Ace Records’ Upcoming Compilation Chronicles Post-Rock’s Early Days

Also, Piano Magic’s third album gets a long-awaited vinyl reissue.
In the Light of Time - Various Artists

These days, if you mention the term “post-rock,” chances are most people will probably think of the sturm und drang of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and other such instrumental outfits. And while that’s not incorrect, it only represents part of post-rock’s story.

Ace Records is exploring the rest of the story in much greater detail with an upcoming compilation titled In the Light of Time: UK Post-Rock and Leftfield Pop 1992 – 1998, which highlights a new type of music that emerged in the UK during the ’90s.

In the early 90s, a number of bands exploring the daring side of guitar rock and pop started to emerge in the UK. Most were new, some included members of 80s groups looking for new directions. They were supported by established independent labels such as Rough Trade and 4AD/Guernica and new ventures like Too Pure or Domino. Influenced by the legacy of post-punk, minimalism, 70s art rock and a growing electronic scene, their first releases were enthusiastically received by the media. This included a 1994 article in The Wire where journalist Simon Reynolds used the term “post-rock” to refer to some of them: Bark Psychosis, Disco Inferno, Moonshake, Seefeel, Main, Pram, Insides…

Even though these bands didn’t sound alike, they seemed to share an ethos of deconstruction and were interested in the possibilities of studio manipulation. Calling their music post-rock meant that it still had a link with established rock music, even as it picked it apart and made something new from its component parts. There was a fluidity to roles and image, many bands rejecting the idea of a front person or focal point. For some artists, this also translated into an attitude to lyrics, which could be absent, minimal or hushed. There was also a tendency to see the human voice as another instrument, on an equal footing with others in the mix; part of the suite of sounds rather than something sitting on top of a song’s hierarchy.

As for the compilation’s track listing, it’s really phenomenal:

  1. “Second Language” — Disco Inferno
  2. “Naturally Occurring Anchors” — Spoonfed Hybrid
  3. “City Poison” — Moonshake
  4. “Every Day Shines (D Mix)” — Earwig
  5. “In the Light of Time” — Flying Saucer Attack
  6. “Starry Night” — Laika
  7. “Spectra Decay” — Main
  8. “Darling Effect” — Insides
  9. “Loose Threads” — Pram
  10. “A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters” — Mogwai
  11. “In the Event of Just Looking” — Appliance
  12. “(The) Weight” — Hood
  13. “A Street Scene” — Bark Psychosis
  14. “I Am the Sub-Librarian” — Piano Magic
  15. “Play Away” — Electric Sound Of Joy
  16. “Sun Drawing” — Movietone
  17. “Through You” — Seefeel

I’m familiar with a lot of these tracks — “Through You,” for example, is one of my favorite Seefeel songs, from 1993’s Quique — but there’s also plenty here that I’ve only heard of and not actually heard for myself. In all, this looks like a really solid introduction/overview of a really exciting period of British music.

In the Light of Time will be released on CD and 2xLP on September 29, 2023.

On a related note, one of the artists featured on In the Light of Time — London’s Piano Magic — are reissuing their 2000 album Artists’ Rifles on vinyl via Rocket Girl.

Improvised on the spot and produced/recorded over just five days by John A. Rivers (Dead Can Dance, Felt), at his Woodbine St Studios in Leamington Spa, stylistically, [Artists’ Rifles] could feasibly be described as the first (only?) baroque post-rock record, utilising as it does, consciously or otherwise, influences as broad as Bach and Codeine.

The Artists’ Rifles reissue will be released on September 15, 2023, and limited to 500 copies worldwide; preorder here.

As an added bonus, Piano Magic founder Glen Johnson reflects on the album’s origins, recording session, reception, and legacy.

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