No vocals, please
December 1, 2021 6:33 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite current instrumental rock and/or pop acts?

Post-rock, post-punk, math, doom, electro, whatever, just no vocals. For current, let's say past 5 years?
posted by signal to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure about the "last five years" thing but The Necks Australian avante-garde jazz trio
Tortoise American post-rock band
Floex (Tomáš Dvořák) contemporary Czech composer
Hildur Guðnadóttir Icelandic composer, cello player.
posted by Zumbador at 6:53 AM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Most of Mogwai is instrumental.
posted by sydnius at 7:08 AM on December 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

My son turned me on to the duo El Ten Eleven. Vaguely "alt/indie" vibe, maybe it's math rock? I stopped keeping track of genres a long time ago.
posted by jeremias at 7:10 AM on December 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Armcannon is amazing. They describe their genre as "classic video-game music prog-rock cover band".
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 7:29 AM on December 1, 2021

Russian Circles, post/math rock band
Some (but not all) Boris, definitely doom
Te', a Japanese band (they're on Spotify)
Toe, equally Japanese and difficult to Google (Bandcamp!)
If jazzier rock/pop is ok, Mouse on the Keys and The Bad Plus (not the album For All I Care)
posted by koucha at 7:30 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Los Bitchos!
posted by misteraitch at 7:42 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Khruangbin has vocals, but no lyrics.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:51 AM on December 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

Elephant Gym is a really cool brother/sister math/prog act out of Taiwan. Their name describes the elegant, playful, bass-forward style.

Eg Games.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I like And So I Watch You From Afar, no vocals except for the occasional background shout.
posted by snusmumrik at 7:59 AM on December 1, 2021

The Budos Band
posted by box at 8:06 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

More than 5 years old, sorry
Mono, Japanese post-rock
Labradford, more minimalist
posted by snarfois at 8:11 AM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Julian Lage
posted by Grangousier at 8:12 AM on December 1, 2021

Big Lazy, twangy noir guitar trio "with echoes of Ennio Morricone and country-tinged Americana."
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 8:31 AM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Delicate Steve!
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 8:43 AM on December 1, 2021

I've been enjoying Earth's latest record quite a bit.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2021

Animals As Leaders
posted by sukeban at 9:22 AM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding Khruangbin, BADBADNOTGOOD, Te', and Budos Band.

Also check out:

Master Boot Record for "chiptune, synthesized heavy metal & classical symphonic music." -- If you enjoy the Doom / Quake soundtracks, you'll love this.

The Comet is Coming is spacey, psychedelic jazz rock fusion. Start with "Journey Through the Asteroid Belt."

The Re-Stoned is instrumental stoner rock.

"Promises" released this year by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra is just amazingly good.

The Olympians feature musicians from The Dap-Kings, El Michels Affair, and others. Great instrumental R&B / Soul music.

Black Sky Giant is instrumental metal / doom / psychedelic / space rock out of Argentina.

Hashshashin has some chanting but I'd still file it under "instrumental" - YMMV. Somewhere at the intersection of prog, psychedelia and drone sounds with some didgeridoo in for good measure.

There's also tons of great instrumental / non-vocal music coming out in the psybient and darkwave / synthwave genres but I don't want to flood the comment section too badly.
posted by jzb at 10:02 AM on December 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: jzb: please do.
posted by signal at 10:38 AM on December 1, 2021

Apologies if some of these are outside the "new" window, but they're at least semi-recent.

Inventions' two albums are just on the outside of your time frame but are super good.

Hammock is more on the ethereal side but also great, they have a ton of albums that hit a variety of styles.

Grails is reliably good instrumental psych rock, their earlier albums have a bit more bite to them but the latest from 2017 is totally solid. (I love Burning Off Impurities, myself)

The Psychic Paramount gets pretty wild, moving towards math metal. The first track on II is one of the most intense early minutes out there, and their earlier Gamelan is full of such moments.

One that's definitely outside your timeframe but I want to recommend strongly anyway is Peach Pit - their split EP with Majmoon is utterly insane, only 4 tracks but really intense and awesome instrumental math rock.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:54 AM on December 1, 2021

chuck johnson's two 'ambient pedal steel' albums: the cinder grove (2021) and balsams (2017)
posted by noloveforned at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

More ambient and jazz influence than rock or pop, but I'm a big fan: Fuubutsushi
posted by box at 11:58 AM on December 1, 2021

The darker and more synthetic side:
Com Truise
Metal/pop stuff:
Fresh Piano
Sarah Coponat
posted by fake at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2021

Lots of good suggestions above (though TBH most of the bands there, and that I'd recommend, are releasing music now but are much older than five years).

I'll add SUSS to the list.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2021

Seconding BADBADNOTGOOD, Animals as Leaders, Lorn and Com Truise.

Shlohmo has more beat-driven electronic stuff which is usually without vocals.

Tigran Hamayasan is a jazzy artist, who's music usually has vocalizations but no lyrics. He's influenced by some things from metal and rock as well.
posted by crossswords at 3:16 PM on December 1, 2021

Explosions in the Sky
posted by SomethinsWrong at 3:26 PM on December 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

You're killing me with the 5 year request, but STRFKR's Ambient album is really goddamn good.

Mythic Sunship has some excellent releases in that window, and their label, El Paraiso has much more of that vibe if you're into it.

If reissues are cool, Numero is running a bunch of old "new age" synth reissues that have been hard to find and also quite good, but they're mostly from the late 80's and 90's.

Nthing Budos, Khruangbin, and Los Bitchos
posted by furnace.heart at 3:42 PM on December 1, 2021

Nthing Animals as Leaders.

If your tastes run at all metal, Blotted Science is pretty unimpeachably rad.

