Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Dead Can Dance"

Dead Can Dance:  “Dead Can Dance”
Secondhand Vinyl Album:  (Purchased at Total Drag Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1984 4AD
My Rating:  (4 Stars)

The Fatal Impact
The Trial

This Side
East Of Eden
A Passage In Time
Wild In The Woods
Musica Eternal

   I want to begin this review by admitting that I’m not an expert in regards to Goth music.  However,  it seems to be a genre that I’m often drawn to and I find this occurrence almost as mysterious as the music itself.  To clarify, I often relate the Goth sound to stark instrumental arrangements, accompanied by undecipherable monotonous singing.  While I’m open to giving even the artsiest piece of crap at least one spin on my turntable, I have to admit that some experimental giants in the music industry are simply above my head.  It’s been my experience that the Goth scene possesses more than a few of these types of artists.   Yet, I constantly find myself coming back for more in some kind of effort to gain access to a world that I can’t seem to fully understand.  I mean, for God’s sake I don’t even like to wear black that often.
   Keeping this in mind, I would like to state that the self-titled album by Dead Can Dance is a true Goth record I can honestly enjoy…after I trained myself to appreciate the more subtle aspects of music, like percussion and tempo…throughout the course of about twenty listens.  What I’m saying here is an album like, “Dead Can Dance,” is intellectual music and requires a little patience from its' listener.  Of course, some of us nonintellectual types don’t use a lot of head space thinking.  Therefore, we have a lot of down time to practice patience.  I can honestly state now, “Boy, am I glad I had all that time!”
   As soon as this album began with the instrumental song, “Fatal Impact,” it became clear to this listener that I was going to be reviewing an album unlike any I've written about up to this point.  Many of the records I've reviewed on this blog have revolved around narrative based music, otherwise known as songs that tell a story through lyrics.  Despite the fact the album, "Dead Can Dance," has two lead vocalists perform on it, I believe the instrumental introduction to this record best defines their signature sound.  Here a listener is confronted with hollow drum beats and faint noises that this blogger can only compare to the sounds of a whipping wind.  Instantly, this music feels raw and almost primal.  Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the band chose the imagery of a tribal mask for this album’s cover art.
   The album then continues with its’ second song, “The Trial,” which initially was a major let down for this listener, considering I anticipated an extraordinary voice to accompany such unique sounds.  However, I found the utterances of vocalist, Brendan Perry, to be exactly what I’ve previously encountered with the Goth genre.  I ask you, “Why do Goth’s always have to sound bored?!  I mean, what could be more brooding than a good hard scream?  I always thought emotion was shown by intonation.”  Unfortunately, I found Perry’s vocal performance during, “The Trial,” to be just another monotonous Goth stereotype and I began to feel like I may be in for one unremarkable ride.
   Luckily, I was wrong due to the fact that Dead Can Dance had another singer by the name of Lisa Gerrard.  While I’ll state that this albums’ strengths are definitely owed to its’ percussive arrangements, I will admit that the presence of Gerrard’s voice was also a major attribute.  During the song, “Ocean,” it’s Gerrard’s wails that again return a listener back to the primitive world introduced in the beginning of this album.  Her voice is reminiscent of the waves this songs' title eludes too, spawning feelings of mystery regarding the earth and its natural elements.  It doesn’t seem to matter that a listener can’t understand a word this vocalist is singing.  All that matters while listening to a song like, “Ocean,” is the mood being created.
   Gerrard’s talent is again showcased during songs like the weighty, “Musica Eternal.”  Here, instruments this blogger can’t even define create the haunting echo of something akin to music.  I can only describe this songs' sound as reminiscent of the euphoric calm one feels right before falling asleep.  In fact, this blogger found herself doing exactly that more often than once while listening to this album.  Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t because I was bored by the music.  In fact, I would say a more accurate description would be I was lulled.  Between the mysterious sounds created by the combination of synthesizers and Gerrard’s voice, this blogger felt eased into almost another reality.  In this reality there were no such things as stress or time.  In fact, I would argue that time is a concept the band Dead Can Dance is not acquainted with, considering at no point during this record could a listener guess when this album was recorded.  I guess that’s the beauty of Goth, it’s so abstract it transcends time.  No wonder black has always been such a popular color.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Mothership Connection"

