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“The music should be louder than any opinion of the music,” says Jeff Mueller, guitarist/vocalist for June of 44, a band that usually has the description “post-rock” before its name. Mueller doesn’t latch on to the insider term, but he doesn’t shy away from it either. After all, as much as musicians distrust the inscrutable “post-rock” classification, June of 44 is partly responsible for the creation of the distinctive—but by no means homogeneous—sound that has transformed underground music in recent years.
Simply put, post-rock involves indie musicians who have traded loud, abrasive work for arty, often instrumental music that wanders through jazz, dub, electronica, and more. Prior to the formation of the band in 1995, June of 44 members played in critically acclaimed post-rock pioneering bands like Rodan, Codeine, and Hoover. While the subgenre tends to rely on gauzy atmosphere and woozy emotion, June of 44 is one of the few bands that actually keeps the rock in post-rock.
Anahata, June of 44’s latest CD, takes it name from one of the seven chakras, the body centers recognized in yoga philosophy. Located above the heart, Anahata houses psychic and spiritual powers. Similarly, Anahata the CD houses contorted music that will bend the listener out of shape but leave a warm, contented feeling in the chest.
Anahata originated from the recording of a warehouse-space performance in Boston. “We started on this weird, improv thing,” says Mueller. “It didn’t stop until twenty-five to thirty minutes later.” The tapes were looped, edited, and mixed by drummer Doug Scharin. Then to make Anahata, the band learned and recorded these new versions of their original improvisations.
It’s a long stretch from the band’s first few releases, where Mueller and second guitarist Sean Meadows would bring in skeletal compositions for Scharin and bassist Fred Erskine to flesh out. From the irregular drum beats and scratchy vocals on “Wear Two Eyes (Boom)” to the peaceful, droning “Peel Away Velleity,” Anahata’s eight songs are unlike anything June of 44 would write through normal processes, but they ultimately retain their refined sound. It works because “we play on a telepathic level,” muses Mueller.
“I’ve grown away from trying to prove myself as a guitarist, like I have to do some insane shit to be prolific,” he says. He still loves playing the off-kilter compositions from 1996’s Tropics and Meridians and 1998’s Four Great Points, but he’s now patient enough to play only two chords for a new song like “Cardiac Atlas.” “Things have grown to be a lot smoother,” Mueller says. The results are electrifying nonetheless.
Take away the post-rock designation, with its music-journalism clichés (such as shifting dynamics and odd time signatures), and what’s left is just musical explorations. As Mueller puts it, “We’re four people on a continuous search as players.”