Saturday, July 31, 2010

The benefits of a Hothouse Flower

America has a lot to offer, but sometimes it's better to concentrate your attention elsewhere. I've been really looking into the coterie of bands in Antwerp, all related, however distantly, to dEUS.
dEUS, first of all, are a nearly two decade old alt-rock concern centered around Tom Barman. Really, it's a two part career. Up until the millennium, they were an indie rock-jazz-prog band that had a Zappa-esque tendency to go off on tangents. Then, they went on hiatus, and when they came back in 2004 with a more pop, more electronic sound. I much prefer the second phase. Yes, it's eclectic stuff, but listen to a song like "slow" or "Smoker's reflect" and you may hear the appeal. Like the Pixies, they're doing pop music that's all sideways, utilizing microtones, or strange modal harmonies, but with a subtleness that makes it sound suave and sophisticated, not artsy. Hey, they're even on myspace, so they're not all that esoteric, but they really are... It's infectious music that doesn't leave you feeling hollow, like the pop music in the states often does.
I never would have found them without Millionaire, though. Millionaire is Tim Vanhamel's band. Tim, I heard by way of Eagles of Death Metal. However, the CD I have by them, Paradisiac, sounds like a glitchy, more electronic version of what Queens of the Stone Age were trying to do on Era Vulagaris, except it came out well before that record. I'm not saying that Homme stole the sound, but he was the producer, and I really do think the change in QOTSA's sound between Lullabies to Paralyze and Vulgaris is at least partially Vanhamel's fault. If you haven't heard any of this, picture a more "New Wave" version of Sonic Youth playing motorik covers of Stooges songs with Trent Reznor. In other words, big dumb rock played by people who aren't dumb, with a solid background in atonal noise.
Likewise, because of that Millionaire album, I heard Creature with the Atom Brain . Named after a Roky Erickson song, and collaborating with Mark Lanegan, these guys play a more traditional version of psychedelic rock than most of the "stoner" and "grunge" bands, but minus any nostalgia you might think that entails. So, yes, if you're a fan of "Stoner Rock', I'd give them a shot.
Also, I haven't heard much, but by reputation, Tim Vanhamel's new band, Eat Lions seems like a good candidate for modern-day psychedelic warriors.
Not so with Tom Barman's other band Magnus who play commercial electronic dance music. I'm not the biggest fan of underground electro bands, but I do like decent dance music, and the magnus stuff has the same kind of "cultured" vibe as trip hop, but far more debauched. Watch some videos and you might see the sleaze that I hear.
Try adding all that up! Consider that all these bands are related, and you might see a depth that is lacking in most music scenes in America where the "Metal" bands might (maybe, just maybe) mix a little with the "Hardcore" bands, and that gets called "crossover". So the advantage I see to "regional" culture, like just Antwerp, is that with the limited number of musicians, venues, etc, those that are there have to, by necessity, cross pollinate, and from that hybrid vigor comes new, intriguing Art.

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