Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Listen! Listen, Listen, Listen, Listen, Listen!!!: Worth A Thousand Words

Hi everyone. In light of last week's little f**k up in which I singlehandedly crashed the Damfinoblog, I began thinking about doing a test run of a new format of the column. I'm thinking of introducing the theme at the beginning of the week and doing 4 or 5 daily reviews, rather than adding them all up and having a giant column at the end of the week that might blow up, we get a little taste everyday. Sound good?

I find that one of the most underappreciated pockets of the rock universe is that of instrumental rock. I find that usually instrumental rock is either greatly enjoyed, or thoroughly reviled. I, for one, cannot get enough of the stuff. Interestingly enough, even though this particular genre is pretty remote already as the mainstream listener goes, it splits and subdivides even further still. From dreamy electronics and keys and jazzy, spiraling explorations to baleful fiddles and post-rock chamber music, it takes many colors to paint a full picture of instrumental rock.

The Album Leaf: In A Safe Place

Jimmy LaValle is one of the driving creative forces of the dreamy, sedate band Tristeza. Apparently, one project was not enough for the guitarist, who began his own one man project which expanded the scope of his work with Tristeza into a subtle smattering of ambient sounds and his masterful guitar work. While touring in support of his 2001 album One Day I'll Be On Time, he opened for Icelandic powerhouse Sigur Ros. This was a fortuitous turn of events for LaValle, as his friendship with Sigur Ros led him to their studios in Iceland, where members of the band sat in with him as he recorded the 2004 album, In A Safe Place.

The sound of In A Safe Place gains a lot from its Icelandic surroundings. There is a certain amount of the same spacey wonder that comes from the trippy, layered sounds of both Sigur Ros' Agaetis Byrjun and their oddly titled ( ) albums. Glitchy beats and skittering electronic touches fall slowly on top of tense strings and bells, building a bridge between serene folkish textures and the 21st Century. It is perhaps the aural equivalent of watching a flurry of 0's and 1's dust a calm Norman Rockwell scene that paints itself in our minds. Overall, this album is a strange encapsulation of timeless sounds for a fantastic location that has and never will exist anywhere else but outside our dreams.

Key Tracks: Thule, On Your Way, The Outer Banks, Streamside

Dirty Three: Ocean Songs

There comes a time in the life of some classically trained musicians where the culmination of their hard work and study puts them on the map and they begin getting a fair amount of prestige and begin playing concert halls and such. Warren Ellis was not one of those.

Yes, he was a classically trained violinist. But instead of taking the straight and narrow, the creative and enterprising Ellis placed guitar pickups on his violin and teamed up with two former band mates, guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White, to form the trio Dirty Three. The group slowly became one of the most interesting exports from Australia since Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

1998's Ocean Songs was a slight departure in the band's sound from 1996's more raucous Horse Songs. Turner's sparse echoing guitar lines and the subtle scampering brushwork on the drums by White leave spaces as open as the high seas themselves for Ellis' violin to color in those expansive tableaux of blue. And color it does. There are the mournful bayings of violin strings on "Sirena". The ingenious way in which the instrumentation on "Restless Waves" roll in with increasing levels of intensity from smooth to turgid. What Ellis and company accomplish is important: a seamless integration of the album's tone. This is less like a collection of separate songs and more like one contiguous work.

Possibly the easiest of Dirty Three's work for beginners, it is accessible and calming, unlike some of the crashing, dissonant crescendoes that are prevalent in some of their other work.

Key Tracks: Sirena, Deep Waters, Restless Waves, Sea Above/Sky Below


krysta jo said...

Interesting. Nice column.

Good morning.

Kern said...

Thank you, thank you. There will be more tomorrow and Friday.

Good morning to you as well. Did you have class this morning?

krysta jo said...

Yes...class is the devil. But we are almost half-way through so I guess I can't complain too much. I have an exam tomorrow so I just simply must start studying tonight.

Kern said...

Sounds like fun. And by fun I mean abject torture.

Kern said...

And where is Urnotme this morning?

krysta jo said...

He's hiding from us - if he didn't clean his house, his wife probably has exposed him to serious torture. And not in a good way.

Kern said...

Like the Jewels and car battery kind of torture?

krysta jo said...

OOO could be.

Kern said...

Ouch. I think he's probably ok, because he posted to yesterday's thread last night at 10 pm or so.

I'm going to post my vintage racing thing here in a minute so be prepared to be dazzled. But not by my photos, which are amateurish at best.

urnotme said...

So, I read the review. Very well written as always. However, the music choices just didn't do it for me. I'm kind of a mainstream whore. Well not mainstream, but more popular choices. Well no not that it cause I can't stand the pop garbage and mainstream rock at all. Except Greenday, the stripes and stuff, but I don't really consider them one and the same. The stuff on the radio is ok, but I like every last drop of both of those bands so that's why I consider my self better in a non whoring way. Ugh am i rambling? Gosh the Coors Original white trashiness is in full effect.
Anyway.. so my main complaint about these two bands is lack of vocals. But I guess Instrumental just screams that so whatever.
However I can appreciate it for good music nonetheless (from the 30 second tidbits I heard on amazon and bestbuy).
I seriously can appreciate music I wouldnt' necassarily listen to on my own which is weird unto itself considering how closed minded i can be sometimes


urnotme said...


Kern said...

Urnotme: Well, I'm sorry these didn't do much for you. I do appreciate the sentiments expressed in your post. Like I said, I find that instrumental music is definitely a love it or hate it kind of a deal. I think the amount of people that like instrumental music are really in the minority. A whole lot of people I know, musicians included, tell me they just really have a hard time getting behind anything lacking vocals.

That said, I think whether you believe it or not, there still might be a couple of instrumental rock bands that might strike your fancy. One of them that I think you should give a chance to is coming up Friday, and the other is a band that will be coming up under a totally separate theme. They emphasize guitars and dynamic sound more than the previous choices which are admittedly sedate.

Also, didn't you mention you had an interest in jazz? Do you like jazz with only vocals, like Louis Armstrong's singing, or Billie Holliday, or do you think jazz instrumentals are ok?

urnotme said...

Cool. Yeah I'm open pretty much for anything and nice memory there on the Jazz. I haven't been able to explore Jazz as much as I would like, but what I have heard it's had vocals on it and I liked everthing but the vocals.