Hey, everybody! Giles Monsoon here to announce the end of a great concert! This year’s battle of the bands was nothing short of a radical success, with all sorts of drama along the way! Let’s have our own breakdown right now (weedly-weedly-wee, *pinch harmonic*): 

The night started off with a bang, featuring a back-to-back performance by Helio and The B.S. Band, that night synthesized under the moniker Helio and The B.S. After a monstrous twenty-minute bass solo by Joe Carr, the group opened up with Helio’s campus hit ‘To Write Love On Her Arms’. Swoon! Forty seconds into the song, the judges from the JEC produced a perfect 10 across the board and announced their winner for the night. Although their frontman doesn’t like to cut things short, H&BS then closed with an achingly beautiful cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’, with nothing more than Ben “S” Crist at his signature series Yamaha keyboard. If you haven’t joined a good old Irish kickline at a Helio show, man, you haven’t lived.

This was followed by the school’s own indie rock gods OK Go, with an awesome set featuring ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’ and ‘Eat You Alive’ off their latest album release, Results May Vary. I’ve never seen such masterful and creative use of a fog machine for a choreographed dance number.

Look out, all you theocrats! Here come All The King’s Men (sorry for the inaccuracy of the corresponding photograph above, which is the groups’ side project The Gypsy Kings). These guys know how to make mythology hip for the Joe Six-pack, and what better way to close than by paying homage to their idols with an electric powerhouse, nigh Ragnarokal performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in double time!!! Great googly moogly! It’s hard not to be left breathless when a band exits via rocket longboats through the windows while splitting the kneecaps of obstructive fans with hand-carved tomahawks! I tell you what, it’s worth the pain: these things are meticulously crafted and the cryptic verses they cry out during eclipses are wonderfully soothing.

The audience then reconvened into St. John’s Abbey for Jamison Murphy and that other guy in Blue Sky Canopy, marveling as they wrapped their arms about each other for a duet performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. This is an interesting change of pace for the group, who has often held a firm grip on their own critical reception with complex themes of solipsistic horror and the nature of consciousness on the outskirts of the new global village. Not that there was anything left to be desired in their return to their brooding roots in metaphysical considerations through music.

Closing the night’s performance was Mister. Pardon my French, but I think this folie à quatre is starting to lose its cool. I mean, first we have Pat Sitzer break out into a Rick Banjo Roll in the middle of 3 a.m., and then the percussionist Grant Gibeau, currently upset about the recent loss of his girlfriend to All The King’s Men’s Ladies’ Man Nick Palmquist, made an announcement for the promotion of the Hammerskins before bringing in the wooden cross from outside of the refectory and setting it on fire a la Jimi Hendrix. He has since vowed to submit a written apology through the Record and pay for a substitute cross. Things started to come undone when Dylan decided to descend into the audience and encourage onlookers to sing along, jumping theatrically and doing synchronized kicks with the beat of ‘Days Go By’. The band’s vocalist and lead guitarist was removed from the night’s festivities after trying to hug a child at the bar and loan her his microphone, breaking his instrument over a stool in sudden rage when she buried her face in her mother’s chest and sobbed out of fear and panic.

Whew! It doesn’t get much better than that, folks! And now for the eager anticipation of Helio’s performance at Woodstock ’09 opening for R.E.M.! Don’t worry, I’ll be at the front lines as always. This is Giles Monsoon signing off; you make yourself comfortable, Collegeville, or I’ll do it for ya! Hahah, that’s me yanking your chain!

Heavy Ghost

Concept: Romance and sadness, thoroughly intertwined with a suspiciously light-hearted tone. DM Stith felt like the songs’ pieces were following him like ghosts throughout production.

Sound: DM Stith was something of an apprentice to Sufjan Stevens while making this album. He presents freak-folk pop with toy armies of sound effects; it might be seen as a bridge between Devendra Banhart and The Shins for those who enjoy one but not the other. It’s twisted bedtime story aesthetic might also conjure memories of Queens of The Stone Age or Nick Cave. The closest comparison, however, might be Nick Drake, the sleepwalking English folk artist, with a sour Radiohead gloss. He wavers on the wind, pale and playful, more mischievous than heavy. The biggest issue is his voice. DM Stith has a prodigious range, but has not been blessed with a very appealing voice, and swarms of his layered soprano can and will become grating for the listener, and it certainly damages the album’s initial value.

Lyrics: Not my cup of tea, but mindful of its environment. Not quite as mysterious or subtle as the music, and sometimes a little repetitive, although this is usually to good effect. His narrative skill has room for improvement, but he seems up to the task.

Quick And Dirty: Musically, the album as a whole is fantastic. DM Stith is crafty, theatrical, and ambitious. However, his voice and lyrics are hard to swallow, and the album’s distinctive ‘sound’ is a one-trick pony. (♦♦♦½)

Artist: Lights Out Asia
Album: Eyes Like Brontide
Released: n5md Records, 2008
Reviewer: Robert Lennon
eyes-like-brontide

“Eyes Like Brontide” is difficult to classify into any single genre of music. It is a combination of post rock and shoegaze that doesn’t show up very often. The trio flex their muscles in this release, delivering well-constructed and enveloping music that sweeps the listener away.

The music in this album is driven very much by heavy use of electronic drums, somewhat in the vein of 65daysofstatic. But the band balances that out with lush guitar playing, preventing the album from feeling like it was set up in GarageBand. The musical thrusts are spacey, with piano present to give weight. The album is subdued for the most, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. The final song “Six Points of Fire”, is intense, and eventually climaxes, but in such a way that feels natural to the song. There isn’t much here lyrically, but Chris Schafer’s voice blends very well with the music. I just wish he would sing more. In the song “Radars Over the Ghosts of Chernobyl”, when he sings “can you save yourself?” you get the impression that whoever he’s singing to can’t. The album itself plays on themes from the Cold War, and does it well, not falling into the traps of easy-politicizing. But songs like “MIR” and “The Wrong Message Could End You” get the point across.

If you’re looking for a well-crafted post-rock album, look no further. A fantastic blend of space-rock and electronic beats carries this album far. I would recommend this album highly.

Lights Out Asia is:
Mike Ystad: Electronics
Chris Schafer: Guitar, Vocals
Mike Rush: Guitar, Bass