Review Summary: A great example of "real" experimental music.
Experimental music is becoming quite popular these days. No, wait. I don’t want to say that. Being labeled as experimental is becoming quite popular these days. I don’t know if bands claim to be experimental because they think it will appeal to more “intellectual” music listeners, or if they genuinely think adding a keyboardist to the group makes you qualify for the genre. Personally, I’m a little tired of checking out “experimental” indie bands to only find that they’re just another Angels and Airwaves rip-off.
So, what’s a lover of real experimental music like me to do? Well, I guess the only thing to do is to keep sifting through all the bands that classify themselves under this genre hoping that one of these days I can find one that’s truly unique. Sometimes I get lucky. Sometimes I run across bands like Von Spar. And let me tell you, Von Spar is one of those bands that are really unique.
Just pick up their self-titled album, released in 2008, and see for your self. Once you play the first of the two twenty-minute long tracks and hear the slow buildup of dissonant, droning voices, followed by an outburst of tribal drumming and incoherent screaming, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And yeah, you heard me right: This album is composed of two twenty-minute songs. So if you’re someone who doesn’t have the patience for long songs, you might want to pass on this CD.
I admit, Von Spar’s music doesn’t “get to the point” quickly. I wouldn’t classify it as “minimal” though. As far as song structure goes, the songs on this album are comparable to most of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s works. Although no separate movements are clarified in the song titles, the songs could easily be separated into their very different sounding parts. They can shift gears from eerie ambient soundscapes to electro-pop, from sludgy death metal to avant-garde jazz. Also similarly to the above-mentioned post rock band, crescendos and build-ups are an important aspect of the band’s sound. This can lead to the music becoming a little repetitive, but usually when it gets to the point where the repetition becomes boring, the music morphs into something new.
There isn’t too much to complain about, at least not for an experimental music aficionado like myself. However, I’m going to refrain from giving this record a 5, because Von Spar’s self-titled album has become one of those discs I can only pop in the player when I’m in a certain mood. For example, this isn’t something I would jam out to in the car. This is more something I would study to or use as background music. This makes sense when you consider the repetitive nature of the music. Rather than use catchy riffs and vocal hooks to entice the listener, Von Spar utilizes a plethora of weird instruments and sound effects to build up tension and emotion (by emotion, I probably just mean an unsettling atmosphere). If this is the kind of music you’re used to, you’ll fall in love with this CD. If not, you should at least give it a listen. If you don’t find any replay value in it, you can at least use this music to scare the kids that come up to your porch when Halloween rolls around.