Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Current Trend: Simplicity

...and by simplicity I don't mean simple. I mean the kind of music that is a stripped-down sound, with only a pairing of instruments and/or vocals. This comes in a variety of styles and genres so it's hard to accurately pin down with words, but if you've heard it, you'd know what I'm talking about.

Classic (traditional or epic) doom is an excellent example (think Candlemass); although there is a full band, it still sounds empty. For the most part it's the focus on the vocals and the droning guitars, with little emphasis on drums or bass (for the most part), leaving the songs sounding hollow, with an empty background - this is the kind of doom I love. Maybe it's because I've been listening to too much stoner of late (and the constant 'fuzz' or reverb), but I'm just getting the same satisfaction out of the new doom bands as I did the old ones. I just listened to Ice Dragons's debut, The Burl, The Earth, The Aether (free download from their Bandcamp page), and my favorite songs are the simple, droning melodies.

 Another sub-sect of this thought is what I've been calling 'metal acoustic' where the songs are pretty much a voice and a guitar, some with simple drum work. It's not metal in it's sound, but the dark sounds are still there, and the vocals are possibly more depraved because you don't expect it. Dax Riggs' solo works are a perfect example of this (see my full breakdown of my love for Riggs and all he does). It's just his (amazing) voice and a guitar (mostly acoustic, some electric) and that's pretty much it. He still sings about insanity and the devil coming for his soul, but if you we're paying too much attention to his lyrics, you'd never get the dark underlying themes. It's this reason why I am looking forward to hearing the legendary Wino's latest release, the acoustic Adrift. Among the overwhelmingly positive reviews, the thought of the god of doom putting out a (assumedly) doom acoustic album has me shaking in excitement. I really want to get to that next week sometime.

This idea is not just contained to metal, Johnny Cash's The American Series (6 albums) are my favorite works of his. They are what I mentioned above; just Cash's voice and a guitar, doing some originals, some re-recordings in this new style, and a whole lot of covers. Seriously I love these albums, some of his best works, just look at the album cover I've posted to the left, it explains the album better then anything I could write here. It's what he wanted to do from the beginning of his career, but the record companies didn't believe anyone would like it. Fuck that, amazing.

I've got a review for The Velvet Underground coming up and they are quite possibly the earliest example of this style. The reason I really enjoyed going through their discography (and Lou Reed's that followed) was because of this stripped down approach. At the time it was completely experimental, but it's what made the group great, doing something that had never been, challenging the norm.

Anyway there are several bands out there that exemplify this style, and many artists have a song or two that fall into this category, but it's really become something I look for in the bands I hear (obviously not for punk, thrash or power metal), because it's so rarely done. Candlemass, Dax Riggs, Johnny Cash, The Velvet Underground; these are the greats in this mindset, if you know any of these then you know what I am talking about.

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