Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Around the World in a Day

Die! Die! Die!, self-titled, S.A.F. Records [8/3/07]

I never told the truth
How can I tell a lie.

-- Die! Die! Die!,

"Auckland Is Burning"

Their name indicates the sounds this Dunedin threesome are putting down, i.e. loud, fast, and aggressive. Fortunately, you can add melodic to that list. (Noise without structure is just...noise.)

Recorded and mixed by Steve Albini, Die! Die! Die! don't recall many other NZ bands, not even those they cite as influences: the Clean, the Gordons, the DoubleHappys, and Bailter Space. Until I read otherwise, I assumed they were from the US or Canada.

Their bio adds that the young trio has already opened for the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Wolfmother and legendary post-punkers Wire, to whom they bear a slight resemblance—way to launch a career.

I would imagine that "Franz (17 Die! Die! Die! Fans Can't Be Wrong)" and "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Mikey" are allusions to the former, although I can't tell whether they're positive or negative (the latter references "Michael").

If I have a complaint, it's that these 10 tunes rush by in a flash. Better, though, to leave listeners wanting more rather than less.

Raising the Fawn, Sleight of Hand, Sonic Unyon [7/17/07]

On their third record, this Toronto trio crafts soaring, pounding anthems with atmospheric interludes. Sleight of Hand lies somewhere between King Crimson and early U2. That analogy is admittedly reductive, but at least it's a start. I've also heard them compared to Explosions in the Sky, and that makes sense, since their music is just as dramatic.

To complicate matters, Raising the Fawn employs drum machine on some tracks, and singer/guitarist John Crossingham doesn't feel the need to plug every hole with his playing ("focusfocusfocus" appears to be ax-free). So any description, really, is bound to be reductive. (The All Music Guide adds the trendy term "sadcore," which I find more amusing than anything else.) Crossingham is also part of Canadian collective Broken Social Scene—with Feist and Metric's Emily Haines—who were responsible for the nifty soundtrack to the great Half Nelson.

Silmaril, The Voyage of Icarus, Locust Music

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Silmarils (Quenya Silmarilli) are three fictional sacred objects in the form of brilliant star-like jewels which contained the unmarred light of the Two Trees. The Silmarils were made out of the crystalline substance silima by Fëanor, a Noldorin Elf, in Valinor during the Years of the Trees.
-- Wikipedia entry on Silmaril

Recorded in Milwaukee between 1973-1974, nine of these 19 tracks originally appeared on Silmaril's self-released Given Time or the Several Roads (1973), while the rest come from unreleased follow-up No Mirrored Temple. Consisting of four men and one woman, this folk quintet appears to have spent some quality time with the collected works of Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, and Joan Baez—plus, JRR Tolkien and the Scriptures.

Silmaril's sound is pretty and very sincere. There's no irony here, which is to say they willingly—enthusiastically even—enter Ren Fair territory. According to the liner notes, the players met at a Catholic youth retreat, yet their leader, Mathew Peregrine (born Jim Boulet), was gay. Instead of renouncing his religion, he turned to Catholic Pentecostalism, suppressed his sexual orientation and even married, but it didn't last. Though he would eventually embrace his true nature, Peregrine passed away at 41 from AIDS complications. Rob Sevier's liner notes suggest that when he came out of the closet, he came way out. Suppression is a bitch.

These facts are fascinating, but it's hard for me to say how much bearing they have on the music. Throughout, the playing is hushed and the lyrics carefully enunciated—intoned rather than sung. In other words, it's all likely to be too po-faced for some, but Silmaril's talent is hard to deny. The good news is that the rest of the band are all still alive and involved in the arts in some way, whether through music, dance, or "the healing arts" (hey, once a hippie, always a hippie). The Voyage of Icarus is recommended to open-minded folk and psych fans, especially those with a high tolerance for sitars, Catholicism, and of course, Middle Earth.

Endnote: For more information about Silmaril, please see their MySpace Page or Locust Music. Click here to read the Dusted review of their album. For Die! Die! Die, please click here, and for Raising the Fawn, here. Images from MySpace and the AMG.


Anonymous said...

The Raising the Fawn album is actually coming out in the US on July 17th, not July 3rd. the release date on the back of the promo CDs is the Canadian date only.

Anonymous said...

Thanks you for a very discerning review of Voyage of the Icarus. It's nice to have it appreciated.

Kathy Fennessy said...

Thanks for your comment, Michael. I'm glad Locust Music has made this material available again for everyone to hear.