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Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

[ATTENDED: September 13, 2014] King Crimsonkc

When I saw that King Crimson was touring I asked some friends if I should go see them.  I’ve been a fan more in theory than in practice.  I like a lot of their stuff, always planned to listen to them more, but I barely scratched the surface of their output (they’re the kind of band who has released dozens and dozens of things with varying project names and incarnations and since they’ve been recording since 1969, it’s daunting to say the least).

So when two friends basically said they’d give their eye teeth to see the show, it was a quick decision to get my tickets.

It was time to brush up on my back catalog.  I had no idea what they’d be playing, so it was something of a crap shoot what discs to look into.  As it turned out between the two old CDs and the one live CD that I bought, I covered nearly everything that they played.  And that was pretty awesome.  I had grown to really enjoy the CDs over the last few months and to see it done in front of me was… well, it was amazing.

King Crimson haven’t toured since 2008, and I have never seen them before.  This line up was new for the touring band as well.  It was the first time that Adrian Belew hadn’t toured with them in decades.  But there were some old favorites playing:  Tony Levin, frequent KC contributor and amazing bassist (bass and more); Mel Collins, played with KC in the 70s but hasn’t since, and here he is (Sax, flute); Jakko Jakszyk, recent contributor to Fripp’s projects and the real unknown for me (guitar, vocals).  And then the three, yes, three drummers: Gavin Harrison has played with KC before (drums), Bill Rieflin, mostly known for playing with Ministry (!) (drums), Pat Mastelotto has played with KC before, including with Bill Bruford (drums).  And of course Robert Fripp (guitar).

So, do you need three drummers?  Isn’t that overkill?
Yes and yes.

The three drummers were utterly amazing and they were the focus of the show.  As you can see from the photo, the drums were out front so you could watch everything.

Before I get into the show, The Kimmel Center is beautiful and the sound was amazing.  I had first row balcony seats.  My one seating gripe: I was in front of Fripp, but he basically sat sideways facing the stage (and his wall of gadgets) so I never really got to see him do anything. He was in profile most of the night, and I saw his hands moving, but that was it.  So, next time, pick stage left to sit.  Also, bring binoculars, because why not.

Back to the three drummers up front.  Mastelotto on the left (I could see him perfectly), Rieflin in the center and Harrison on the right (profile, but he was very visible).  Behind, l-r Collins, Levin, Jakko and Fripp.

As I said, though, it was all about the drums. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_08_26_13Drooker.inddSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Negatron (1995).

negatronAfter The Outer Limits failed to grab an audience, Voivod’s lead singer Snake departed the band.  With just the two original members left (and no bassist or singer), Piggy and Away decided to start again.  And they went dark and heavy.  For the first 45 second of this album, you think, wow, Voivod has made a really heavy album—with thundering riffs and, yet still, some unusual chords from Piggy (the chord progressions are definitely still weird).  Then new singer (and bassist) E-Force opens his mouth.  And that’s when a good portion of Voivod’s  prog rock fan base started weeping.

E-Force is a screamer.  He’s not unlike Snake on the first couple of albums (although without the French accent).  But there’s very little diversity.  E-Force’s voice isn’t a total failure.  It works pretty well with the heaviness of the music.  But those of us who grew used to Snake’s singing can’t help but be disappointed by E-Force’s very limited range and style.

Opener “Insects” has some very cool parts and the music is kind of interesting—Piggy is always inventive and it’s cool to hear him mix some of his weird chords with such heavy music (the style is kind of like Killing Technology era but heavier and weirder).  And there’s some sequences where the chords are just bizarre and cool.  There is a bridge in “Insects” where E-Force sounds a bit like Snake and it’s like a great heavy Voivod album of old.

Speaking of heavy, Away sounds like he is having a great time banging the hell out of his drums.  I feel somewhat surprised that after the last few albums of mellowing out that both guys could ramp up to play so fast and heavy again.  “Project X” gives E-Force some room to do some different vocal styles (like on the first bridge which is actually kind of catchy), but the song is more pounding than exciting,

“Nanoman” brings some diversity, with a standard, but cool metal riff (and double bass drums). It also has a chorus that you can sing along to (or scream along to at any rate).  “Reality?” is by now standard scream fare, but there is a chorus “upside down reality” in which E-Force shows he can actually sing and that part is quite good.  “Negatron” is over 7 minutes long, and yet there s very little prog at hand.  It does have some astonishingly noisy dissonant chords, though.  “Planet Hell” opens with a bass riff that stands out a bit on this pounding album.  But it quickly begins to sound like much else of the album.  I do like the middle of the song where it breaks down into alternating guitar and drum breaks.

Starting with “Meteor” the album gets a little more interesting.  There’s more high notes in this song, especially in the bridge—it’s still heavy and bludgeoning but there is some diversity here.  I haven’t talked about the lyrics on the albums mostly because I can’t make them out, but on this song you can actually hear the lyrics and you can tell that they’re also not really up to snuff: “I don’t fucking care, I don’t care no more, I don’t give a shit.”

