Somewhere between climactic tension and self-perpetuating hopelessness, stalemates become unusually unnerving things. It is no surprise The Immovable Objection, the new CD from Stormdrain, stirs with unique, complex agitation.
""It's the first half of a sequence,"" explains frontman Scott Reyns. ""Picture a cell interrupted by foreign object(s) in mid-mitosis and the tension it gives off. Natural growth impaired and that condition giving off an unnatural energy, or one that at least feels so. The membrane's transparency is a kind of nakedness, vulnerability and invisibility… Feeling divided, interrupted, violated, overlooked or taken for granted are common things nowadays — under a microscope, most are able to find the same shit on the outside that we can on the inside. I know I for one can… These were guiding energies over the past year or two.""
""We did this one almost totally online."" chuckles guitarist Ninos Oshaana. ""We hooked up in person for a few sessions, but artists have new digital freedoms and capabilities. Ironically, we work with more flexibility, tightness and scrutiny now. Plus we've a more robust platform for concept explorations, which have gradually become more… complicated.""
The release marks Stormdrain's first commercial release after a period of pensive reclusion. In the late 90s the band, still students, quickly gained notice for the ""irresistible triphop groove"" (SF Bay Guardian) of ""disillusioned fables screaming for airtime"" (Metro) like the song Loophole. The band's demos, though they went generally without any promotion, quickly gained them neighborhood following, props from international Web surfers, and interest from both indie labels and major label headhunters before they'd even played their first live show.
Nonetheless, despite their growing market in 1999 Stormdrain withdrew like violent weather subsiding as abruptly as it had hit. Their songs continued online and found their way into film and television shows, including ""Making the Band"" and ""The Sopranos."" Meanwhile they kept writing and recording privately.
To listeners above ground, Stormdrain's unexpected calm left a puzzle of scattered breezing rumors. Internally however, it meant a dip into abstinence and solemn introspection. ""Nothing's ever turn-key. We made choices in favor of standards, practicality and longevity,"" recalls Reyns. ""They were hard because we had enthusiastic momentum started, but now we have something to show for it that represents accurately what's been the goal."" Adds Oshaana, ""We were shy and unprepared when we first got noticed. In a way that made it easier to know when to step back and say 'Let's keep to our guts, pace ourselves, and try avoiding roads that don't seem to really go in the right directions.'""
That perfectionism shows the CD's lead track, ""Clever,"" a song manifested in multiple versions ranging from industrial metal writhes to lamenting theatric soundscapes. Notes Reyns, ""Of all the songs, Clever was a particular collaboration."" ""Sometimes songs become like stories — not in that they're always narratives, rather in that they need to get presented in multiple ways to cover it all. Some are straight-forward, others are families of connected themes,"" says Oshaana. ""Not 'remixes' — just a kind of 'family values' not designed to fuck anyone up for once,"" Reyns jokes.
Stormdrain's hallmark propensity for black humor is instantly noticable in The Immovable Objection. Tracks like the boggy synth diatribe ""Vomit"" sport lyrics like ""you can carve me up but you're the real pig here today."" Others, with titles like ""Clever (say never again)"" and ""meat (Clever)"" by producers Justin Lassen and D@v-o respectively, make the wordsmith's play obvious. ""That's part of the fun,"" Reyns smirks. ""Sometimes we'll end up sprinkling things and kinda going off — a double entendre here, a triple meaning there — stuff that sounds like one thing when you listen to it but becomes another when you read the words etc. — but that gets pretentious real quick if done beyond just occasionally,"" Reyns observes. ""We got more straight-up with the funny this time. Count (producer/engineer) and everyone on the production team — aside from being incredibly talented people we were lucky to be able to jam with, everybody was nicely chill, going in free-spirited and instinctive.""
Traits like openness and experimentalism are a signature of Stormdrain's music, with origins ranging from high to low tech, from new to old, from near to far, from unpolished to pristine. They gathered sounds using tape recorders brought on trips to Asia, Europe, and throughout North America. They swapped outtakes and disembodied noises, from answering machines to the sounds of nearby construction sites. They introduced instruments like Assyrian Saz and Aud on the thrashy ""Voyeur (doubletake),"" and ""geekery what-ifs and deliberate misuses"" via electronics and found objects on the abrasive dance assault ""Slicer.""
""We tweak a lot but are hoping to avoid getting mistaken as one of those bands who are too naïve to know their history, acting all sly like 'look, we're so innovative' and all,"" says Oshaana. ""Sure, we mix it up with some stuff… all basically illogical… 98% comes out unusable. About 2% we end up liking so 1% actually makes it onto a final CD as some detail. Reinventions of the wheel are a bit rarer than most audiences are lead to believe."" Reyns confesses, ""I think most artists do nothing fundamentally original, and with us at least — if/when we did so, chances are whatever was behind it was just accidental, like plugging a data output into an audio input while half asleep or something embarrassing like that.""
With so much intuition behind the eye of the Stormdrain, might one think it safer to avoid so much playing by ear?
""One might,"" nods Reyns. ""At the end of the day though, it's how things play to the ear that counts.""
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