Friday, November 28, 2008

A Short Diversion...






















I'd like to divert your attention for a moment to tell you a story about one of the most fun and outrageous shows I've ever been to.

Clockcleaner are currently touring Australia and I had the opportunity to see their second show in Brisbane on Thursday night. It started off as abrasive as you might imagine; singer/guitarist John Sharkey had the nastiest guitar tone I have ever heard and on top of that, it was incredibly loud. To add to the completely obnoxious nature of it, all of the lights in the venue were turned off except for a large strobe that was placed in front of the drum kit. It was unbelievably irritating but also ind of hilarious.

The show was really nothing special; it was fun but not overly so. During the last song of the set, however, some dude decided to throw an enormous amount of toilet paper all over the front of the room where the band were playing. It was quite funny. Just after that, however, another guy in the crowd lit the toilet paper up with a cigarette lighter and caused a fire about 3-4 feet high. The bar staff panicked and threw jugs of water at it (not a good idea when around a lot of electrical equipment). The audience managed to stamp it out really quickly; there were some ashes floating up to the ceiling but the fire itself was gone. Some dude in the audience apparently didn't get the memo, so he grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed it everywhere. The band kept playing during all of this. At this point, I was unable to breathe and I had to run to the back of the room. That didn't stop another guy in the crowd though; who picked up John Sharkey's guitar and started making a bunch of noise with it.

Anyway, we were evacuated from the building, as were the club downstairs and so there were about 300 people standing on Edward Street watching the events unfold. It was about this time that 3 firetrucks, an ambulance and something like 12-15 police officers turned up at the scene. It really was chaos. I leave you with some live footage of the fire extinguisher going off.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stars of the Lid - Live in Seattle (2008)






















Stars of the Lid are a band completely indescribable to me. Well, how they sound is easy to describe. Long, organic compositions comprised largely of analog synthesisers, volume swells, string arrangements and occasional brass and completely devoid of percussion. One could call them ambient music and in some ways I think that's a more than reasonable classification. However, if the idea of ambient music is indeed as Brian Eno said, that it "must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting", then in my case, the music of Stars of the Lid is about as far away from being "ambient" as you can possibly get. Perhaps moreso than the music of any other artist or composer, with the possible exceptions of Philip Glass, Kayo Dot and Rachel's (and then only a few select works, certainly not the entire catalogues of those artists), the music of Stars of the Lid invariably causes me to focus on absolutely everything that is going on in it. On the other hand, I don't doubt that their music would be able to be used as 'background' or 'mood' music for some people. Certainly, I've read plenty of reviews that would suggest that this is a common reaction to their music.

For me, their music is just incredibly deep and complex in so many ways; not just in terms of its composition but also in terms of the emotion that it carries. It's difficult, verging on impossible to describe what their music does for me with words, so I won't bother any further except to say that the range of emotion that exists in their music is inexpressible and it's almost like emotions (even the word 'emotion' seems a crude way to describe what I'm trying to talk about) exist in their music that I was previously not even aware of, or perhaps don't even exist outside of their music. Even the band themselves seem to be unable to easily express in words what is behind their music; just have a look at some of their song titles. In any case, their music conveys beauty to me on a far deeper level than just about any other artist I am aware of, except for perhaps the three I previously mentioned.

Anyway, enough of that. This recording is of an extremely high quality and it goes for about an hour. Most of the tracks are pretty prominent in the group's discography. The music being live creates an interesting dynamic that isn't really found on any of their records. There's a lot more silence inbetween the swells and sweeps and the strings are generally far more pronounced. A couple of the pieces are slightly different in tempo and overall, each piece feels much more raw and almost spontaneous compared to its album equivalent. The blog post I'm linking to also contains a link to the group's first album that has been out of print for a number of years. As a side note, all of the silly music I've been trying to make lately is an attempt to tap into what I hear in SotL's music. It hasn't happened yet but I'm not giving up.

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