Way back when in September of this year, myself and the gentlemen who also contribute to this blog went to see our (correct me if I am mistaken) joint all-time favourite band Kayo Dot on their very first European Tour. At least we hoped we were, as it became known to us that their bassist and drummer had been detained in France. Our Dark Lord Toby Driver (Peace be upon him) told us the customs officials were suspicious that the group weren’t coming to the UK to work. So although it wasn’t what we had waited for with baited breath for at least AN ENTIRE YEAR, we were treated to an exclusive set of Tartar Lamb; Toby and Mia’s two piece contemporary classical side project. It proved to be exquisite.
Anyway, I digress before I’ve even started.
The point of this post is to introduce a completely different band: New York-based Extra Life. On my return from seeing the greatest band ever (this is not opinion, this is cold hard FACT), I wanted to see if I could find another ‘avant-garde rock band’ that could perhaps live up to the impossibly high standards set by Kayo Dot and its predecessor, maudlin of the Well.
Extra Life may just have achieved that with their first full-length, Secular Works. Hell, these guys sure know how to play. Of course, the instrumentation is a little more interesting than your standard rock ‘n’ roll fare with the addition of mournful violins that melt over jagged math rock guitars like warm Nutella on toast and this is likely to be more than a subtle nod to Kayo Dot’s set up. The composition and technique is of a high calibre, lying somewhere between the intricate delicacy of Don Caballero and the weight of Isis… if Isis were at all ‘weird’.
But what really shines here are the vocals. Guitarist/vocalist Charlie Looker seems to be an afficionado of medieval and Gregorian music, bringing something very new to a genre that thrives on originality and experimentation. These antique melodies grab and lead the music from piece to piece. It is without doubt the centre piece of the whole show. And, boy, can this guy sing. Looker’s technique and ability can be seen particularly on See You At The Show where your mind will be boggled at how someone can enunciate and sing so clearly in such a complex and spastic rhythm. Album closer, Bled White, is an a’capella piece that exhibits Looker’s perfect pitch and consistency even when unaccompanied by his band mates. All in all, a triumph for experimental music.
(But not quite as good as Kayo Dot :P)