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"Post-rock" as a fusion of the instrumentation and song structures of rock & roll with those of a range of more commercially marginal styles such as dub, ambient, techno, and Krautrock has been asserted primarily to be an American phenomenon, an assertion usually supported by reference to groups such as Tortoise, Labradford, Jessamine, Rome, and others associated with Chicago's Kranky and Thrill Jockey labels. But while many of those groups have been instrumental in propagating the style to a wider audience, English and European artists such as Stereolab, Broadcast, Circle, and Kreidler have seen to some of the post-rock picture's more innovative brush strokes. Marcus Schmickler's Pluramon project is best heard in this context. A sort of collaborative orchestra assembled from bits and bobs of free-form acoustic/analog and hard disk sessions, Schmickler's group has achieved some of the more remarkable hybrids of standard guitar/drums/bass, abstract electronics, and non-traditional instruments. Where dub tends to surface as the organizing principle of much American post-rock, Pluramon's music seems informed by far broader timbral and organizational perspectives. Based in Köln, Schmickler formed Pluramon in 1995. Although the focus of the project was in counterpoint to the heavily sample-based post-techno of his then-recent solo work Onea Gako, the desire to fuse acoustics and electronics in contexts geared toward the exploration of new musical forms stretched back to his work in the early '90s with two groups, Pol and Kontakte (whose releases appeared on French label Odd Size). Both groups were heavy on guitars, acoustic drums, and wind instruments, and paired live, sometimes improvisational sessions with subsequent treatments and electronic overdubs. Pol and Kontakte also provided some contributors who would be absorbed by Pluramon, including Georg Odijk (founder of the A-Musik label and record shop) and Frank Dommert (another A-Musik local and a schoolmate of Schmickler's). Pluramon's first release, the full-length Pickup Canyon, was released in 1995 by Mille Plateaux, sublabel of German techno juggernaut Force Inc. A heady, filmic fusion of electronic atmospheres, disembodied guitar, and sparse, wafting percussion, Canyon was widely lauded as one of the most original rearticulations of the '70s German Krautrock movement associated with Can, Neu, Amon Duul, and others. (That the record also included a brief appearance by former Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit brought the point home with a certain force.) But the group's strongest statement of solidarity with the Krautrock tradition was made with its follow-up album, finally released in 1998, again by Mille Plateaux. Render Bandits was a much more full-blown fusion of Can-esque musical structures and bizarre sonic interventions tracing to sources both acoustic (including instruments such as glockenspiel, picadongs, and nickel strings) and electronic (broad use of effects and digital sound processing, echoing Schmickler's intervening solo work, Wabi Sabi, released by A-Musik in 1997).Two years later, in mid-September, Bit Sand Riders was released on Mille Plateaux [See Also: Marcus Schmickler] ~ Sean Cooper

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