Okay, this is one of those artists that, for some reason, everyone I know who listens really likes, yet no one has ever seemed to hear of him! And no no no, this is not some “I got more indie-cred than you” things, read any post here and you know my indie-cred is in the bottom of a motel toilet (assuming I ever had it in the first place). So, if you know Bryan Scary, pretty sweet, eh? If not, well I’m very excited to bring it today! Not just because I think his & his Shredding Tears latest effort The Flight Of The Knife is brilliant, but also because it allows me to talk about my favourite made-up genre…. Indie-prog (©2007 tsururadio.com).
I probably turn more people off this site just by labeling a band as “Indie-prog, I can see it just tweak a few people out, you know? But let’s look at the evidence shall we? First, the “indie” part… is he on a major label? Nope. Does he display some modern pop & rock sensibilities that are decidedly not mainstream? Yep.Okay, check done.
Great, now the “prog” portion. Defining prog is like defining any other genre, it means a little something different to each person, but I was surprised to find a description up on wikipedia of all places, normally just a good place for a quick “fact” check or a handy tool to gather information for a political speech, that really seemed to nail it.
Some dude on Wikipedia wrote….
Form: Progressive rock songs either avoid common popular music song structures of verse-chorus-bridge, or blur the formal distinctions by extending sections or inserting musical interludes, often with exaggerated dynamics to heighten contrast between sections. Classical forms are often inserted or substituted, sometimes yielding entire suites, building on the traditional medleys of earlier rock bands. Progressive rock songs also often have extended instrumental passages, marrying the classical solo tradition with the improvisational traditions of jazz and psychedelic rock. All of these tend to add length to progressive rock songs, which may last longer than twenty minutes.
Timbre (instrumentation and tone color): Early progressive rock groups expanded the timbral palette of the then-traditional rock instrumentation of guitar, organ, bass, and drums by adding less typical instruments, such as flute, saxophone and violin, and exploring the capabilities of new electronic keyboards, synthesizers, and electronic effects. Modern progressive rock artists continue the tradition of experimenting with new and different sounds and instruments. Some instruments – most notably, the Moog synthesizer and the Mellotron – have become closely associated with the genre.
Rhythm: Drawing on their classical, jazz, and experimental influences, progressive rock artists explore a variety of time signatures, syncopation, polyrhythms, and tempo changes uncommon to mainstream rock. The lack of a single, steady beat marks progressive rock as a genre less concerned with danceability than with listening.
Melody and Harmony: Music critic Piero Scaruffi argues that progressive rock has less of a melodic focus than other types of rock; he states that “progressive-rock is rock music that is not mainly melodic”. In prog rock, the blues inflections of mainstream rock are often supplanted by jazz and classical influences. Melodies are more likely to be modal than based on the pentatonic scale. Chords and chord progressions are also frequently modal, and augmented with 6ths, 7ths, 9ths, and compound intervals; and the I-IV-V progression is much less common. Allusions to, or even direct quotes from, well-known classical themes are common. Some bands have explored atonal or dissonant harmonies, and a few have even worked with rudimentary serialism.
Texture and imagery: Ambient soundscapes and theatrical elements are often used to describe scenes, events or other aspects of the concept. A Wagner-style leitmotif is used to represent the various characters in Genesis’ “Harold the Barrel” and “Robbery, Assault and Battery.” The sounds of clocks and cash registers are used to represent time and money in Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.
Pretty thorough, eh? So, let’s look at the check list…
Extended musical interludes & not following the versus-chorus-bridge structure? Check. Non-traditional instruments? A little, not over the top, but definitely there. I think his ear toward the Beatles & Beach Boys over-shadows unusual instrumentation. Rhythm? Ha ha! All over the place, up-down, left-right, switches (and no, not just the fast-slow kind of the early 90’s, I’m talking complete shifts in time signatures), so yeah, check! Melody & harmony, yep! Now, I’m no musictician, so does he follow I-IV-V? No clue, but the melodies are definitely intrique, so let’s give him a check, shall we? Finally… texture & imagery? Without a doubt, from burning wood, voice modulation, and lyrical imagery of purple rockets (is that a sex thing) and venus ambassadors, I think we got this covered.
So there you go… Indie-prog! Joining the heavy-weights of this faux-genre, such as Random Spirit Lover from Sunset Rubdown, into a future history that will most likely never occur! Yay! Maybe I should write those guys at Pitchfork & Allmusic and see if I can get them on board, maybe throw a twenty their way?
Now the tough part, I really wanted to just share the whole thing, you really need to hear the full album from “Flight of the Knife Pt 1” to “Flight of the Knife Pt 2” to really let it grab you by the balls and tug. So instead, we’ll start at track 2, this way I don’t feel so bad adding up to Track 6, “Curious Disappearance of the Sky-Ship Thunder-Man”, which just puts the whold Bryan Scary thing on super-display.
There you go! So grab and enjoy… then go buy the damn album! It’s already out…
Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears – 02 Venus Ambassador
Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears – 03 Imitation of the Sky
Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears – 04 Madame on the Moon
Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears – 05 Fire-Tree Bird
Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears – 06 Curious Disappearance of the Sky-Ship Thunder-Man
Bought a ticket on the hidden cloud
for a voyage to the sun
It had only just begun
when I found I had been left behind…
It’s me! It’s me!