If you're in a post-rock band, there's a strong chance that you're A Very Serious Musician Indeed. There's a whole lot of earnestness, a huge amount of atmospheric noises that you'd like to describe as soundscapes if you had the chance, and an overwhelming urge to make your music sound violent enough for someone to label it apocalyptic. I was in a post-rock band. Guilty on all charges described above.
What's missing in nearly all cases (aside from real songs, mate), is playfulness, colour and comfort. I love the exploration, destruction and melancholia of the genre, but I'm also a human and sometimes want something different. It seems to me that there's so many more places that this type of music can go, and almost no bands willing to go there. I'm not talking about prog, either.
This is where Melbourne's Long Lunch come in. They don't actually describe themselves as post-rock, but their lone self-titled EP bears all the hallmarks of it. Crescendos climb like so many other mountaineers before them, while the vocal melody finds a repetitive pocket from which to hammer home its message. Drone textures wash the instruments clean of anything except delay, lending a contemplative air to the proceedings. So far, so Constellation.
However, they've brought with them ideas which make me so happy to have stumbled upon them at the end of a late-night Bandcamp binge. There's an undercurrent of 60s psychedelia that is absolutely perfectly realised, and keeps the lengthy run times tightly focused. There is a welcome structure here, with appropriate guideposts placed conveniently throughout. The vocals are well-judged, and linger just long enough to pull you back in before pushing you onward once more. They're not just placeholders, either. Lyrics like "I used to sleep so deep I'd wake up with the bends" are vital to the record's development. These are real songs, mate, and a joy to sink into. In case you can't tell, the urge to make a watery metaphor right now is like I've had five pints and someone's just wandered past smoking a cigarette.
Go on, one won't hurt.
Instead, what I'll do is step back, compromise and acknowledge that Long Lunch do have one very glaring antecedent: The Antlers, specifically the Undersea EP. But to these ears that was an aimless sprawl whose only benefit was to act as palate-cleanser before the towering glory of Familiars. What Long Lunch have done instead is make that direction their primary aesthetic, feeding in disparate layers of brass, electronic rhythms and guitars as they go along. No single texture overwhelms anything else, and while that should result in a flat brown mess, the band plays with tension and release enough to grant them a freshness that feels pretty damn euphoric each time they switch it up.
Okay, so you'll also hear the more ambient moments of Interpol, as well as Mercury Rev in the vocal cadence, especially on closing track 'Darling.' However, just as it begins to cloud your opinion of the song, it gains traction with an increase in tempo. There's a lovely interplay of guitar in the right channel and brass in the left, like a little conversation is happening all on its own. It's beautifully vibrant, and while the lyrics speak of sadness and escape, there's no sense that this is anything but an ultimately positive experience that will provoke necessary change. The EP ends with a churn of digital noise finally overcoming its hitherto harmonious nature and at that point, it's very difficult to resist sticking it on again.
Maybe a full-length album would blunt Long Lunch's weaponry, and maybe they'd become stagnant across a longer stretch than the EP's 25-or-so minutes. Maybe you'll yearn for more aggression and distortion as each cloud again gives way to the sun and maybe you'll decide that you don’t want post-rock to bring you comfort after all.
But I do.