Don’t you just love hunting down new music? I do. For me there’s nothing quite like unearthing a shiny new gem of glorious sound from the undergrowth. Something that catches your attention for one reason or another and really gets your juices flowing, a hook that stays in your head, playing over and over in your mind’s iPod even when you’ve stopped listening and you are off taking a leak or chopping up your vegetables for your dinner. I love that feeling when you have found that gem, and given it a couple of listens so it’s at the point where it’s just sinking in to your consciousness, when the little highlights of any given track or album are starting to stand out and you look forward to them as they approach. Or when the first bars of a new favourite track begin to play, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end with anticipation. It’s a bit like that feeling when you are at a gig, the buzz of a restless crowd filling the arena all waiting for their heroes to appear, and then suddenly the lights drop and you feel that surge of adrenalin course through your veins as the first chords vibrate through your body and the cheers and the whistles and the sounds of the band fill the auditorium. Music is such a powerful force.
I envy those that make it, music that is. I played the drums for a while when i was a kid, and loved it, and then picked up a bass a little bit later and loved that too, even at the novice level with which I played there was such satisfaction in nailing a song from start to finish. Incidentally, the rhythm section in any band is the heartbeat of the music and deserves way more credit than it ever gets – just saying. Ok, back to the plot. I know how I feel when i listen to good music, so being able to write and play the kind of music you love must be such a rewarding experience, kinda like a drug, but at the same time cathartic? To be able to turn your feelings, whatever they may be, into music must be like being able to speak a foreign language like it’s your first? I can only imagine how good that feels and it’s something I’ll never know, however I am completely content to stand on the other side and be on the receiving end of the creativity. I love it.
And like I said I love seeking it out. There are so many different ways to do that now. You have to love the internet, it has changed the game completely in terms of providing a platform for talent to be noticed and discussed, for people to get their sound out to the masses and for the wildfire that is word of mouth and social networking sites to turn a spark into a full blown inferno. It used to be a case of reading the magazines, or checking out a tape a friend had recommended. And then MTV came along. People can say what they like about MTV but without it i may never have discovered The Mars Volta, which believe me, would have been very, very bad! I used to rely a lot on things like Amazon and iTunes reviews too, before the days when they offered you a snippet of sound to make your own judgment, and it was always a question of evaluating the opinions of others before deciding whether to take the plunge and invest your hard earned cash into something that, when it finally dropped onto your doormat all wrapped up in cellophane and cardboard, you might not actually like. But now that has changed. Now you can do your research – there are a host of new music finder Apps. You can find something that looks interesting, whack it into YouTube and make an informed opinion. Obviously there are a million ways to ‘rip’ music now too, you don’t even have to pay for it anymore, which I think is wrong (and a topic worthy of discussion all by itself) but I guess that’s the flip-side to all the new found exposure that aspiring artists now enjoy?
So, with all that said, when you stumble across a band that have been around for fifteen years and have effectively called it a day, you can be forgiven for thinking, ‘Shit, how the hell did i miss them?’ I’ve just recently discovered the RX Bandits, fifteen years too late! And that’s really frustrating, cos I have been heavily into The Mars Volta since they formed, and both bands have a lot in common. They both hail from the same part of the world, they both have a free flowing, progressive sound that is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole and absolutely unique to each band, and the members of both bands have numerous side projects that have crossed paths and shared stages and tours and distribution labels alike. So how could I not know about them? Don’t ask me, I don’t know! I guess now the right question to ask would be, ‘How did I finally find out about them?’ Well that answer I obviously do know, and pretty much needless to say it does begin with TMV. Omar Rodriguez Lopez, the prolific genius behind The Mars Volta has several brothers, who have a band of their own called Zechs Marquise. Another fabulous collection of musicians who make the kind of music that deem hallucinogenics completely redundant. It’s described as progressive rock but that really does it no justice whatsoever, because this is nothing like Dream Theater or Rush. No this is something else, this is something on a wholly different level. I don’t know how these guys write their music but you get the impression that it just happens, that when these guys get together the music just spills freely from their being. Their music is completely and wholly immersive, it wraps you in a blanket of sublime weirdness and pulls you into the speakers. The outside world just ebbs away until you are sailing all on your own in an ocean of rich, luxurious, almost ominous sound. It is ear candy at it’s finest. I strongly urge anybody who may stray across this to check out their music. Their first album, ‘Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare’ hinted at the sheer majesty that was to come, and arrive it did in the form of their second full length LP, ‘Getting Paid’ in 2011.
