Listen to High Orbital by The Roswell Incident.
I’ve decided on a bit of a New Year’s resolution, which I’m pretty sure I can carry through! And here’s how it will go:
With the conclusion of my AMG work, at least for now, I’d like to be able to gently keep fresh at least once a day with a new album to talk about and/or a new song. Nothing new or surprising about this, obviously, and part of me was tempted to create a new Tumblr specifically for that. But for ease and simplicity, I’ll stick with posts here. My focus will be either new releases or, where relevant, new to me, but by that I mean specifically formal reissues rather than simply me getting around to something I’ve had lying around. My preference, though, will be for the here and now.
It’s easy enough to talk about an album or a song a day anyway, but the trick is to find something good first, find something reasonably smart to say second but just as importantly. Plenty of what I will talk about will be usual catnip for me and won’t surprise anyone, but if I can hopefully make a new case for convincing you WHY a hobbyhorse of mine is worth it then I’ve done something right. If, as Ira Robbins recently put it in his retrospective summary on the state of music criticism, “We have moved from do-it-yourself to find-out-yourself,” then it’s all the more incumbent to actually make something of the pointer you set out in the swirl of things.
With that as preamble, today’s entry will be the latest by the Roswell Incident, the musical project of Matt Maxwell, also author of the excellent comics and culture blog Highway 62 and the author of Strangeways. Having featured the For Lee Jackson in Space project yesterday, this was a logical choice to discuss today — the Roswell Incident appeared on the compilation, while the final song is another new composition decided to Lee’s memory. So there is an unavoidable personal connection which was going to bias my reaction no matter what.
But High Orbital — just released yesterday and therefore as much a final effort of 2012 as well as something new for 2013 — is something I would like in its own right no matter what. If I have a fondness for post-psychedelic/acid/metal/drone/whatever you want to call it guitar feedback instrumentals and compositions, it’s because they can work so well for me — but as with anything, the distinction between something agreeable and something striking is fine, slippery and not always logical. That there’s a boatload of composers and performers in this general arena worldwide, a slow arc upward that took the ground zero roil of the late sixties and early seventies and turned things into a decades-long reach of headnodding impact and even more extensive afterechoes, is a given, and no doubt there’ll be plenty more for me to say on similar releases as the year goes by.
But the advantage of a personal connection as noted can also mean clarity, and I can speak from experience that Matt’s drive to create results from dissatisfaction with the run of the mill. High Orbital’s five tracks serve both as extension of his own work over the years and a belief that the many monumental releases in any number of musical styles he favors from the past aren’t meant to be paint-by-numbers kits but launching points for something else. If the intersection of space travel, science fiction, powerful and meditative feedback and more is (depending on the listener, true) something very familiar, what connects here is the sense of steady elegance, a reaching out to a silent beyond within a comfort zone of sound.
Further, it’s a free download on top of being on Bandcamp. So start your new year right — and if it’s not your thing as you see it, take the Brian Eno ambient argument about heavy metal to heart and let it play a bit in the background while you concentrate on something else, if it all. The connections you make will be your own.