Postfest 2014

author LF date 20/09/14

Postfest 2014 is the second Postfest ever with the previous one being held two years ago in 2012. It is an indoor festival in Aarhus, Denmark that takes place at the venue Train for its two main days, with a warm-up day taking place at the smaller venue Radar. Postfest is branded as an international festival for post-rock, post-metal and similar genres, and upon reading that not so strict description it should not come as a surprise that every single one of the 13 bands that played here this year all turned out to stand apart from each other. The standard of the performances at the festival was high overall, so it is unfortunate that the man behind it all, Steffen Rasmussen, has decided to discontinue the venture, although it is admittedly for various sensible reasons. Postfest 2014 deserves praise for running on a fairly tight schedule with every band still starting on point on all of the three days. The sets were generally short but at the same time long enough for the audience to get a feel for the different kinds of songs each band had to offer. To me, post-rock is not always the easiest of genres to listen to, and thus this tightly packed schedule did at times test my brain's capacity for fully taking in each new performance and I would not at all have minded a little more space and hangout time between each. That being said, every band of the festival played fairly interesting sets, and I am certainly happy that I got the chance to partake in one of the two editions of the well-organized festival that has been Postfest.

Thursday

All pictures from Thursday taken by Anne Struwe Skytte Christensen

Flod @ 20:30 at Radar

As Postfest kicks off with its warm-up day on a Thursday evening, there are not nearly as many people present as I had hoped for. Nevertheless, the ones who are here get to witness the band with the most members of them all. The Danish band Flod (meaning 'river' in Danish) consists of seven young men and women, between them covering a sort of standard setup of drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, samples and vocals, but also trumpet, trombone, violin, cello and a mandolin. Their sound is delicately twinkly and sweet, at points spacey, with a sort of Asian touch to the harmonies at times. Come the end of the show however, they also take a dive into building a more standard wall of post-rock guitars, and thus their songs are pretty diverse. Some folk tendencies can also be found in the way the band goes about composing their songs. At times more of them sing or exclaim words together, and they slowly create a very all-embracing vibe with their crowded appearance on the small stage as they sway from side to side and seem to tap into some sort of communal spirit that exists between them through the music. They come across as a very innocent or cute bunch like that, this impression only being underlined by a midway comment by the guitarist about the importance of love. I feel that their performance call for a special kind of presence from the audience, as they really want to communicate with us in their music. Unfortunately the audience stays sort of reserved most of the time, while moderately applauding each song. Their melodies are meticulously crafted, but with this many instruments present, a very precise placement of them in the overall sound is really required for it to work convincingly. This was not quite achieved as well as I had hoped it would, and the net result of it all is a moderately interesting performance that still doesn't quite manage to capture me. [6½]

The Samuel Jackson Five @ 21:30 at Radar

Next band up is more similar to what I normally perceive to be actual post-rock. Norwegian rockers The Samuel Jackson Five, whose name I suppose you will either find lame or amazing, play very progressive, mostly instrumental music. They are five guys on stage, covering drums, bass, keys and guitars plus the occasional but very rare vocal bits. Two of the members switch instruments constantly, rotating between keys, bass and adding an additional guitar to the sound, and all this movement creates a sort of well-placed visual dynamic on stage. Every single instrument, from the heavier drums and bass to every high-pitched guitar riff can be felt hitting squarely in the stomach, and this really solidifies the rhythms in the music in a bodily way. There's a fair amount of solid head-banging from the audience throughout the set, and that is really no wonder as the band members themselves show off an impressive level of intensity. Not one of them keeps still on the stage, and even the drummer stands up occasionally after some especially heavy hitting parts, while he looks to be absolutely teeming with energy. In the beginning, their front man even almost steps on the drum kit in one of his more energetic guitar swings, and it really feels like this band is giving their all as they sweat on stage. They are all smiles most of the time, looking to really enjoy rocking out with their music and with us in the audience, and fortunately the positive atmosphere is also justified in their solid performance of their music. [8]