Anyway, getting back to the point, I do really like to ramble for which I don’t apologize But yeah, Zechs came along and as is very evident, blew me away. And as I kept digging, the name RX Bandits kept appearing. So naturally I checked them out and was struck instantly by something that was very special. I kept thinking that they sounded a lot like TMV but different. Maybe a little more fluid, a little less structured and contrived. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that that’s a bad thing as far as The Volta are concerned, it gets levied at them all the time, but I love that about them. And anybody that has witnessed TMV in full flow freewheeling during a live set will know that in that setting they are anything but contrived. I remember the first time I saw them at the much missed Astoria in London, a tiny little gem of an arena they’ve since knocked down to build a fucking railway. Anyway I’d had a nice smoke outside before the doors opened, so i was nicely baked, and they came out and exploded onto the stage like a hurricane with an afro, launching into a ‘De-Loused…’ jam session that had an effect on me like an out of body experience. Sure my body was sat there in that arena, but my head was spinning out into the atmosphere on some kind of Mars induced vortex. It was without doubt the most amazing gig I have ever been to.
But the RXB’s have a more earthy, soulful feel about them. Hints of reggae and ska, mixed with smooth, acid jazzy sounds combining with a constant underlying punky edge, makes them completely unique. Matt Embree’s expressive, soulful voice, he is a wonderful lyricist, combined with musicianship of the highest caliber and songwriting skills few will ever likely match for passion, feel and originality make this band shine out like a beacon of how music should be conceived and executed. It is pure musical brilliance and it hasn’t been out of my player since I discovered it about six months ago. Actually I lie. The only time anything else has been in my player is when, through the RXB’s I discovered The Sound Of Animals Fighting. This post is already two paragraphs longer than I expected it to be but please, just do yourself a huge favour and check out this band, and their third album, ‘The Ocean And The Sun’. For fear of sounding like something out of the ‘Moron Hag Wives of Orange County’ – OH MY GOD! It is as good as anything I own, and I own everything good. TSOAF are a collective of musicians from a bunch of other more established bands, including the RXB’s, Finch, Circa Survive, and a couple of others. I cannot describe it, you just have to listen to it, and because I just love to share the good stuff, you can hear it below from start to finish. Turn the lights down low, skin yourself a nice fat joint and just let it take you to a very wonderful place.
Ok, so in conclusion, cos I need to stop writing at some point (and you need to listen to this music), what exactly am I getting at? Well, I started this post by talking about the joy of seeking out and searching for new music, and then I pondered and continue to wonder how it is, given the way technology has provided us so many new resources to find it, that occasionally we miss out when it is there slapping us in the face, right between the eyes, screaming at us, ‘CHECK ME OUT, YOU’RE GONNA LOVE ME!’ So although it can feel a little frustrating that you were completely oblivious when the music was current, the music we love, when we eventually find it, will always be current to us as individuals, and at least when you come in 15 years late to a band, there is a huge pile of back catalogue for you to feast on and explore and indulge upon like a greedy little school kid in a chocolate factory. So now it’s time for you to get your hands and face and all your clothes dirty, and check out all the lovely sugary sweet chocolate below. I promise you won’t get sick! Enjoy.
RX Bandits – Mientras La Veo Sonar
Zechs Marquise – The Heat, The Drought, The Thirst, The Insanity
The Sound Of Animals Fighting – The Ocean And The Sun