do you take rock music now, or an even better question might be, what
can you do with it at this point? Where before you were called groundbreaking
because you featured a sitar in the background, now artists are using
techniques that range from the employ of a small chamber orchestra all
the way to the use of DJ cutting and scratching, formerly taboo in the
world of rock but now widely respected.
So how do you attain a progressive musical outlook when you basically
have to be progressive just to get noticed? One answer is to say "the
hell with that" and just see what results, figuring that tried and
true songwriting should be more than enough. Hey, the White Stripes did
it, and certainly did not come out the worse for keeping it simple, but
elegant. However if truly challenging the essence of rock music with electronics
and effects interests you, then your judgement is harsh and the rewards
are often dim. For all your efforts to move the craft forward, there's
progression and then there's what's acceptable. Go too far out there and
you risk alienation. On that note, what discussion about progressive music
would be complete without MP3.com? A direct slap in the face of record
industry control, MP3.com allows the artist to act as their own publisher,
agent, and distribution. There's no screening process, no record exec
meetings... no bullshit. Just an artist, their music, and the means to
spread your art to the willing masses. Bring your songs to them in the
form of the much hated and loved mp3 format, and suddenly POOF! an album.
Such a subversive system of delivery is bound to attract the harder to
pin-down artists, which is why MP3.com is so necessary for getting an
understanding of the musical underground.
Chris Keighley's effort, "The Gathering of the Deep", is a product
of the MP3.com stable. On first listen, all the yammering I've done on
attempting "progression" should become abundantly clear. Not
that Keighley's release is filled to the brim with early Genesis-like
bleeps and bloops, but there's obvious manipulation on vocals and instruments.
Sound comes hollowed out and spacey, downright cosmic on much of the album.
There's a lean towards a bluesy kind of improvisational rock; the feeling
of not being pinned down to normal time progression and chorus while still
paying homage to his rock and roll forefathers. This is a group of musicians
having fun with playing around and it becomes evident early on.
But for all the spirit and experimentation at work on "The Gathering
of the Deep", the album just cannot garner any sort of critical praise.
Some bands get by on a rough and tumble sound; their lack of polish having
the same effect as mold does on some foods: an unintended flavor. Keighley's
musicianship is merely lacking, it must be said. There's almost no cohesiveness
throughout, and many of the tracks come out sounding unrehearsed. Drums
trip over guitars in a sometimes embarrassing manner and there seems to
be a general looseness at work here. It all feels very rushed and would
cause the uninitiated to believe that this is to be expected from MP3.com
releases since there is no screening process. There've been many gems
on MP3.com for my money; it's just that this isn't one of them.
In all, the songs tend to come out silly and have an unfinished feel to
them. Exuberance and creativity are much admired traits, but technique
plays an important part when it comes to expression. The technique is
lacking on this release, and unfortunately it just so happens to undermine
the spirit here.
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| February 2002 | Issue 23
Please send us submissions