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Slack Armada: Music for the Post-Rock Niche

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The moniker Slack Armada could conjure a few translations: "lazily armed," or "innate weapon," or "slow moving fleet," or even "quiet power." But none of these translations explains the music of James Hrabak. He falls into the category of the post-rock genre, a genre with a compositional formula that wants to be experimental.

Beginning with an ambient timbre, post-rock eventually progresses into stirring crescendos. The sound is mostly instrumental and makes use of repetition with subtle changes. Tracks are typically long, relying on texture and tone, changes of volume and tension, and intensity. Usually, the vocals are omitted, but if present become a droning backdrop ingredient instead of conveying a narrative through lyrics. Keeping it all instrumental, Slack Armada's debut EP has followed the genre's protocol, formula mixed with experimentation as he takes advantage of these layers.

As a consequence of not incorporating lyrics, listening to this new EP quietly in your own space might afford you the opportunity to create your own unique narrative. With the help of his four titles "Rebirth," "Your Majesty," "Looper," and "Escape Velocity" -- and perhaps a good glass of wine -- you'll be able to come up with your own cinematic experience. Post-rock is by all accounts mood music.

The opening track "Rebirth" sets the tone for a transcendent six minutes and 24 seconds renewal. That is, of course, whatever your particular new beginnings call for, perhaps a mid-life renaissance. "Your Majesty" is a funky ebb and flow celebration, of sorts, with bells ringing in the background. The third track, "Looper," has Slack rocking-it-out and appearing to depart from the standard transcendent experience into a grungy vibe. But his last track brings it back to that standard formulaic post-rock umbra texturing.

One might wonder: Is Slack Armada's music only for the niche familiar with the post-rock formula?

Roughly about two decades ago, post-rock grew into a sizable underground movement; fans liken it to classical or jazz music. Admirers of the genre loved the stretching and looping soundscape as well as the stream-of-consciousness allure. But the sound was somewhat fickle, showing up, not as cerebral, but as a mixture of kraut-rock, early 80s funk, and heavy metal. This meant that not all musicians playing long repetitive, looping sounds were post-rockers, so the label was often misused or said to rob the genre of its usefulness. For those that could not get into the transcendent quality of post-rock and its many subgenres, the music seemed pretentious. And some critics claimed post-rock was living off the back of classical and jazz music.

Slack Armada's new EP might be holding a "quiet power," but only for those in the post-rock circle. For post-rock was never intended for the masses and is rather unknown. It is very possible that this EP may not have expelled enough fresh life into this genre and might be more of a "slow moving fleet."

You can stream Slack Armada's self-titled debut EP on BandCamp.