“Cosmic Conspiracy” opens with a simple echoing guitar line.  It introduces a sci-fi element that the album has sorely lacked.  Between that and the heavy drums and the crunchy bass, the song sounds really promising.  Indeed, when E-Force starts singing, it’s muffled in an interesting way.  And mid way through, it breaks into just martial drumming from Away.  This is the diversity we’ve been looking for.  There’s even an impressive (an interestingly effected) drum solo.  Then the guitars that kick in are fairly traditional but actually fun speed metal.  Sadly, E-Force’s voice doesn’t work with this section and kind of ruins it, which is a shame.  There’s some interesting guitar work in the end of the song but it’s kind of drowned out by E-Froce’s screams.  “Bio-TV” has a staccato sound that breaks up the pummeling.  And the middle has a kind of pretty guitar riff (and a simplistic sing along section that sounds great amidst the chaos).

The final track is by far the most interesting and unusual.  It is called “D.N.A” which stands for “Don’t know Anything” (seriously).  But what’s unexpected is that the song is primarily written by and sung by Jim Thriwell (of Foetus).  It’s not entirely clear if Piggy’s guitar is even on it (it is so distorted beyond guitar that it could be anything), although you do hear some chords near the end.  Away’s drums are in the mix somewhere (it may indeed be all machines).  It sounds like a Ministry/Skinny Puppy hybrid, and I would have preferred that electronic direction to the fairly generic death metal sound of the album.  I’m really not sure what to make of this song.  If you like noisy industrial music, this is an unexpectedly interesting track and surely a weird place to look for something like this.

There is a degree of irony that Blacky left to play more electronic music and Voivod recorded “DNA”.  But even more ironic is that Snake left in part to start a much more heavy hardcore band (Union Made) and then the next Voivod album was the heaviest they’d done.  It’s cool that Voivod is ever evolving, but this is a weird sidestep in a career of progression.  It’s not a failure, but it takes a number of listens to find the gems within the noise.

[READ: September 17, 2013] “The Tribal Rite of the Strombergs”

This Simon Rich story is very funny.  It begins (as the picture that accompanies it shows us) with Scrabble.  Jeremy is playing his father.  Jeremy always loses to his father.  And yet, Jeremy reveals that he has been playing Words with Friends (his father doesn’t know what that is).  And through Words with Friends he has learned that words like “qat” are playable (his father doubts the word but doesn’t challenge).

It soon becomes clear (because Jeremy can see the score) that although he is losing, it’s close enough that he might, for the first time, be able to beat his father.

When Jeremy plays Ta (a word they have always used), his father challenges.  But it is useless.  Jeremy’s father has a Z and that should do it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SLEIGH BELLS-Live at SXSW (2010).

Sleigh Bells were a very polarizing band last year.  Their album made many year end best of lists, but they were also hated by many music fans as well.  I fell somewhere in the middle.  They reminded me of The Go! Team, but without their quirky aspects.  Nevertheless, I found their songs to be a kind of industrial-lite, maybe a baby Ministry or something.  And that was interesting.

So I was intrigued by their live set which I downloaded from NPR’s All Songs Considered.  Their set is plagued by technical malfunctions.  And although they are the headliners (I guess, I don’t really know how SXSW works) their set barely ekes out to 25 minutes.  But they are very apologetic and seem to be nice enough folks.

They manage to play 6 songs (2 songs are beset with disaster–they restart “A/B Machines” but give up on the second to last song altogether and play a different one).  Their onstage dynamic was interesting (at first I thought they weren’t going to talk to the crowd at all, but once the machines broke, they were quite amiable).  I gather the whole band was Derek Miller playing guitar and all the samples and Alexis Krauss singing (she’s really out of breath when the song malfunctions, so she must be quite an energetic performer).  Their set impressed me enough to want to check out their CD for real (I only listened to one song when it made all those lists).

This is an interesting set, especially if you like to hear a band cope with technical difficulties.

[READ: March 28, 2011] “Fictional Houses”

This third piece in The Walrus’ 2005 Summer Reading issue is more of a photo essay than anything.  But the premise behind it is really great (and it is included in the Fiction section of the magazine).

The essay explains that in neighborhoods across Canada, hydro companies created electrical substations to handle power for those communities.  But rather than allow huge electrical monstrosities to reside in these communities, they corporations built full houses around them.  These houses were not simple facades but actual houses with electricity and which really gave the appearance of families living there (even though no one ever would).  That is an amazingly thoughtful thing for a huge corporation to do.

Now, since these stations are no longer needed, the houses are being sold off. Collyer made a point of travelling around to as many as were still extant to take pictures of them.  The pictures themselves don’t speak much because they are simply normal houses that blend in with the community.  But it’s amazing seeing the seven houses and seeing how very different they are.  The two in Toronto are quite lovely two-story houses.  Indeed the one on Spadina Road, with the trees grown in, is quite lovely (see below).  The houses in Scarborough are smaller affairs but are not too shabby either. (more…)

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