Nanna Schannong @ 22:30 at Radar

Closing the warm-up day of Postfest is Nanna Schannong, which is simply the name of this band's front woman. While I don't hear her mentioning this on stage, I gather later that this is in fact the final show she'll be doing for a good while with this project as her recent involvement with the rising band Lowly will be taking up her time from now on. While this project is named after her, the act still comes off as a band on the stage some of the time, as especially the lead guitarist manages to stand out in the sound. The songs are built by a standard combination of drums, guitars, vocals, keys and bass. The focus is mainly on vocalist and guitarist Nanna Schannong, in the songs as well as visually, and she is mysteriously capable of pulling in the listener's attention as she shines with an incredibly strong presence on stage. Apparently not everyone in the room feel like this however, as some people start talking in the bar for the duration of the show, which is unfortunate for the delicate atmosphere that Schannong is trying to build. For instance, the band effectively makes use of big contrasts in volume levels, as they sometimes go from sections with full-fledged, loud guitars and directly down to parts where Schannong's dominating voice is the only thing carrying the song on. While dominating, her voice is at the same time strangely fragile and childlike as she sings more or less naive lyrics about love and life. The compositions are closer to being "normal" songs than what we've witnessed from the other bands tonight, as they follow more traditional structures of verses and choruses solidified by lyrics all the way through. This song-writing is solid melodically and lyrically, and Schannong casts a certain spell of mystery over them when she closes her eyes dreamily ever so often, while letting the expression of the articulation of the words just sung sort of linger on her face for a while. This transports me to a place where I get the impression that the band members on stage are somehow just vessels for this magical sound that they produce, but at the same time it gets almost too sweet and dreamy, making it lack any sort of proper edge that could really pique my interest. [7]

Friday

Regretably no photographers were available on Friday, so instead we have borrowed some promo photos from the bands' facebook albums

Kerretta @ 19:30 at Train

Opening the stage this second day, we have Kerretta all the way from New Zealand, who have just recently released their third album "Pirohia". Despite their photo, the band appears tonight with only three members on drums, bass and guitar respectively. They gather on the right side of the stage, around the drummer, for the duration of the set. Their music is dark, rhythmic and brooding, and they make use of a lot of effect pedals. One of my friends who is present describes it gleefully afterwards as a sort of soup of guitars that you can go and hide in if you are so inclined, and that is not too far from the truth. Their songs really fill the room and they feel curiously big in contrast with seeing just the three instruments on stage. The performance is sort of introverted, and it never turns into the mind-blowing experience I have the feeling it has the potential to be. The last song that seems more riff-based than the previous ones ends up being the point in the set where I finally find myself nodding my head in sheer approval of the composition. Still, the band plays a solidly built set that allows their big sound to weave through the room to the enjoyment of the relatively few people who have decided to show up early tonight. [7]

Lymbyc Systym @ 20:25 at Train

Next up are the two American brothers Jared and Michael Bell who make up the instrumental project that is Lymbyc Systym. One controls a keyboard and various samples while the other builds a solid foundation for the playful electronic sounds from behind his drum kit. By the time they start, a good amount of people have found their way to the venue, and as the band build their equal parts quirky, catchy and ethereal tunes, people are nodding along. The lighting really helps set the mood for this band, as two strong beams of light focus on the brothers, while sometimes flickering in time with the music, and making the smoke on the stage visible in a very otherworldly way that supports the dreaminess of the music. For the last minutes of their performance, they are joined by two of the members from This Will Destroy You, the headliner of today with whom they are touring at the moment. This adds a bass and some extra drumming to the sound and both widens and deepens it in a way that works very well in this live setting. Still, on their own the two manage to adequately vary their style and tempo and pique my interest sufficiently that I'll be sure to check them out later, as this kind of dreamy but also clever electronic music has a way of going straight to my heart. [7½]

Tides From Nebula @ 21:25 at Train

The Polish quartet Tides From Nebula has the advantage of being the one band at Postfest this year that I really know well. To my delight, they play a bunch of songs from their newest album "Eternal Movement", which has been played to death on my stereo lately, while also spicing it up with some older tunes. They compose their sound very traditionally with drums, bass and two guitars, but they have a very big and guitar-dominated sound that is very riff-based, thus standing out from the more dreamy post-rock bands that fill the genre. They are definitely also the most energetic band on stage during this festival. The members often lift their instruments above their heads, sometimes all pointing towards the drummer, almost like they're saluting him, before slicing the air violently the next second as they take them back down again. This behavior really accentuates the rhythms in the music and supports the songs very well visually. Everyone in the audience seems to agree that this is an impressive performance, as they actually begin moving to it which is more than I've noticed before. During the final song of the set, both guitarists motion for people to move before they jump the barrier and play their instruments in the midst of the audience in each side, while people cheer them on, thus going out on a high note. The rest of the evening I keep hearing only praise for the band from everybody I encounter, and I can only join them in their opinion. The band managed to make an impression both with their performance and their music alone, and they were arguably the best band at Postfest 2014. [8½]

