Saturday, June 07, 2008

what I've been listening to, part one

Medieval Rock n' Roll. From a thirteenth-century manuscript of the
Cantigas of Alfonso X.

I was in an 80's band. My band in college went through a couple different incarnations and about three different names (Ditto Geese, Mercy Duck, Brekekekex Koax Koax), with about as many campus gigs as names. The core of the band was made up of the bass player, Dan, and myself on the guitar and occasionally "singing." We weren't great musicians (Dan was just starting out -- since then he's become an accomplished jazz bassist) but we had spirit and imagination. A reviewer from the college paper defined our style as "eclectic surf jazz." We were interested in a variety of things and wanted to experiment with different styles, so we had, inter alia, an "African Song," "Rock Song," "Calypso Song," and "Bulgarian Song" (those were the titles for awhile). We also had fun with different rhythms and time signatures, doing "Wild Thing" in 6/8 time and a long improvisational piece called "The Thing in 7/4" (shades of Jazz Odyssey!) I wasn't in a band after that, though I did play around with a four-track recorder and once actually "sang" in public in a bar in Spain.

I love music, and almost all kinds of music. That said, it's been some time since I've felt I have to be on the cutting edge of anything. I have spent little time trying to find out what those young people are listening to and never listen to music on the radio. Only recently have I started to listen to something relatively new. I learned about Rasputina through a friend, and then through compilation association, I got interested in a number of bands that may or may not be justly placed in the Goth subcategory of darkwave.

I've never really gotten that into Goth before. The Cure is great, but I was never a huge fan. I can only take that tinny 80's guitar sound and Robert Smith's whiny voice for so long. A lot of other Goth stuff is cold and mechanical, long dance tracks with too much synth and boring drum machine rhythms. The darkwave stuff I've been listening to is different. There are more acoustic instruments (violin, flute, piano), real live percussionists, and influences from different kinds of world music. The singing is usually very good, often by classically-trained women with haunting voices. Some of the musicians show familiarity with real medieval music, too (not fake Led Zepplin stuff that results in music like this).

The music suits my somewhat dark and contemplative nature. It can occasionally be a bit pretentious or jejune, but for the most part it is creative and intelligent. I hope to introduce a few bands over a couple of posts.

One of the first groups I got into was Miranda Sex Garden. Originally a trio of madrigal singers, the group has gone through a number of incarnations, and the core has always been the singer Katherine Blake. She has a beautiful, clear, and strong voice, and is trained in medieval music, and the band's songs, which can out and out rock or be reasonably experimental, use it to great effect. She also has another group, Mediaeval Baebes, which apart from the enjoyably campy presentation evident in their name, are pretty much a straightforward singing group that does medieval music.

And now some music from Miranda Sex Garden in their rocking, experimental phase...

...and in their earlier madrigalish phase:

More info:
Miranda Sex Garden: website, myspace.
Mediaeval Baebes: website, myspace.


crystal said...

Oooh! I'll come back and listen later. That band makes me think of Dead Can Dance though I guess they're pretty different. Band names :)

Liam said...

Actually, I'm sure these people have listened a lot to Dead Can Dance and the Cocteau Twins.

Jen said...

Wild Thing in 6/8? Wouldn't happen to have a recording of that, do you? The darkwave I've heard I really like, but a lot of the other types of goth music just seem self-indulgent.

Liam said...

I have a recording on cassette, but eventually I will convert it to CD/MP3. It's pretty rockin'

cowboyangel said...

Pretty cool. La Reina liked the 2nd one in particular. But then she's been listening to a lot of medieval stuff lately.

I'm looking forward to further installments in the series.

Garpu said...

FYI, a friend of mine is moving to New York (city of), and I sent her your way. She's looking for a good parish and stuff.