Surprised nobody's recommend Chon yet! They're real fun.
posted by saladin at 5:00 PM on December 1, 2021

kneebody could be your friend.

also, a lot of sons of kemet. They collaborate with vocalists sometimes, but a lot of it is instrumental.
posted by umbú at 8:12 PM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Brandt Brauer Frick sounds like the name of a law school, but they play music like electronic music but live, without quantizing, and on mostly acoustic instruments, while doing a deadpan kraftwerk impression.
posted by umbú at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2021

Tangerine Dream and Giorgio Moroder
Have some insane soundtracks that you can get down with heavy early techno.
The soundtrack to the movie Legend and the epic soundtrack to Risky Business,
And midnight Express.
posted by markbrendanawitzmissesus at 10:31 PM on December 1, 2021

OK, but remember that you asked for this...

"Aurorium" by Terra Genesis is chiptune / darkwave goodness.

"Loved to Death" by DANCE WITH THE DEAD is a generous helping of 80s flavored synthwave.

The "Monster Attack" EP by Saymon SixtyHate is also some nice synthwave / retrowave material.

Quixotic's "Flamingo Drive-In," is likewise more synthwave and 80s-tinged retrowave. Features Lazerpunk who is also has a generous catalog of darkwave / cyberpunk music. (Some of Lazerpunk's releases do have vocals.)

"Total Terror" by Cluster Buster is supposed to have a horror movie darkwave / synthwave vibe, but I find it a bit more upbeat than that.

Alex Cuervo / Espectrostatic also works in the horrorwave genre, so if you want the horror movie soundtrack vibe he's got you covered.

Los Straightjackets are a Lucha Libre mask-wearing instrumental group that largely does instrumental Surf Rock-ish covers of a wide variety of tunes. This includes Beatles covers, Christmas tunes, Nick Lowe tunes, and some originals. (They occasionally collaborate with vocalists for projects but I'd say 80% of their albums / singles are instrumental.)

If that's not enough surf rock, there's Surflamingo -- a band out of Guadalajara doing some fine instrumental rock.

If you're in the mood for vaporwave / ethereal / ambient tunes, try out VVVX Software and Sport3000.

Does extreme guitar prowess appeal? Then I'd be remiss not to mention Buckethead, the KFC bucket-wearing, super-prolific guitar genius. When I say prolific, I'm not kidding -- he's released literally hundreds of "Pikes" and albums and most of it is actually quite good.

If you dig the Khruangbin vibe, check out "The Rabbit that Hunts Tigers" by YĪN YĪN.

If These Trees Could Talk is powerful, cinematic post rock. Check out "The Bones of a Dying World.

The Gandaky Tribe label or compilations on Bandcamp have some great Psybient stuff that's worth checking out if you dig that.

And I know you said last 5 years, but I'd strongly recommend digging through Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble's respective catalogs if you enjoy bass. Wobble has some albums with vocals but a lot more are instrumental. Laswell works with a huge assortment of folks (including Jah Wobble) under a bunch of names (Material, Method of Defiance, Arcana...) and genres, and almost all of it is instrumental.
posted by jzb at 5:26 AM on December 2, 2021

I listen to a LOT of music without lyrics. At work, I can't seem to focus on work when someone's singing, and at home, I just like getting lost in the music.

Outside of the 8 million Ambient and Ambient-adjacent artists, I can definitely recommend the following from the last 5 years:

Mogwai - Made a breakthrough after 25 years and actually had the #1 album in the UK. The latest album is really good, as is almost all of their back catalog.
Floating Points - from their earlier stuff pegged as 'Floydian Points' (check out Reflections or Kuiper EP) to collaborations with jazz saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. Great stuff.
Loscil - My one ambient artist I'm letting on this list. He's pretty prolific. Any place is a good place to start.
Jon Hopkins - Drifts from straight up electronica, to ambient, to 'music for psychedelic therapy'. Start with Singularity
Do Make Say Think - not so prolific, but their last was in 2017 so it counts. Deep discography, it's all pretty good. Instrumental post-rock.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen - post-rock? post-classical? Going back a little, their 2015 show at the Proms is fantastic.

For recent Jazz, I quite like Kamasi Washington and Tigran Hamasyan, as well as Sungazer

I feel like I could go on forever if we get into the electronica section, but I will add FourTet, probably my favourite in the genre.

I'm happy to talk on and on about this if you want more recommendations or want to go down a rabbit hole.
posted by sauril at 9:10 AM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Aaron Sprinkle is an amazing music producer and also makes his own music. He recently put out four instrumental albums. You can listen to clips from the first one here.
posted by tacodave at 6:37 PM on December 2, 2021

Response by poster: Amazing answers all, thank you!
posted by signal at 6:18 AM on December 3, 2021

slow_the_tape - ambient guitar looping from Scotland
Y Niwl - wordless surf/cocktail music from Wales
and seconding Jon Hopkins.
posted by scruss at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2021

More thoughts -

Anna Meredith's wonderful Bumps Per Minute, which has a spoken intro, but is otherwise instrumental.

The new album by Japanese math-rock band Tricot, Jodeki, has a second disc of the tracks without vocals (scroll down that there playlist to find them), which is excellent. I kind of prefer it, actually, and it makes me think of a more excitable Tortoise.
posted by Grangousier at 4:59 AM on December 21, 2021

Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker's recent Forfolks is like Tortoise, except it's one guy with a loop pedal, so it's really not that much like Tortoise. But there are no vocals, and I at least think it's an enjoyable listen.
posted by box at 8:50 AM on December 21, 2021

10 minutes of the best 2021 instrumental pop: jams EP by Luna Li
posted by crone islander at 1:32 PM on December 26, 2021

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