The Seven Best Instrumental Bands of the Last 20 Years
Mogwai. Courtesy of Sub Pop.
With Los Angeles' El Ten Eleven at Dada on Saturday, we at DC9 thought it would be a good time to roll out a list of the best instrumental acts. As a caveat, for my money, the best instrumental album ever is not even by a conventional instrumental band: Soul Pride: The Instrumentals 1960-1969 by James Brown. But the Godfather of Soul is no longer with us, and it's time to turn to a new generation of vocal-less musical acts.
7. Pelican This four-piece from Chicago blew us away a few years ago opening for Opeth. Amazingly, the crowd was not in the mood for the atmospheric post-rock of Pelican. But these guys are the real instrumental deal, creating music with both power and finesse.
6. Jasper Tx The project of Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dag Rosenqvist, Jasper Tx is, sadly, a retired moniker. Rosenqvist continues with other projects, but his efforts as Jasper Tx are simply mesmerizing. 2003's I'll Be Long Gone Before My Light Reaches You is the best recording of hisses and blips you'll ever stumble across.
5. Man or Astro-man? Surf rock from Alabama? Why not? They have a coast line there, don't they? Whatever the case, any band featuring members named Birdstuff and Coco the Electronic Monkey can do whatever they want, including forgoing the vocals. The band may have peaked with its 1993 debut, but all of the efforts forge ahead with a truly unique and inspired sound.
4. El Ten Eleven The duo of bassist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty make instrumental music that is as geeky as it is intricate. Definitely catchy, El Ten Eleven's vibe is much less dour than most instrumental acts and the duo's music certainly benefits from such a distinction.
3. Mogwai Hailing from Glasgow, Mogwai give new meaning to terms such as distortion and dynamics. The band's triple guitar attack certainly adds some heft to the post-rock meanderings. 2011's Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is a cleverly named effort that features all the noise and nightmarish echoes that have become the band's trademarks.
2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor Canada's entry into the post-rock, instrumental road race, Godspeed is a rather large ensemble that almost qualifies as a chamber orchestra. The music can be blissfully hypnotic and, live, extremely visual. The band's sophomore effort, 2000's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennae to Heaven , is one inventive and emotional slab of space rock.
1. Mono This quartet from Japan is capable of going from a whisper to a roar in a split second. When the band hits each song's earth shattering crescendo, the effect is downright exhilarating. Live, Mono creates incredibly dense and excruciatingly loud mood pieces that would be easily labeled lovely if they weren't so deafening. In a word: vital.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.