AMN Reviews: Collector – Post Rock Lately (2019; Scribbled Fang Records)

Midwest natives Jakob Heinemann (bassist from Chicago), Devin Drobka (drummer from Milwaukee), and Matt Blair (playing Fender Rhodes and electronics, and from Minneapolis) recorded a live Chicago performance in 2018. The two long tracks of Post Rock Lately are from this show. While the album is their first release as a group, they have performed together since 2012.

Despite its title, Post Rock Lately has little to do with the post-rock genre. Instead, it is a prime example of new-breed free improvisation that is informed by rock and other styles. In fact, this nuance would be lost if one only listens to the first few minutes or so of the 44-minute Swing Tune 1. Not a swing tune at all, it opens with disjointed and slow-moving, open-ended improv with generous use of extended techniques. But 20 percent of the way into this piece we find Heinemann playing an adventurous yet structured rhythm, Drobka backing that up with exploratory percussion, and Blair slowly transitioning from scratchy electronics to dirty chords on his Rhodes. The trio creates a thick sound with non-stop rhythmic patterns and relentless keyboard work that builds walls of sound rather than traditional solos. The use of repetition in this otherwise extemporaneous outing is both retro and refreshing. At points, the contributions of all three members blend together into a dense mass of noise (or was processed in that fashion) from which you can barely discern some bowed bass or cymbal strikes.

Following this epic-length excursion is the relatively-short, self-titled Post Rock LatelyMore than a coda, this piece features a mix of slow themes and distorted chords on the Fender accompanied by manic percussion. The bass work is subtle – more structural than harmonic.

With this release, Heinemann, Drobka, and Blair have produced an unusual and compelling genre-smashing set. And in doing so, they are moving improvisation foward. This isn’t free jazz, it isn’t a keyboard-led power trio, it isn’t pure noise.  Post Rock Lately is its own unique animal.