I’ve said it before, but I just love the Internet. Did you know there are websites dedicated to listing weird band names? And lists of funny names feature in quite a few music blogs, too. Most of the names in those lists are, not surprisingly, either mildly offensive or downright obscene. Some, though, are rather amusing or just plain weird – “Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar” to quote the title of a humorous book. (Actually, there seem to be two books with very similar names: Funny Ha-Ha, Funny Peculiar is a book of funny poems; Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar is a collection of funny headlines and stories from newspapers.)
Now, when I say weird band names I mean names like: !!!, the artist formerly known as Prince, Blodwyn Pig, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Half Man Half Biscuit, Spooky Tooth, Them, and The The. Then there’s “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.”. We might add The Band, The Who and The Jam to that list but we are so familiar with those names that the oddness has been washed away. And that’s just the ones I’ve heard of. There’s a much more comprehensive list here, if you have a few hours to spare.
Anyway, I chanced upon an outfit called A Triggering Myth on a prog rock blog site recently. Intrigued by the name, I Googled, Spotify’d and wandered down the hyperlink highways leading to the band’s website. It turns out that they’re not a band in the conventional sense; they are a couple of American keyboard players who draft in guest musicians to record their compositions. Between 1990 and 2006 A Triggering Myth released six albums, all but the last being out of print, which is probably why The Remedy of Abstraction is the only one listed on Spotify.
One of the reviews of the Myth’s self-titled first album ended like this: “… magnificent music, beyond genres and classifications, … a music of beauty, a hymn to liberty and to the harmony of sounds. A different and rare pleasure”. If the later reviews are right each of their albums has been better than the ones before so it was with high hopes that I donned the headphones and hit the Play button. And, even with that build-up, it didn’t disappoint.
The Remedy of Abstraction sits squarely in Crotchety Man’s sweet spot, on the border of jazz and instrumental prog rock. At first it sounds like Brand X, Weather Report or one of Bill Bruford‘s bands. Then, as you listen, it sounds more and more like Brand X (plus a violin), Weather Report (minus the sax) and Bill Bruford‘s earlier bands (without the horns). And, you know, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
The Remedy of Abstraction isn’t music you can sing. Like Mozart’s opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) it has too many notes for that. Nor is it music you can dance to; no recognised dance would fit the complex rhythms. There are no words to tell a story or provide a deeper meaning, no clue to how we should be feeling as we listen. Sweet harmonies are altogether absent, too. And yet, with all that missing, there’s still a cornucopia of aural delights.
There are themes, melodies, rhythms everywhere. Each and every instrument contributes an important part of the whole. The keyboards ripple and swirl like eddies in a stream. A fretless bass anchors the sound firmly to the river bed. Intricate drumming sparkles like sunlight on running water. Guitar licks flutter overhead and a violin sings along with the songbirds. It’s the busy beauty of a babbling brook, buzzing bees, rustling leaves and chattering woodland birdlife.
The permanent members of A Triggering Myth are Tim Drumheller (keyboards) and Rick Eddy (keyboards, acoustic guitar). Their guests on The Remedy of Abstraction are: Scott McGill (electric and nylon string guitars), Vic Stevens (drums, percussion), Michael Manring (bass) and Akihisa Tsuboy (violin). Those names are all unfamiliar to me, quite ordinary names that hide extraordinary musical talent.
I will let Rick Eddy have the final word with this quote from his poem that accompanies the Remedy of Abstraction CD:
It is however,
brokered deftly somewhere
between the dis-ease of existence
and the remedy of abstraction.
That’s probably as good a description of the album as words permit but it’s no substitute for listening. Never mind the poetic abstraction, let’s go down to the music stream and play…
Never heard of Them? They had a hit single in the sixties called Here Comes The Night (great track, by the way). And their lead singer went on to have a successful solo career; his name was Van Morrison.
My thanks go to Good Music Speaks for reminding me of the “too many notes” story.