There have been many times while listening to music when I’ve made the remark that I wish I could hear just certain layers – either because of the distracting nature of a certain instrument, or a misplaced vocal, etc.
It’s for this very reason that I love the instrumental versions of albums that sometimes get released. Since I’ve already written about it this year, look at Forgive Durden’s instrumental version of Razia’s Shadow. When there’s any type of vocals going on, the listener is far less likely to pay attention to the instrumentation.
Especially frustrating: when the vocals hamper what is otherwise an excellent creation. I want to use the example of How to Destroy Angels here, but it’s just because I can’t stand a female vocal on top of something that Trent Reznor has made.
Lightning Bolt (best known for being one of the “weirdest bands in the world” – and by best, I actually mean one website’s opinion) take the idea of the multiple layers of a group down to its barren core – the rhythm section. The band is the brothers Brian – Gibson and Chappendale (not kidding). And they’re not really brothers. Sorry for the confusion, I guess.
And unlike “traditional” drum and bass acts – the terrible genre best associated with club rats – Lightning Bolt play a brand of abrasive, caustic noise characterized by overdriven vocals, pitch-shifting and fuzzed-out bass, and speedy drums.
My first run-in with the band was after the release of their fourth record, Wonderful Rainbow. Because of the type of sounds being generated, I honestly believed that I was listening to a guitar. But Gibson (bassist) has somehow doctored his set-up to mimic the loudness of an overdriven guitar – but that wouldn’t be possible if he wasn’t able to play at near light speeds, which he clearly is. It’s a feat and a half.
LB is well known for playing on the ground at shows, even in the middle of a crowd. This type of intimate connection with an audience is probably unique to punk bands and rappers/hip-hop groups, because I haven’t seen any other artist outside of the genre try it with any real success.
The problem with Ride the Skies is that it falls off a cliff after track four. And because it stands at only eight tracks, half the album is a chore to listen to. “Forcefield,” “Saint Jacques,” “Ride the Sky,” and especially “13 Monsters” are all jam-up. They’re Lightning Bolt… wait for it… something something, striking it big?
But starting with “The Faire Folk,” and continuing on with “Into the Mist 2,” “Wee Ones Parade” and “Rotator,” the tail end of Ride the Skies is an experiment in musical masochism. “Wee Ones Parade” just sounds like two basses alternating, as though they are talking to each other. It’s clever, and I know it takes an immense amount of talent to make an instrument sing like Brian Gibson does, but man: this type of music will give you a headache after while. So listen with care, I suppose.
From 2001’s Ride the Skies, this is Lightning Bolt’s “13 Monsters” –
Standout tracks: the first half of this album.
Weakest track: the second half of this album.
RIYL: Noise punk… noise in general. If you value bassists more than you really should, that too.