Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vol. 6 - Transience

This week's post comes courtesy of Tyler and brings us from the tangible (Gundam) to the intangible. Aesop's still on tour and will rejoin the fold next week.

Adam: The Endless Blockade - Perfection

To me, this noise track on the Endless Blockade's most recent masterpiece, Primitive, is the first thing I think of when I think transience. The actual noise section of "Perfection" is book-ended by two eerie and nebulous samples, one an apparent radio transmission and the other an awkward conversation on religion. In between this comes a relatively brief burst of harsh noise with the gruffer of the two vocalists spouting off about Man's interpretation and understanding of a higher power in something much more intellectual than standard, punk credo of "NO GOD NO MASTERS" or "FUCK GOD." Ending on the line "Man understands divinity like a dog understands electricity," the song quickly flows back into the aforementioned conversation before fading out into oblivion.

Chris: Orchid - …and the Cat Turned to Smoke

Not to be too much of a downer, but in my life, the most transient things have been people. They kind of flit in and out of my life before fading out, for whatever reason. While not everyone is like this, certainly a fair amount of people I meet only are in my life for a seemingly short period of time, whether as friends or acquaintances, lovers or enemies. Screamo legend Orchid’s “…and the Cat Turned to Smoke” lyrically captures the transience of such relationships well. The song opens with the lines, “ we smiled and said,/ ‘I’ll see you this summer’”/-but we knew it was over.”; another romantic relationship has gone and died silently. On a more sonic level, the song transitions from Orchid’s trademark aural clusterfuck sound to more melancholic dirges, finally ending with violins fading to a dull hum. Life goes on.

Bitsy: Rites Of Spring - Patience

I know little to nothing about transience involved with music theory, but I do know of one band that could easily be pinned to the idea of a short-lived music career. Rites Of Spring, a post hardcore group, reigning just for two short years in the mid 1980s, had a pretty sizable impact among the D.C. hardcore punk scene. Putting out only one studio album (self-titled), one EP, and one compilation during their two active years, the band was around just long enough to make some waves within their genre. Their career quickly fizzled out as the members dispersed, pursuing other interests. All history lessons aside, to better signify the whole transient theme revolving around Rites Of Spring, I chose the shortest track off of their compilation, End on End. A brief song from a band that ended as quickly as it formed— “Patience” is a good sampling of Rites Of Spring.

Tyler: Rosa – Starch and Carbohydrates

It took forever for me to land on "Starch and Carbohydrates," as my own topic reduced to me to shuffling my Zune towards the end of the week, hoping for something that was better than merely ‘unsettling’. Acoustic-punkers Rosa made one album in 2003, I, Mississippi, You, then broke up. Transience embodied (That link is basically the only page about them this side of a fan Myspace). "Starch and Carbohydrates" is a ragged little thumper of a tune, uncertain and unpolished, and it ends perfectly for this mixtape. Start ain’t bad, either, considering this alternate definition.

Hasan: Portal - Circle

Though we may understand what Portal is getting at with its main chorus: "just when the circle's drawn, just then the circle's gone." It's the subtle interactions between the lyrics and harmonies of this song that really present a deep and positive view on transience and impermanence. Through these layers and interactions we understand that just as the circle's gone, a new one is drawn, this is best exemplified through lyrics such as:

I am winter dormant in my solitude
You are spring alive and with new growth
I am summer burning in my beatitude
You are fall shedding leaves grown old

Just when the circle's drawn
Just then the circle's gone
The circle's gone

I am petals found in frail wayside flowers
You are wind blowing bare open
I am sunlight showering the rays of play
You are sand soft yet hard as stone

Paul Masvidal and Aruna Abrams beautifully deliver their lyrics with the message that with life there is death and with death there is also a new beginning, it goes full circle. Enjoy!

Jason: December Wolves - The Night That I Died

Transience is a pretty vague topic for sure. In audio engineering, a transient is a short increase in sound output, defined usually by the attack of an instrument. Using this definition, any song or even noise would qualify. However, I decided to also deal with the definition of passing in and out, passing from this life onto whatever lays ahead. December Wolves were an incredibly promising black metal band in the mid to late 90's that released one amazing album, Til Ten Years. After that, they went nuts, and went in a different direction entirely.

Quinn: Josh Ritter – “The Temptation Of Adam”

I took this week’s theme pretty literally, deciding to focus on acoustic guitar and its strength as an instrument. It’s so often the foundation upon which music is crafted as so many songs will begin on acoustic only to flourish into something bigger. It’s an instrument that brings people together (e.g. campfire sing-a-longs) or transforms the most poppy songs into something entirely new.

I was trying to think of some song done by some artist during the period of 1950-1970. You know…one man, one guitar, tons of reverb, epic sound? Have you ever heard Neil Young’s performance of “Old Man” from Live at Massey Hall 1971? It’s some deep stuff. Instead of choosing a well-known classic, I decided to shine some light on a lesser known artist and chose Josh Ritter’s “The Temptation Of Adam.” The song is enthralling and insanely poignant, even without the brass and string embellishments. I imagine Ritter grabbed an old wooden chair, sat in front of a mic, and played. It’s an example of how the company of an acoustic guitar can make a story all the more engaging and intimate.

Asa: Swervedriver - Son Of Mustang Ford

Transience speaks to me as a state of constant motion, whether physically, throughout life or otherwise. While I wouldn't want to subject myself to constant coming and going, I can't lie either: sometimes life stands still for too long. During these times, the yearning for an escape is overwhelming, and no band captures that longed-for rush like Swervedriver. Like many fans and critics, I assumed the band's melodic-wall-of-sound tunes to be mostly about cars until frontman Adam Franklin informed me last year that while this was partially true, many of his works were concerned "pining for something else, like a new place to live or a new person to hang out with." I knew that feeling as well as any other. Let's ride.

Jess: Om - At Giza

Om transcend the unconscious. “At Giza” best represents this fluidity. From the beginning, feel the nerves loosen to gaseous states, lifting solid matter several inches from the ground on which it should rest. This two-piece progress psychedelic adventures beyond familiarity. Similar chords and tones remind of late ‘60s groove, the kind my parents would swing to as teenagers. But there’s more to Om that even grey-haired hippies can’t comprehend. Om orchestrate a mind-numbing, psychedelic trip from sun-baked rooftops. Although only 15 minutes, this may as well last for days. The sun rises, the sun sets, and Om transcend throughout consciousness like a swirling stream of thick smoke. Relax.

Download the Transience mixtape HERE.


  1. Hahaha. Wrong Portal, Adam. Trippy-hippie post-Cynic band Portal is mad different from scary Aussie black metal band portal.

  2. Yeah I though it was from the video game at first, what a rip off.

  3. I love Neil Young. Such a amazing singer.

    -Zane of ontario honey