Wednesday, January 12, 2005

 

This Is Not Your Bloody Valentine

Last week Largehearted Boy had a link to an EZTree bittorent of a live Band Of Susans show, which was a really pleasant and totally unexpected surprise.

The description of the band over at EZTree goes:

think USA's answer to My Bloody Valentine

I'm really grateful to the person who posted the show. I'd never previously seen any live recordings by Band of Susans (apparently there aren't many: see the comments at EZTree...someone emailed Robert Poss, who lead the Susans) and I'm mentioning it here 'cause it's unusual enough to merit extra notice. It looks like there've only been 300 hits on the bittorrent, and I'll bet there are more people who'd be interested in the show than that.

Nonetheless, it's probably worth noting that BoS's distorto-rama predates My Bloody Valentine's, and that the two groups didn't really sound much alike (the way their songs are put together is completely different, for starters). They did both release albums with a photo of a guitar on the cover, but BoS did it first.

I'm a little sensitive on the subject of BoS comparisons because one of the reasons that it took me so long to "get" them is the fact that, during their heyday, they were constantly compared to Sonic Youth/Glenn Branca. So I kept buying their albums, thinking "yuck, this doesn't sound anything like Sonic Youth" and setting them aside.

I didn't really start to like them until I started to listen to them as amped up guitar minimalism, which is basically the source of their sound. Here's a link to an article that Robert Poss wrote, explaining the influence of Rhys Chatham on his work. Rhys Chatham, if you haven't heard his name before, is the other guy who came up with the concept of composing for groups of electric guitars. Unlike Glenn Branca, he wasn't so big on distortion or dissonance.

And here's an example of Rhys Chatham's music. This is a piece called Die Donnergötter which saw a US release on the then Gerard Cosloy stewarded Homestead label, strangely enough. You know how Great Plains sang "You like almost everything that comes out on Homestead." Well, Die Donnergötter might be one of those "almost" albums that didn't click with the new wave girls or the punk rock boys. (Sorry dial-up people: it's 40Mb and worth every Mb.)

It's currently found most easily on a box set of Chatham's work called An Angel Moves Too Fast To See that came out in 2003 (I'm not sure if it's still in print, but used copies are easy to find).

Die Donnergötter doesn't exactly sound like BoS, in part because Chatham uses much cleaner guitar tones than Poss. In a weird way, it's almost like a cross between the Feelies and Neu (it takes a couple minutes to hit its groove, so you won't notice the Feelies/Neu thing if you don't listen past the intro). Nonetheless, you can definitely hear similarities between Poss and Chatham in the way multiple guitar parts are being put together (and Poss played in the Die Donnergotter ensemble). Band Of Susans covered one Chatham composition during their career, with a neat take on a pretty important (and listenable, considering it involves one note) piece called Guitar Trio.

The last time I wrote about Band of Susans I posted a few tracks from their last and probably best album Here Comes Success, and a Peel Sessions version of a song called Hope Against Hope. Here's the version of Hope Against Hope from their first album (slightly different, though not in any important way, from the version on their first EP). I have issues with the drum sound, but it's still a great song that sounds better and better the louder you play it. It has vocals, but they don't start for a minute or so. Be patient!

Oh and the sound on the live show is pretty good, surprisingly. The vocals are kind of low in the mix, but this is one band where that's not much of a problem.



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