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‘Things as They Are’: New theater music from members of Six Organs of Admittance and Emeralds

Though he may be best known as the mind behind the long-running ambient drone folk project Six Organs of Admittance, guitarist Ben Chasny is also a member of the noisy psych band Comets on Fire, and he’s made musical contributions to the legendary apocalyptic folk group Current 93. His most recent project is an interesting one—in collaboration with former Emeralds synth magician John Elliott, he’ll been spending the month performing live background (and foreground and middleground) music for a new work by playwright David Todd, also the author of Feeding Back, an excellent book of conversations with underground guitarists.

The play is called Things as They Are, and it’s a theatrical exploration of the life, work, and mystique of the great modernist poet Wallace Stevens. Stevens was lawyer and an insurance executive whose first poetry collection, Harmonium, was published in 1923, when he was already 44 years of age. Though it was published by a major house, its first edition was small, only 1500 copies. Its reputation took time to spread, but Stevens’ cult grew, and by 1955 he’d won a Pulitzer and was offered a faculty position at Harvard. Stevens’ poetry was highly symbolic and can be utterly baffling when taken at face value. Attempts to decode his works are futile, and they miss the point anyway—Stevens’ use of language creates beauty by privileging cadences and whimsy over meaning as it’s ordinarily understood. Take “The Paltry Nude Starts on a Spring Voyage.” It’s clearly “about” Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus but…well, you’ll see.

But not on a shell, she starts,
Archaic, for the sea.
But on the first-found weed
She scuds the glitters,
Noiselessly, like one more wave.

She too is discontent
And would have purple stuff upon her arms,
Tired of the salty harbors,
Eager for the brine and bellowing
Of the high interiors of the sea.

The wind speeds her on,
Blowing upon her hands
And watery back.
She touches the clouds, where she goes
In the circle of her traverse of the sea.

Yet this is meagre play
In the scrurry and water-shine
As her heels foam—-
Not as when the goldener nude
Of a later day

Will go, like the centre of sea-green pomp,
In an intenser calm,
Scullion of fate,
Across the spick torrent, ceaselessly,
Upon her irretrievable way.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch
09:51 am
Emeralds: ‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’
09:58 am

With the Daft Punk soundtrack for Tron Legacy giving off some serious Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre vibes, it seems like it is finally acceptable to be influenced by 80s-style electronic ambience. The album Does It Look Like I’m Here? by the band Emeralds (no “the” - that’s a Japanese surf-rock band) is one of the best examples of a modern take on this sound, and how to do it well.

Released on the Austrian label Editions Mego last year, it’s been a bit of a sleeper hit with the electronica and techno community, ending 2010 in many best-of lists. Full of washy synths, cliff-edge guitar dynamics, slowly building arpeggios and practically no drums, it brings to mind the aforementioned artists in their darkest and most introspective moments. It’s psychedelic, it’s moody, and for the want of a better term it’s progressive. I would imagine it’s a good soundtrack for certain kinds of herbal refreshment.


Emeralds - Genetic (part 1)

Emeralds - Double Helix

Emeralds - Does It Look Like I’m Here?

Emeralds have been gigging and recording for the last 4 or 5 years - Does It Look Like I’m Here? is their fourth album, and their most accessible so far. But they’re not from Greece, Scandinavia or Germany - the band actually hail from Ohio. Along with similar ballpark acts from the States like Zombi (from Pittsburgh), it makes me wonder if this kind of epic progressive-synth music doesn’t have the same negative cultural references there that it has in the UK? I know Tangerine Dream were pretty big in the US in their day. However, the cultural legacy of punk in Britain meant that they were seen as being super uncool. Thankfully the times have changed and we can now accept this as being simply great music. You can buy Does It Look Like I’m Here?, um, here.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
09:58 am