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Tag Archives: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

Music Review of the Week, Part I: Stolen Babies – Naught (2012)

 

stolenbabiesnaughtcoverrevealPeople rely off the title of avant-garde to describe music or art compositions they do not understand, rather than individuals that are truly forging a new way for others.  Bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, King Crimson, and Diamond Head et al. essentially established the root sounds for different genres of rock and metal sounds.  Bands of this nature were truly the avant-garde for the later sounds of the 1980s and early 1990s wherein bands like Mr. Bungle (and nearly all of Mike Patton’s associated bands), Tool, Metallica/Megadeth, Bathory, Venom, Death, et al. began refining metallic sounds and increasing their values musically.  This is not to state that commercial success is an indicator of progressive values; however, this is to note the bands whose sounds truly seem to influence even to this day.

Then, you hit a band like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, with whom the artists of today’s review are associated.  They were never afraid to attempt new sounds, new thoughts, or even completely rip off course.  Stolen Babies comes from that point of view as well.  This is not avant-garde music, period.  They are too recent to have proliferated the market as to yet and have someone take a particular aspect of what they bring to the table and market it.  Though, obviously, Stolen Babies would be far more talented than those that would profit from particular aspects of their sound.  Therefore, the avant-garde label is an injustice to their particular assets.

Stolen Babies are, in a barest means of explaining their sounds, like heavy metal cabaret.  They use a female vocalist (more on that in a minute), using non-traditional metal instruments like accordion, tuba, trumpet (off There Be Squabbles Ahead), and generally focus their sound around their performance aspects.  Their follow up to “There Be Squabbles Ahead” was highly anticipated after Oculus Infernus referred the band in a post in July of this year.

My initial notice off this album is that Dominique Persi’s voice and her ability to perform are highly demonstrated.  Unlike a good number of female vocalists in metal, she does not seem to hide from her femininity and embraces it fully.  Wavering between whispers, clean singing, banshee-like shrieks, and growls, Persi evokes the closest thing to a succubus in sound I have ever heard.  Her voice courses through your veins and stirs you, grabbing you by your cheeks and demanding you listen.

The music on this album is a cacophony of metal, industrial, big band, cabaret, and electronics.  From the bouncing “Never Come Back” in which the band attempts to seduce to the listener to the harsh parts of the music to the nearly thrash metal of “Mousefood” to “Swimming Hole” in which the band sounds almost polka-esque that fades almost into Nick Cave’s “The Carny” in its darkest qualities.  It is not always the music that is the heaviest on this release that is their most aggressive or darkest, making me wonder how they are able to fit it all together so well.  Most importantly, though dark and grating at times, this album is just damn fun, especially the seemingly Queen inspired “Dried Moat.”

To put mildly, this is a talented band, as evidenced by the song “Prankster” (which in my opinion demonstrates most everything they can do together).  They are challenging, difficult, and petulant, yet seductive, warm, and inviting.  Their performance focused music is a wonderful approach to progressing metal sounds, making them a band I would love to see live (I would love the see the transition to “Birthday Song”).  This is a hell of a sophomore release from this band and is wondrous in that the female lead does not attempt to pull masculinity into her performance, leaving her perspective as genuinely feminine (something that is lacking in metal).

I could not procure a stream to the band’s newest album, but I recommend spending the ten dollars to purchase it.  So, here’s a link to their website where you can sample their sounds: Stolen Babies.

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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Art, Music, Reviews, Surrealism

 

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Inspiration of the Day: In which we consider the meaning of the progressive tag.

The term “progressive” is a loaded one in any creative sense.  There’s no true line as to what it is and what it means.  Therefore, it is my aim to offer my definition of what this tag means in art, where art means music, drawing/sculpture/painting/photography, writing, and so forth.  In this instance, this means the idea of creative imagination.  A common misinformed opinion is that there are those that are creative and those that are not; everyone is creative, there are varying degrees of creativity as well

In any art, as in nearly any culturally informed process, the temporal and social aspects are firmly implanted upon the pieces.  Take for example the piece to which I referred in the Vanitas: Still Life post.  This demonstrates the worldliness of the Dutch peoples and their trading companies, while still yet incorporating the death theme by the inclusion of the skull.  What makes artistic perception so interesting is that they are specifically delineated moments in time that encapsulate in such a way as to convey meaning and are typically firmly established in the material culture and imaginative culture of their production.  As cultural experience changes so too does art, this inherently is the driving force behind the idea of progressive.

Ultimately, no matter the style or genre of art, the avenue of expression becomes systemized.  A great example in the current cultural experience is the Harry Potter series that served to inspire the young adult fantasy craze that continues to this day.  Another would be the so-called “Big Four” Thrash Metal bands that inspired a darker, stronger, faster soundscape in music.  Referring back to the Vanitas post, in which Steenwijck’s image is firmly of that genre, as it were, of painting, it is obvious that Hans Holbein was an inspiration of the entire genre, while never yet being firmly part of it.  This is the initial stage of the progressive stylings: the Avant-Garde.

Avant-Garde is often incorrectly applied to the burgeoning modernist movements of the early 1900s.  These are much better described as how they were self identified: surrealism, dadaism, situationalists, &c.  Like Da Vinci, these individuals experiment with the qualities, media, and structures of their creations and the conventions they were taught.  Ergo Marcel Duchamp setting a urinal in the Louvre and terming the piece “Fountain,” the boundaries of cultural expression are pushed.  In the case of Surrealism in Literature (a movement that arose around the same time), Daniil Kharms offered scathing social criticisms of the Bolshevism and Loyalism through nearly insane and often short pieces.  Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky inspired the movement in Russia to do this as a means to skirt the censors; others took up their torch and continued the movement, e.g. Mikhail Zoschenko (one example).  In modern music, the closest corollary that comes to mind is Agalloch and their music, an amalgam of folk, black metal, death metal, doom metal, and tribal, that has seen many others that attempt the Cascadian Black Metal styling.  Death is another good band to use for this as from their ashes arose the Technical Death Metal, Mathcore, and Math Metal movements (yes, if you’re a metal fan, you need to purchase the reissue of Spiritual Healing that was released today).  Fitting that Avant-Garde means “vanguard.”

Progressive is far more conservative than this (for complete understanding of what I mean, listen to the songs “Aenema” by Tool and “Creature” by Sleepytime Gorilla Museum”).  It recognizes the limitations of the means of the specific genre and attempts to integrate other aspects from other artistic movements, cultures, times, or beliefs to go beyond the typical avenues of expression.  Opeth for example arises from a history of Black Metal and Death Metal while incorporating compositional aspects of 1970s rock in their music.  Devin Townsend often uses metal sounds in unexpected ways (listen to Ki).  In art, Salvador Dali held on to classical techniques in painting while altering and pushing the imagery of his pieces.  In poetry, Eliot’s 1920s works captured images in rapid fire and emotional stream of consciousness.  The point is that progressive approaches are not a complete shattering of what came before; rather, these integrate those approaches and combine them in such a way so as to develop and build something that is beyond the limitations of a specific form.  Therefore, Progressive means transcending the limits of the chosen art styles at hand, regardless of the medium of expression.

 

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