Now Hear This 2004

by PopMatters Staff

1 January 2004

 
NOW HEAR THIS 2004   Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters’ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Prospect for Inspiring Matthew Barney’s Next Feature-Length Music Video
EVENING

You may find yourself growing an unhealthy attachment to Evening‘s Other Victorians; it’s the kind of album that you won’t allow even your closest friends to borrow. Over the past few years, this San Francisco based quintet has earned itself a devoted Northern California following, which has grown exponentially since the release of their lovingly crafted debut on Lookout! Records earlier this year. Other Victorians is the product of years of musicianship and camaraderie, its strength lying in the band’s ability to capture the volatility of emotion while maintaining a keen aural aesthetic. It is so incredibly cinematic that it wouldn’t be surprising if Matthew Barney made a feature-length film out of it, a la Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The title is key. “Other Victorians,” a term coined by writer Steven Marcus, was used to describe the “other” of prudish 19th century society, the fringe that liberated themselves from the confines of socially imposed repression by talking openly about sex. Singer Matthew Rist builds from this philosophical principle by addressing alienation, drugs, and sex in his lyrics. The record is permeated with this sensibility and, upon close listening, sounds like a day in the life of these alienated “others” as narrated by Rist’s piercing, insistent vocals. It begins like a forceful sunrise that heralds their “spacecrafts landing” and commences after their return to space with the beckoning whispers of “‘Do you dare me to sit in the saucer?’ ‘I dare you.’” The latter is a nod to George’s Bataille’s novel, Story of the Eye. Though Bataille was musing over the masturbatory possibilities of a “saucer of milk,” the quote neatly ties into the UFO theme while also creating a dialogue, the musical “other” daring you to liberate yourself, to consider another perspective.

The songs in between are just as fluid and elegantly stitched. “Breastmilk Saves Sixteen at Sea” evokes a fairy-tale like landscape before taking a more sinister turn. “Wither in Bloom” has a similar transition: dissonant guitar riffs slice into its initial detachment, as if to release bottled-up tension. Zach Brewer’s bass is the steady voice of reason while Brian Kim’s intricate drumming consistently moves things forward. The effects laden banter of guitarists Lee Burik and Patrik Sklenar provide an instrumental that is as nostalgic and honeyed as it is cooly distant in “That’s Not A Melody” and later (in “A Given Time - part one”) reward you with a sudden harmony that is like the sweetest climax you’ve ever had.

Other Victorians is an astral communication whose multilayered confections are not to be overlooked. The only thing more impressive than this meticulously produced debut is seeing Evening perform live. Whether it be at a notable venue in San Francisco or a renowned music festival like CMJ (NYC) or SXSW (Austin, TX) their talent is clearly visible. They play their instruments without hesitation, alternating decisive strikes with caresses. Their electric presence may move you to choreograph interpretive dance if you don’t find yourself frozen, grasping for the words to communicate the experience.

— Sasha Denisoff

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