The older I get, the more I appreciate change. As a homeowner I’ve grown to love the cold winter months, which offer a brief reprieve from the never-ending yard work and an opportunity to be contemplative and free of distraction. But as a music fan, change is scary. I tend to enjoy the “signature sound” that has endeared a band’s music to me, and there is a certain amount of comfort in knowing that the formula will only be tweaked on the next album and not completely changed.
Necromonkey’s third album, Show Me Where It Hertz, is a change. The two-man team of David Lundberg and Mattias Olsson embraced their passion for electronic sounds and produced compositions that are simple in their general approach but complex in their layering and expression. From Olsson: “I think we have always liked the idea of doing more disciplined and streamlined discs but the concert [as a synth trio in Stockholm] gave us an opportunity to fully explore that aspect of the music.”
This album challenged me in many ways — I’m not an electronica fan, and I enjoyed the style of the first two albums. My one sentence review would be: it’s an interesting prog-related release that is well-produced and deserves a listen from Necromonkey fans and progressive music fans alike. But this album is unique, so it deserves a different take on the six tracks within. I feel a quote gimmick coming on! Each of the quotes used have been attributed to one of the most unique musicians around, the great David Bowie.
The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.
If Entering The Sublevels Of Necroplex were a scene in a movie, that scene would begin at the start of a long, poorly lit hallway in an old apartment complex. There is a house party in the flat at the end of the hall, and our impressionable main character is following the music for the promise of a night filled with fun, adventure, anonymous sex, or whatever else movie studios feel will resonate with the audience.
A few steps and the bass and drums kick in. Doors open and shut showing local residents in various stages of their day-to-day life, some also making their way to the sound like moths to the flame. A dozen steps closer and synthetic waves manipulated by varying amounts of arpeggiation create complex polyrhythms. Voices can be be made out, but they’re distorted and unintelligible. The main character finally reaches the door, turns the handle, and steps inside.
You know what happens next. The requisite epic section underlines a frantic mess of dancing bodies, featuring a shrieking lead patch and big, warm chords. Robotic and spacey tones follow, punctuated by drum fills with none other than 80’s toms. 80’s toms!! But then the dancing stops. Maybe two eyes lock for a moment, or somebody drops a festively colored pill, but the music is immediately replaced by one of those weird filtered voices made popular by Daft Punk. When the music returns, a creepy Theremin sound takes us out. End scene.
Frankly, I mean, sometimes the interpretations I’ve seen on some of the songs that I’ve written are a lot more interesting than the input that I put in.
Hornets are assholes . In my experience, those flying soulless bastards enjoy nothing more than plunging their weaponized rear ends into the first animate object that pisses them off. My extensive research on the subject, consisting entirely of a two-minute visit to Wikipedia, uncovered that hornets can sting many times, their stings cause more pain than typical wasps, and they kill dozens of people in China and Japan each year. So Everybody Likes Hornets But Nobody Likes Hornet Egg? I don’t buy it. The egg begets the hornet, so they’re both awful.
What if the flight of a hornet is a duality? The pure beauty and power is symbolized by a sweeping lead melody set in front of a synthesized symphony — nature’s insectoid wrecking ball freely cutting and darting through the air. But in a swarm, the nuances are lost and you’re running for cover to avoid a buzzing drone reminiscent of the guitar work in Nine Inch Nails. Hornet flight should be revered, like a personal mantra. And hornet eggs probably taste like shit.
It amazes me sometimes that even intelligent people will analyze a situation or make a judgement after only recognizing the standard or traditional structure of a piece.
The Rage Within The Clouds was the track on this album that I found wanting. I enjoyed the beginning, which consisted of a long and well-composed section that repeats once. It contains a good mix of sounds, the soft pads contrasting with harder patches to result in an interesting texture. I could almost feel the transitions from light to dark.
But the track got weaker as it went on, beginning with a melody and synth patch my wife is convinced sounds like “The Final Countdown.” This continued through the solo and an outro of sparkly synth work that started out well enough but finished as an all-out assault on my ears. Seasoned fans of electronic music are accustomed to these pitches, but I’m obviously uninitiated. This song just didn’t resonate with me, yet I’m willing to accept that I’m also looking for the “traditional structure” described by Bowie. Listen and find out for yourself.
On the other hand, what I like my music to do to me is awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts.
There’s a haunting and seraphic instrument at the beginning of The Electric Rectum Electoral. Imagine a cello playing in the lower register, except it sounds distant like the tones from a Mellotron. It’s also somewhat distorted, a condition made more obvious during a screech at the end of the phrase that makes you wonder if this could be a guitar being bowed à la Jimmy Page in Dazed and Confused. Honestly, little things like this are what makes music fun.
If there’s one song on the album that dredges up the ghosts, it’s this one. There’s a dichotomy in having such a brooding and complex piece be christened with the most ridiculous name I’ve heard in a release this year. Why does the electoral have electric rectums? Is this a criticism on the energy policy of major world governments, or does this particular voting body literally have an electrically powered sphincter? The world may never know.
I had to resign myself, many years ago, that I’m not too articulate when it comes to explaining how I feel about things. But my music does it for me, it really does.
Like Fun You Are, Major Dennis.
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.
For me, the strength of the album is in the final three tracks, so The Current Beneath The Squarewave serves as an excellent bookend. Each of the three had the same quality for me: I got more out of these songs the more I listened, and this only increased when I used my highest quality listening set up (a decent pair of headphones with a headphone amplifier). Like most progressive music, there’s a lot here. Unlike most progressive music, it’s not showing you by preening an elaborate display of mating plumage.
Lundberg and Olsson each come from bands I enjoy (Gösta Berlings Saga and Änglagård, respectively). These bands are far more similar to each other than either are to the music within Show Me Where It Hertz, and in many ways they are stylistically worlds apart. You could say it’s a significant change from the comforts I already enjoy. But I’m glad that these artists are bold enough and creative enough to do so, regardless of any expectations their audience might project upon them. Mattias is even more definitive, saying, “we trust our audience and wouldn’t dare to typecast them and hope that they will treat us the same way.”
Bowie was right — the end result certainly wasn’t boring.