Sky Architects @ 22:25 at Train

Danish post-rockers Sky Architects, whose drummer is the very same person who is behind Postfest, is a band I've been hearing about for a long time without ever finding the time to properly check them out, so I welcome the opportunity to finally do so. The band presents a standard setup of drums, bass and two guitarists, one of whom adds some broken vocals to a couple of the songs here and there. They play what I would deem more or less generic post-rock in a format that is exactly the kind I could think of presenting for a friend as representative for the genre. They play old and new songs, a bunch of which are in the works for a new album. For some of these they are joined by vocalist and friend Stine Drejer whose innocent voice complements that of their regular vocalist well. She also adds some keyboard to some older songs, that combines well with some more frantic, high-pitched guitar sounds. Sky Architects are definitely the most talkative band of the festival, thanking the audience genuinely after every song, and also presenting most of them to the crowd with various happy comments. The atmosphere is casual and friendly, and the band seems to be very genuinely happy to share the stage with the bigger names of the genre. As before at this festival, I enjoy the band's performance, but I'm never fully blown away by any of the songs. [7]

This Will Destroy You @ 23:30 at Train

As the headliners of tonight take the stage, the audience awaits the first notes eagerly. This Will Destroy You are without a doubt one of the very big names in post-rock today with music which manages to move seamlessly between being slow and brooding, soaring and immense. Every nuance of the band's music is created by just the four people on stage. One guitarist remains seated for the duration of the show, and that helps to underline the down-to-earth and very calm atmosphere present in the room as the tunes evolve from the stage. Their sound is so big as it really fills the room, and to me this is exactly the kind of post-rock that you can stand around and lose yourself completely in. They're not the energetic types nor the extroverted ones, but I'm not sure I would deem them especially introverted either, as their behavior on stage is fitting for the kind of music they play. They seem to weave these sounds by channeling their very souls into it, based on the concentration that can be seen on their faces as they play their instruments. This is a band that plays music that instinctively feels larger than life and if you let yourself be carried by it, it seems to me it can be the soundtrack for any sort of introspective journey you might undertake. Still, this sort of connection between band and audience through the music alone is difficult to feel from some parts of the audience, and while some people seem to enjoy the performance, smiling all the way through, there are also a fair amount of people present, who seem to be just bored, or who like me is just trying to wrap their minds around the little nuances in the music. This Will Destroy You is not an easy band to listen to live as such, and I feel like my brain is completely drained as they end their set from just trying to grasp it all. [8]

Saturday

All pictures from Saturday taken by Hasan Jensen

The World State @ 17:30 at Train

Having earned a tough opening spot at an early hour on the final day of Postfest, The World State is a band that immediately marks this day as the more metal-oriented one. I can best describe The World State's music as experimental, dystopian metal, that has some folk touches here and there. Their backdrop reads "Faith, Hope and the end of the world", and to me this only underlines their tendency for dramatic compositions. They build their sound with drums, guitars, bass, harmonica, keyboard, vocals and a massive backing track with violins among other things. Their primary vocalist is Bina Rosenvinge, and she has a thrilling voice that works well in the big and brooding sound as she sings the relatively dark lyrics for us. The sparse audience is very reserved most of the time, not really responding to the band members' attempts to ease the mood with casual remarks. Still, in this situation the band members do what they can to perform to their fullest. Their music is intriguing while also a little too eclectic for my taste, but they still get a solid A for ambition. The thing is, I don't mind changes in rhythm and style in songs, but here they sometimes happen seemingly unmotivated, out of nowhere in the song structures more or less. When it happens, I'm basically thrown off balance by the music, like I was being held by the hand and led somewhere just to be pushed by that same hand out into confusing nothingness. The variety in the band's expression in itself is thus not a problem, but the structuring of it is. I am however motivated to go home and listen to their music, as there's still an indefinable, mysterious quality to it that intrigues me. The show in total though ends up feeling a little awkward as The World State are not able to really connect with the room and this makes for a weird contrast with the ambitious and dramatic music. [5½]

Fossils @ 18:30 at Train

Fossils is what I would deem a fairly well-known Danish metal-project by now. Consisting simply of a drummer and a bassist, they play instrumental, hard rocking metal, with lots and lots of variations in tempo and rhythms. Their music is loud and highly riff-based, understandably, and more often than not the compositions are irresistibly good. I'm spontaneously very sympathetic towards the project as the two instruments are arguably my favorite ones entirely, but with only two instruments like this, the overall sound of the band isn't too varied. To me it is a wonder that they have managed to release two fairly interesting albums so far, given the restrictions they have imposed on themselves. The song titles of Fossils seem to be driven by references to meat, their new single "Baconized" being no exception. This theme seems to reflect in the use of all red light on them tonight as well. They have a very dry humor on stage, and this is taken very well by the audience who look increasingly amused every time the two men on stage remark something between songs. To me, they make the most of what they can with what they have chosen to work with, and some of their riffs and beats are insanely catchy. They are a joy to watch on stage as the energy between them is noticeable when they are constantly and intensely aware of what the other one is doing. They play with immense energy, the drummer repeatedly knocking over a cymbal because he's hitting it so hard. Still, the show never goes beyond being a casual, fun performance, and I know they can be crazier on stage than this. [6½]

