Sixty Five Understands Me

Thursday, May 24, 2007



A year ago I wrote an article about sound. A week ago I interviewed a band who’d read that article and taken onboard what it said when recording their new album. That interview should be published on Stylus today. Here are a load of spare, contextualising words that I wrote for that piece, but which weren’t really needed. I hate waste. This is recycling…

65daysofstatic, like most instrumental postrock bands, understand that, lacking a singer, they need some kind of visual presence in their live shows to give the audience something to focus on between the sheets of cleansing noise and jackhammer rhythms. So they run video footage, edited in time to specific songs, projected presumably from a laptop onto a giant screen behind them onstage. During one song various photos of the band “on the road” are sequenced, and overlaid with subtitles detailing the carbon footprint of a modest tour…

It is revealed that, in fifteen dates across sixteen days in the UK, the band’s tour-bus pumps out 700kg of carbon per band member. The yearly safe level of carbon production is 600kg. A few years ago one might have suggested that a fossil-fuel-greedy Western rock band’s carbon footprint might be offset by millions of negligible footprints from people in the Indian subcontinent or China. But in 2007, given the rapid and voracious development of those areas some might be tempted to refer to as the Second or even Third World… not anymore. 65daysofstatic are keen recyclers and passionate observers of the erosion of both our culture and our environment; how are they supposed to tour when the very thing they love goes against their principals?

Exeter Phoenix is an odd venue to fill with noise, the auditorium as tall as it is deep, seemingly, sound easily lost in the rafters, but guitars, drums, piano and some ambitious software managed it later that evening. Live, 65daysofstatic swing between engulfing ferocity and stark austerity and they were ultimately rapturously received by an initially timid crowd, audience members fielding mobile phone calls in the middle of the quite bits notwithstanding.

This dynamism of their live show makes the naturalistic, vacillating and detailed sound of The Destruction Of Small Ideas make even more sense after the bruising consistency and attack of their second album, One Time For All Time. It’s not just an aesthete’s improvement to sonics that makes Destruction wonderful, though; compositionally the band have ramped up several levels too. Which is why it’s a shame that reviews of the new album have been mixed, although most of the negative ones appear incompetent at best in light of understanding what the band were trying to achieve; one piece I read criticised the production for being “flat”. It’s clear to me that the naysayers bemoaning the band’s development don’t understand how to listen, don’t understand what music is, don’t really know what they’re talking about. I’m not saying that 65daysofstatic have found the secret chord; but they have made a wonderful record.

But it’s difficult when not only consumers but also reviewers, who are still, just about, gatekeepers of taste, are so busy with other things that the only chance they get to listen to records is on the bus or train on their way to the office or lecture theatre. The extensive, oblique, esoteric sleeve-notes of The Destruction Of Small Ideas state unequivocally that “care has been taken to make this album quietly so you can play it LOUD”; the worry is that people either won’t notice this instruction or else won’t follow it for whatever reason.

One of the videos thrown behind and above their monstrous noise features footage of Threads, a 1984 BBC docudrama written by Barry Hines and directed by Mick Jackson which depicts, with alarmingly realist pessimism, the possible effects of a nuclear strike against Britain. Buildings are blasted apart in atomising eruptions; women piss themselves in the street; grandparents are crushed by the houses they have invested lifetimes in; skin boils, bubbles, lifts from sinew and bone. Not just the impact and immediate devastation is shown though; thirteen years are covered in the denouement of disaster, revealing an emaciated, dislocated nation beset by plague, poverty, infertility, rampantly prolific birth defects and a short, fast descent into a long, slow hell.

Threads is set in and around the working class, steel-industry city of Sheffield in Yorkshire; two members of 65daysofstatic claim it as their hometown. Understanding the impact of Threads is perhaps key to understanding the band, barely toddlers when it was first broadcast and soaked through with the imagery of their home town destroyed in a parallel, televisual universe for their entire lives. 65daysofstatic don’t want to bring about or describe the apocalypse; they want to avert it or, failing that, survive it. To do this they needed to make a record that would last, that was strong enough to evolve in hearts and minds over time. I think they’ve probably done that.

NJS

Thursday, May 24, 2007

2 Comments:

Blogger Glen - 10:32 pm

Having read this, then the Stylus article I feel quite chuffed for you Nick. As much as sound is not so important for me (being a bit deaf in one ear), I do respect what what you say/hear/think and I know what I hear is somewhat different/distorted even. If I was you I'd be slightly demented with pride < /selfish emotion >.

 
Blogger  - 12:41 pm

I remember these very videos, they were pretty fucking chilling when with the music as they have tones which really set you on edge.

The carbon thing was pretty cool, I didn't get where they were going but the idea of saying that they're going against their principles sorta makes sense.

 

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Nick Southall was born in southwest England at the tail end of the 70s, and is the youngest of three brothers. He has a degree in popular culture and philosophy and has written about music for Stylus Magazine, The Guardian and Drowned In Sound, amongst others. He likes red wine, expensive headphones, spicy food, and the Hungarian national football team of the 1950s. His favourite record is the last one he listened to. You can contact him by email via sickmouthy @ gmail dot com should you so wish.

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