With all the hype behind the break up of At The Drive-In and the birth of The Mars Volta I expected to be floored by this album or at least left with my jaw dropped. The effect this album had on me was far more gradual and time consuming. I tried with all my might not to come to a conclusion about the album before listening to it more than once. I must say that repetition of this album is definitely in favor of The Mars Volta. For each time the album inched its way up the scale in my head.
From what I have read it seems as if the songs are developed in such a way that they tell the story of a friend’s suicide or illustrate one … something of the sort. In attempt to parallel the concept and accurately describe the music I will take you through the visual progression that takes place in my mind.
I am in a park (though not a designated park). In fact, I am not in a park at all … more a hilly green area with large, branched trees sparsely distributed about. Slightly beyond this setting is a forest; a dark forest with mass amounts of overcrowding trees, which seem as if they are trying to push one another out. Back to where I am sitting; without any company of my own on the ground with my back against a rather old tree. I am asleep yet stirring. Without being aware of when or how, I wake up. The unnoticeable transition I make from sleep to wakefulness is much like the undetected transition made from song 1 to song 2 on the album as well as other successions.
As I survey my surroundings I find that the most random group of people I have ever encountered encapsulates me. My fellow “just before the forest-dwellers” are physical representations of the various characteristics or attributes of the music in the CD. There is the eccentric, slightly schizophrenic kid who is entertaining in small doses but whom too much of just gives you a headache. Then further off into the distance is the unassuming, brooding, sullen, profound and intellectual looking one. Her presence, although subtle, is much needed. The person closest to me is the innovator. It (we’ll make this person androgynous for the time being) weans in and out of this imaginary circle around the area. Each time it comes near me it is convinced that it has come up with a revolutionary idea or sound when usually it is just coming up with different variations of one new concept. So it is rather repetitive in its thoughts and even patterns of walking around. Somewhere in the mix is the heartbroken boy who has had to suffer all kinds of dreadful circumstances. That he has made it this far, this close to the forest is amazing and somewhat inspiring. Yet, one look at him and one can see and feel only some of the pain he has had to endure to merely survive. Not lastly, but last of the more apparent figures, is the happy go lucky girl who wants nothing more than to save the world. To pull the downtrodden boy from his misery, to hand the schizophrenic some medication and therapy, to hand the “thinker” a puppy so she can attempt to enjoy life at the moment and not dissect it, and to hand the inventor a camcorder so that it may see for itself the productions of its mind. Jesus, the savior, in the form of a woman … (kidding).
Much of the day passes as much of the CD passes. The guitar resembles the psychotic (schizophrenic) kid weaving in and out of the background then bursting into the foreground. During the trek around the area the kid magnifies his presence at times while randomly pulling back at others. Much of his time is spent in the foreground though, creating an excess of dirtied guitars. Many times simultaneously, the depressed girl brings voice to her thoughts and frustrations through the “ooohs” that complement the music an unimaginable amount especially in the second track. The whispering she does may just make up for the incredibly screechy guitars effects offered by the schizo. In the third track there are attempts to give more voice to her. As a result she finds herself in opposition to the faster paced music, which is dominating the track. She tries to hold her ground and results in an eccentric pace wavering from soft to loud to soft to loud over and over again. It is not till late in the song that she perseveres with her softer background music that allows more focus on the vocals; only to revert back to the fight between soft and loud.
Contributions of the bruised (mentally and physically) pervade every song. The desperate feeling that is apparent in each track is inescapable much like his past. The wandering psychotic has inspired the innovator. In fact this inventor is convinced that the overbearing guitar sounds brought about by the schizo are ingenious. He (the innovator) is inspired to add effects, which are unnecessary and distracting to me. In addition he tweaks the environment adding an immensely cut up quality, constantly wavering in tone and volume. He refuses to offer any stability in the environment. All the while the carefree girl attempts to raise my level of awareness so I can attempt to see the brilliance of the combinations instead of wondering what the fuck is going on. After much probing and prodding I am able to see bits of genius and creativity but for many of the positive points are hidden behind the screeching guitars, thanks to the frantic schizophrenic and his newly acquired pal, the innovator.
While most of the album proceeds in such a way that there is a constant struggle between all the characters or attributes of music in the end there is a breakthrough. Instead of trying to find their way and their strengths, everyone finds his/her voice in track 9, “Televators”. This is all in good time because dawn is breaking. After experimenting with length of songs or activities, ranging from one and a half minutes to twelve minutes, a compromise is reached. “Televators” lasts a mere six minutes, six wonderful minutes. Everyone gets his or her say in this song. Beginning with an abrupt silence, contrasting from the previous track, nature sounds are heard resembling the awakening of the “just before the forest” area. Like soft and slow gusts of wind the sullen girl’s vocals soothingly brush against your skin and through your ears. I feel like I am ingesting the thought process she has. Slowly the fragile gusts of wind acquire more strength as the courageous boy sings his piece through piercing vocals that so obviously express unsurpassed pain. Not only pain but desire as well. The shifts in rhythms proposed by the psychotic are nice with the arrangement at hand. Instead of confusing me, they subdue me while provoking me. Provoking me to think and consider a variety of things. “Televators” is without a doubt my favorite song on the album. It is as if all the characters in my mind have collaborated in such a way that each contributes the perfect amount of themselves to the collection of music. Unlike most of the songs this one has not one thing in excess until the very end where the sounds resemble light sabers. This track is the lowest common denominator of all the instruments. Even with no excessive manipulations it easily instigates the most intense feelings in me, especially when reading the lyrics while listening to the song.
All in all the evening spent in the area just before the forest was eventful, sometimes painful, and eye opening yet it is something I do not wish to experience again for sometime. I need to recover from the night’s festivities. Similarly while I find this album intriguing, I am not interested enough to listen to it again for at least another week or two perhaps longer. While I will listen to “Televators” I do not think I will be revisiting the other songs. This is just my experience and my pathological interpretation of De-loused in the Comatorium; however, there are many critics who hail this as album of the year, the Holy Grail of new music.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.