Thursday, November 5, 2009


Music isn't quite as categorical as it might seem. I mean, to hear music critics, you'd think there are walls between genres- and when someone dares to leap one of those walls, they achieve "crossover", like they went behind enemy territory. Really, such considerations are only for marketers, advertisers and the people duped by them. Not you, right?
So, when I say there are bands out there at the nexus point of "indie rock" and "metal"- somewhere between "Stoner Rock" and "shoegaze" and making music that resembles both Sonic Youth, and Mountain, you're not surprised at all, are you? It makes perfect sense, because all these labels make no sense to music fans, anyway.
Well, ever since bands like Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath got tagged "Heavy Metal" there has been loud trippy bands with extended jams that weren't really trying to cop jazz, or bluegrass licks, like the so-called "jam bands" do when they improvise. So, the newer instrumental, or semi-instrumental "Metal" bands that have sprung up in Neurosis' and Isis's, and Godflesh's wake might be inspired by newer music, I hear more echoes of the very early 70's in them, which might be a turn off to some folks, because they associate it with lazy, uninspired riffing. Me? I think about Can, Neu!, and their Krautrock peers. Simultaneously, I think about some of the most artistic loud bands of the past 10 years, like Queens of the Stone Age, and Deftones.
Well, here are two of the newest, so you can decide for yourself-
The first, from Chicago, Ill, USA is Pelican with their new record- What we all come to need.
Now, they are not a new band, and have practically pioneered a kind of sound, in the past- equal parts Slint and Neurosis, but with this new record they're headed into new territory- this is like what Mogwai would sound like if they gave up their pretensions of being "post Rock"- meaning it's intriguingly complex music built around a foundation of very hard rock. You know the long jams in an Isis song? Yeah, take that, speed it up, add a drummer with an exceptionally light tough for metal, and guitar interplay up there with Television, and subtract most of the vocals, and you end up with this cinematic sound- imagine Mad Max, or playing Fallout 3 with this sound track, and you'll get the idea- it's sweeping post-apocalyptic intense rock- both pretty and brutal.
The second is a northern European juggernaut- partially from Berlin, mostly from Arhus, Denmark- The Manipulated Living, with their newly-remastered demo "Prelude to Oblivian". Unlike Pelican, who specialize in a kind of twangy pounding- like a an Ennio Morricone sound track made by Ogres, the Manipulated living make a sound that's a kind of molten shimmer- like the heat distortion from a desert road in summer. In other words, there are echoes of different more gauzy types of hard rock- like the more pastoral elements of the Deftones, and the echoing drone in "Home" by Jane's Addiction. The result is less Cinematic, less airy than Pelican, and more oceanic, more trance-state. The song length in either case is Epic- figure about 8 minutes per song with Pelican, and about 10 minutes per song with The Manipulated Living- but that epic length is not an excuse- this isn't Pop music with a bridge section, like the Grateful Dead! Especially in the case of the Manipulated Living- the whole is meant to be taken in at once- like getting on a surfboard- you don't experience the ocean in parts, you feel the whole thing, then learn to isolate bits from it. This isn't the greasy kid stuff of some screamo band lost to their own inflated sense of self-worth- this bears more in common with composers like Glenn Branca and John Cage- a new way to experience the familiar. A swooning new visualization of loud music.


  1. Yea, this new Pelican is surprisingly good,far better than i expected, alltough i kind of gave up on them...This second band havent heard off.
    Will check out. My favorite instru-metal band is Capricorns, from London. RIP now. They were a real juggernaut of metal doom punk trashing, with great musicianship.
    And its sharp man, and dirty, they owe it to some obscurities like Amebix just as Sabbath or Black Flag. And Iron Maiden.
    To get back on your review.
    Nice point on crautrock. This should be.
    But, all this thing with these Isisesque and Neurosises and Pelicans and The Sword is starting to look very fake. Its like in the 90s when so call indie rock turned into shit. This is, basically new indie rock for the people who were listening to that crappy indie rock in the 90s instead the good one in the 80s. Only, now they can say that its "metal". Or something. Its more trendy. There are exceptions but its a thin line. And its gettin thiner.

  2. Anyway, hope you dont mind me ranting a bit,
    i was kind of nervous these days :)

  3. Nice blog. I have a political blog you might like. Feel free to express your views on it. Keep up the good work.

  4. George, you can Rant, here. I completely trust your discretion.
    I agree on the "trendy" factor. That's why I think some of the terms are silly- like "Post Rock". It's just a marketer's term, meant to excuse people who aren't really music fans, but are just following a fashion. Take that term "indie": by now it's so integrated that I even use it as a short-hand to mean "music that enjoyed some popularity, yet never widespread popularity"- but musically, it's really a bit of a dead end. I mean, if it's meant to describe a sound, what sound would that be? Would it mean "bands that are trying to sound like Radiohead"? Would it mean "bands that wish they'd had the foresight to come up with Pavement's sound"?
    So it goes. I am lazy enough to use some of the terms, and catch on to some of the trends, but I'm musically educated enough to recognize that there are an awful lot of bands out there that hear something truly innovative, and think that if they copy it, it means they are creative. That's why I give such limited praise- I know that nobody's re-inventing the wheel, here.

  5. Thanks Chris. This is a non-political blog. I do have some political thoughts that I put up elsewhere, and I do have some opinions. I'm pretty sure you and I would disagree pretty completely on a fair number of topics- I'm more than a bit of a socialist. However, I do have good, close friends who are extremely conservative, as well. So, at some point, I may take you up on your offer.