Parliament:  “Mothership Connection”
New Reissued Vinyl Album  (Purchased at Barnes & Noble Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1975  Republic Records
My Rating:  (5 Stars)

Side 1
P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)
Mothership Connection (Star Child)
Unfunky UFO

Side 2
Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)
Night Of The Thumpasorus Peoples

   Have you ever wondered what outer space sounds like?  I guess I had never given it much thought until I recently picked up the album, “Mothership Connection,” by Parliament.  I’ve always thought the outer limits looked super funky with their psychedelic colors and star swirls, but I never suspected they sounded that way too.  The topics of space and funk never seemed that obvious to me.  Of course after listening to this classic album by George Clinton and his, “Martian,” tribe I find myself slapping my forehead with the realization, “What the hell else would space sound like?!  What could possibly be more funky than the universe?”
   In addition to this epiphany, I also came to the conclusion that the album, “Mothership Connection,” is one of those records you’ve heard a million times without recognizing it.  In other words, I can’t recall another album that has been sampled more by different artists.  There were various moments while listening to this record that I found myself realizing, “Wait, I know this!  Where have I heard this before?”  After some casual research I discovered that pieces of, “Mothership Connection,” have been used by about fifty different artists!  I guess I should take the time to thank Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg for trying to educate this obviously unfunky Midwestern woman in her mid-thirties. 
   Out of all the songs that have been sampled on Parliament’s album, the title track, “Mothership Connection (Star Child)," is probably the most prominently used one.  Upon actually hearing the original version of this song, it’s not hard to understand why.  This particular piece displays the absolute, "out of this world," talent of Parliament’s founder, George Clinton.  Over the last two weeks of listening to this album I've come to the conclusion that this man is a genius, (if not an alien.)  During the course of the song, “Mothership Connection,” this listener found herself getting swept away by visions of funkiness that made her want to strap on a pair of moon boots with wheels and hit the roller disco.  The insane part of this last statement is that Clinton’s album actually makes even the most uncoordinated individual truly believe they can do this! 
   It’s this blogger's opinion that the best aspect of the album, “Mothership Connection,” by Parliament is this group’s ability to include humor in their often, spoken word, lyrics.  During the song P. Funk, (Wants To Get Funked Up), Clinton introduces the album as, “Home of the extraterrestrial brother.”  He then announces they will be, “Doing it to you in the ear hole." This statement seemed rather logical to me since these musicians are self-proclaimed extraterrestrial beings. "Who am I to define how their biology works?" I thought.  While I’m not often drawn to humorous lyrics, I found Parliament’s lightheartedness completely appropriate for the, “Funk in Space,” theme.  I respected the fact that this was a group that didn’t take themselves too seriously.  As a result of this unpretentious attitude, these artists composed a SERIOUSLY amazing album.
   Additional notable songs on, “Mothership Connection,” include the guitar and bass driven, “Unfunky UFO,” and of course the extraordinarily catchy, “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)”.  As a warning, the vocal chorus on, “Give Up The Funk,” is so addictive this blogger found herself singing it for days.  On the back of the album, “Mothership Connection,” there’s a group of individuals described as, “Extraterrestrial Voices & Good Time Hand Clappers.”  I can only assume these are the same people singing the chorus of, “Give Up The Funk.”  Let it be known, it’s not always the spaceship’s captain that guides the journey.  While I acknowledge George Clinton’s genius arrangements, I also understand that the power behind Parliament’s path is partly provided by its’ multiple unearthly talented musicians and background vocalists.
   Lastly, my favorite song on this record is, “Night Of The Thumpasorus Peoples.”  Here, Clinton’s concept takes a turn towards deep space and the true abstract.  Rather than focusing this song around a spacy version of earthly concepts, Parliament transforms themselves into an alien tribe that no longer is familiar with the sounds of conventional instruments, or even real language for that matter.  During this song words are transformed to chants of complete nonsense, making this listener believe she’s now encountered the most isolated beings in the universe.  I guess I always suspected complete isolation could make one very, “funky.”

"Mothership Connection (Star Child)":

* Due to my increasingly busy spring schedule will be posting every other Wednesday until further notice.