Mimas @ 19:30 at Train

When a band starts their show by remarking that they haven't played for a while and might be a bit rusty, like they're trying to excuse themselves in advance, my automatic reaction is to tense up and get a little suspicious at best. Fortunately for everyone involved, Mimas do this and then go on to play their set in superb style. Their music is a sort of emo-tinged, indie rock with some jazzy moments to it. The four band members wear matching hoodies on stage, two in yellow and two in purple, but all with a bleeding heart sewn on their left side. As such I guess you could say that they are the kind of band who – figuratively as well as literally – carry their hearts on their sleeves, or well, chests. The reason I remark this, is that their music could be described like that as well, with its quirky, honest lyrics supported by playful and fast-paced melodies that keep every composition interesting. The vocalist's voice rings clear through the room but sounds broken at the same time in a certain heartfelt, spontaneous way that makes me more and more positively surprised. The audience backs the band up and give them some solid applauses throughout. The music includes lots of different little elements like the entire band sometimes clapping, screaming or sort of yelping in unison or building harmonies between them. Their vocalist even plays a little bit of trumpet at a few points as well. Instead of just walls of riffs and weaving guitars, they play intricate guitar melodies on top of each other instead. Mimas is probably the band at this Postfest that arrives the closest to my heart in the end, and I do look forward to their next release after this casual but still fairly impressive show. [7½]

Totorro @ 20:40 at Train

Hailing from France, Totorro seems to be a band that a fair portion of the audience have been looking forward to see here. They released their harmlessly entertaining debut album "Home Alone" back in April, and tonight they receive good backing from the audience in the form of clapping and cheering throughout the set, as the members play through their mathy post-rock songs at a quick pace. The four members on stage don't waste a moment, not between songs and not in the compositions either. There is a certain drive to their songs that is constantly hurling them forward and there's always something happening with each instrument that you can tune in on and follow more closely. Their sound overall is playful and light-footed, and they come across as incredibly sweet and likeable people both when they rock out energetically to their music, and when one guitarist sincerely takes a little time to thank everybody involved in the festival, from the light crew to the event manager. Having listened a fair amount to their album previously, I really find that it suits their almost innocently happy music with the heavier and more solid foundation a live setting can give it, and their show here is easily in the top half of bands at Postfest this year. [8]

The Ocean @ 21:45 at Train

Immediately after Totorro has finished, a number of people start waiting up front for the next band to begin, this being the only time that happens at the festival. As the band comes on and begin playing, I'm not even sure how to explain the sheer enormity of the music The Ocean makes. Like the actual ocean, it engulfs the audience and pulls us down through its mystical levels. Following the structure of their latest album "Pelagial", their set takes us down towards the bottom of the sea as well as that of the human psyche, both musically and visually. The band plays with visuals projected over them onto a white backdrop, and these show various underwater creatures in often ominous, short flashes, at times intertwined with pictures of a woman sort of diving through it all. As we get further in the set, the images get darker and more obscure, and the sea creatures more and more strange.

The music as well gets darker until it reaches some kind of enlightened place at the innermost place of the psyche towards the end that makes it change a bit in atmosphere. The Ocean has some incredibly on-point drumming tonight, and their vocalist seems to be everywhere on the stage with his insane screaming throughout the show. He makes room for the other members, sometimes singing from next to the drum kit behind one guitarist, while still being very present on the stage. He manages to go crowd surfing several times, but only after attempting to huddle people together so that they can catch him, as we are unfortunately not at all very many people present to see the band. They take it like true champs however, the vocalist repeatedly smiling and nodding approvingly while high-fiving members of the audience. This grateful and friendly attitude only serves to create a feedback of goodwill from the audience tonight.

The only annoying thing about this show is that the vocals somehow fall out at different points in their set, and nobody from the crew seems to notice this. It is such a shame for an otherwise amazing show, and I cannot for the life of me understand why nobody responded to that by fixing the microphone or the cable or whatever was wrong. After the show, the band immediately goes and hangs out by their merchandise stand, to chat with audience-members, and I really cannot imagine a more sympathetic behavior by a relatively big band in this situation. When I go home, my brain is completely smashed. Their music is, as the headliner the day before, not particularly easy to listen to, but I'm certainly glad I was here to witness one of the best sets of the festival. [8½]

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