Cropping the Aftermath is the eleventh full-length release from English post-rock stalwarts Epic45. If you include EPs in the mix, it is their fifteenth release in 19 years. That is quite a lot of music.
And they manage to keep things fresh. Yes, their music all falls within the vague confines of the post-rock genre, and while they have made music that is a little more guitar rockish (2005's great England Fallen Over EP), they usually tend to stay in the distorted guitar and ambience side of things. And that's fine.
Over the years i have enjoyed many of their releases (and i even have an EP from 2019 that is not listed on their Wikipedia page, so the numbers above are under-counted!), and i find that the band's slowly growing tunes seem to be very rural to me. Maybe it is their imagery, full of landscapes from Staffordshire, the place in England they are from. It seems to be a place of sunny hills, slow rain, long grasses, and summer lavender.
On this release, core members Rob Holton and Rob Glover are joined by longtime drummer James Yates, who adds both analog and digital percussion. They are blending post-rock ambience with drum n bass franticness, and that is a mix that i really like.
As is typical of Epic45, Brothers kicks off the record with some slow, echoing post-rock. Hushed voices chant over chiming guitars in layers, and then suddenly the frantic electro drumbeats come in. It's like playing a Roni Size record and a Hammock record at the same time and finding that the beats match up well with the flowing ambience. This is a theme of this record, one that i happen to like a lot.
I listen to "Swimming In Sound", a weekly radio show broadcast online by Wire vocalist Colin Newman and his wife, Malka Spiegel, and one of the things they say quite often, and that i have found bizarre, is that drum n bass music reminds them of driving in rural England. Really? That frantic electronic music seems, to me to be very urban -- it is a better fit for driving The Connector in Atlanta at night than for cruising the interstates between civilization... But after listening to the work that Yates does here, the frantic electronic beats ... i get it. There is something to the overall song that works, that seems rural and of the countryside, and the electronic beats amplify that effect. Huh.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but i really like the work that Yates adds to these tunes.
Moving on, Yates gets very intense on Towpath Acid, which is otherwise a nice keyboard-y post-rock tune, with even the voice stretched out and distorted to hell and back. Very lovely. It is followed by a short interlude of electro bits and guitar noodling and nature recording called Garage Days before fading in the awesomely named Buildings Aren't Haunted, People Are. This song (which, let's face it, might be haunted!) starts with clattering percussion echoing in the distance and then moving up front, nervous. Cascading guitars and hushed vocals layer in and the song gets dense, the percussion layers crashing against each other.
Another interlude in Waking Up In A Field, this one of slowly reverbing ambience with bird noises, and then Rainstorm Breaks. This is just what the title says: a recording of a rainstorm and then some harsh beats breaking over the rain. Then voices wash over the beats, which eventually fade out, leaving behind slow post-rock guitar in ambient layers. This song moves like a summer thunderstorm crashing overhead then moving on. Wonderful.
A Day To Not Fall Apart features Yates playing scattered drums as the song moves along nicely as a general post-rock tune. Epic45 add in horns and keys and layers of hushed samples in Caught In Branches, which is a pretty tune. And finally things end with Endless, a long track with so much echoing and so many layers that at times it feels chaotic. It is hard to figure out what is happening as sounds seem to come from all directions. It's a nice, if messy, end to a great record.
After two decades Epic45 continue to do exciting things. How many acts can you say that about?