverbs) is:
He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.
It’s a nice touch naming the final track “(treasure)”, knowing that the working title was “People”, making me guess that the name is alluding to the whakatauki.
The track is very much a nod to the origin of ambient music: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. We hear hustle and bustle, distant sirens, people connecting. Similar to “Coda” from Pillars’ outstanding 2019 record Cavum, it’s a touching track that explores mundane yet magical aspects of life, and a brilliantly soft finish to a great collection of music.
This is an extremely promising release from Butler, and certainly exceeds all expectations in terms of quality, considering it’s a lock-down bedroom project. Looks like I missed a grand opportunity, given that we could have teamed up to start a band when he lived in Wellington. That aside, over time is well worth your attention, with well crafted songs that sound great, and an understated concept of gratitude that we would all do well to remember in trying times such as these.