A Guide To The Music Of The 21st Century
Finding strange-looking CDs sporting quirky, unusual, even bizarre
images and pictures, most of the time released by artists who are completely
unknown to me, filling my mailbox is something that happens with a certain
degree of regularity; nonetheless, I had to admit that the cover of this
CD by Perfect Vacuum is something else: on the front cover we can see two
guys wearing 18th Century wigs and clothes, which I assume to be a reference
to the cover of the world-famous album by Wendy Carlos, Switched-On Bach;
while the picture in the back recreates the one on the back cover of the
Gong LP Camembert Electrique. So I had to ask myself who those guys were
- and what kind of music could possibly be featured in an album titled
A Guide To The Music Of The 21st Century?
a look at the album credits showed somebody I know: guitarist and multi-instrumentalist
Lukas Simonis, whom I had last listened to more than a year ago on an album
titled NEWS, co-released with Takayuki Kawabata; another look at the credits
showed Nina Hitz on cello, whose work on the aforementioned album I had
enjoyed quite a bit. Perfect Vacuum is an album that Simonis co-leads with
singer Dave Marsh, who's also the co-writer of all lyrics and music. About
the lyrics, I don't really know: they are not featured on the album cover,
and listening didn't help me much. But what about the music?
who like making things appear difficult would probably define A Guide To
The Music Of The 21st Century as "a meta-exercise on the very concept
of 'genre' according to a post-modern approach". Me, I'd file it under
"intelligent fun": in some ways it reminded me of Frank Zappa's
first few albums (for instance, Freak Out!, even if the spirit here appears
to be quite different), while other traits reminded me of early-period 10cc
(Sheet Music, say; but again, intentions appear to be different). As it's
always the case with such operations, meaning and "quotes" will
fatally differ, depending on listeners' knowledge.
album has a nice "rétro" sound, panned "hard right/hard
left", with a few noises and sounds channel-tripping. The instrumentation
is of the colourful 60s type: acoustic guitars, banjo, tuba, vocals, synths,
piano, viola, cello, all make for a lot of timbral variety.
In The Sun is a ballad featuring banjo, tuba, and funny vocal intermezzo
(Ike Turner?). Satanic Man/Average Man has slide and strings, almost a
mix of Lovin' Spoonful and Kinks, with a Beach Boys vocal fragment. Glamour
Addict has a drumset quite ŕ la Drumbo and a very Beefheartian-sounding
set of vocals. Strings, bass, and drums are featured on The Good Neighbour,
which for mysterious reasons reminded me of The Beatles' Fixing A Hole.
Kosmisch Mechanischer Mann has Neu! drums and a Kraftwerk keyboard melody.
Meaningful has what to me sounds like a Russian group of the Points East
variety singing over the riff from You Really Got Me.
So Great To Be Me reminded me of John Lennon, circa "Semolina Pilchard",
it also has a fine keyboard intermezzo. Stories Of The American Civil Wars
had me (unsuccessfully) trying to guess where I had previously heard it.
Plumbing is a ballad. Multi Media Bookstore has a B-movie organ, and a
guitar coda off 10cc's first album (the one of the same name). True Believer
features a nice rhythm section and a vocal interlude that almost sounds
like doo-wop. Lake Geneva sounds like a bizarre combination of two Kinks
tracks, Dead End Street and Sunny Afternoon; it's banjo and arpeggio guitar
again, the piano reminding one of Nicky Hopkins. White Blood Of My Bride,
with a tense-sounding guitar, brings the album to its close.
have to admit I was quite surprised that the album still sounded very good
after many listening sessions. Timbral variety and imagination in the arrangements
make for the tracks - and also the album as a whole - sounding longer than
they really are (this is obviously meant as a compliment!). While I noticed
that - day after day - songs sounded less like "quotes", and
more like "individual creations", which is not bad, I suppose.
© Beppe Colli 2009
CloudsandClocks.net | April 23, 2009