March 2004 Archives

Travel plans are always so

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Travel plans are always so difficult to organise, particularly when one wants to base the travel around seeing bands live.

My #2 on the must see list have added a few more gigs to the list, in particular one that interests me - Thur, June 24th Helsinki, Finland - with support Rapture

Seeing these two bands play at the same gig displays the kind of thoughtful symmetry one rarely sees in support bands.

Rapture are the band who took up the crown Katatonia discarded when they decided to exit the doom death/black genre in which they germinated. By starting from such an already advanced position, Rapture have managed to polish and refine the style into something quite beautiful.

Contrasted against this, we have Katatonia the butterfly finally emerged from it's chrysalis dramatically changed yet when you look closely the markings that characterised the larval stage are still there

Looks like I will be visiting Finland twice!

Its funny how different countries have wildly varying definitions of the same word, this is particularly true with cooking, where the US style of cooking seems somewhat odd to me, especially with it's twisted usage of sweet techniques in savoury cooking. A lot of this seems to be related to the readily accessible highly processed products that although intended for one purpose are perverted due to their omnipresence in the American kitchen.

Distractedly surfing on on the weekend I came across a whole heap of recipes for "jelly" salads, personally as soon as I found out what gelatine was made of - I pretty much stopped eating it. However I'm sure most people would be amazed if not disgusted to think of gelatine being combined with carrots and celery in a savoury salad.

If I was at all interested, the vegan alternative is agar agar which is processed from seaweed. Many gourmet chefs are adopting agar as it is a more versatile culinary tool, setting faster, requiring more heat to melt and possessing a different texture to animal derived gelatine.

The other area I find particularly disturbing is the concept of quick breads - yes when made well, there can be exceptions (irish soda bread), but these are basically a perversion of cakes. To me, bread is made with yeast and cake with chemical raising agents. Just because the ingredients are savoury - why call them bread?

On Saturday I made pumpkin bread, which I was quite happy with, particularly the way I carefully under-kneaded the dough to get a speckled orange and white pattern to the crumb. However I used yeast, this being bread and all. Looking on the net today, I saw so many recipes for pumpkin bread using baking powder and canned pumpkin. I don't even think I have ever seen pumpkin in a can!

Unholy / Rapture -

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Unholy / Rapture - 1996

This release came late in the atmospheric/doom movement, if it had been the work of a new act - one may have felt vindicated in accusations of bandwagon jumping.

However Unholy were not new, just back from the dead and once you reach first name terms with this release it becomes abundantly clear why Unholy felt the need to reform.

There were many different approaches to this niche of dark music, some came from death metal, often with the aim of reintroducing some of the heavy sludge that characterised early Black Sabbath. Others came (or went) via gothic music whilst some of the true pioneers approached from a punk/hardcore/guitar noise background.

Regardless in 1996, Unholy produced a little known masterpiece. Steeped in atmosphere and perversely beautiful, it's hard to pin down exactly what changed in the period of their hiatus. Potentially they were just ahead of their time and needed to have the whole doom scene explode and then implode before people were ready for their unique brand of melancholy. There were of course lineup changes the most important of which was the recruitment of a later permanent female vocalist/keyboardist. In addition, the remaining members became better and more confident musicians.

One might try and dismiss Unholy as a Neurosis clone, however this denies the dramatically different evolutionary path each band took to get to a similar end goal. Like most releases in the atmospheric genre, Rapture must be enjoyed as a whole - or in the immortal words of Kyuss "listen without distraction".

Employing a significant amount of repetition, Unholy's music is definitely not for all, in particular you need to have the ability to let the repetition wash over you and instead look at each song on a macro level where it becomes apparent how the same refrain actually evolves ever so slowly.

The first two tracks mostly serve to set up the tone of the album, with opener "Into Cold Light" forming an extended intro and the second track "Petrified Spirits" adding a little more melody and variety into the doom filled tone.

Reaching the third track "For the unknown one" we find what is by far the most approachable song for an uninitiated listener, primarily due to it's haunting female vox.

Contrasting this accessibility we reach wunderwreck which the band themselves describe as "like saying fuck off using music"

Thankfully after the admittedly difficult wunderwreck, the band take a more upbeat tack with "after god" being driven by a strong bass line. The following track "Unzeitergist" continues the upbeat bass driven feel but adds a simple but enchanting nursery rhyme inspired key melody.

After lulling the listener into a temporary respite with two almost upbeat songs, the band hits back with a two part oppressive closing statement.

Firstly comes "wretched" which is in essence military phrased snare countered by laconic guitar and cathedral organ styled keys. It's overt simplicity belies much of the evolution and variations on a theme that is the signature of Unholy.

Closer deluge is an amazingly effective piece with a lovely soaring bridge and definitely a track of choice to listen to whilst enjoying a relaxing walk in the rain.

Not yet equalled by any other release, this album's strengths are the finely balanced juxtaposition of beauty and melancholy and the slow, almost glacial pace at which refrains evolve.

At present Unholy are no more, and one thinks it might be for good as these talented Finns should be content with a sterling career, the high point being Rapture.

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