Sometimes it only takes one man to cobble together a good tune. Just look at Jonathon Coulton. We love him. A singular vision, while occasionally limiting, can help prevent the dilution of a song’s essence. In this case, that essence is “impressionistic instrumental rock.”
Who is this solo impressionist, you ask? Claus M. Hansen, the lone member of the band Savium. His website refers to the project as a “self-indulgent instrumental one-man band who persistently and consciously performs speechless music.” I like that it’s performed persistently and consciously. He also claims he has “no particular intention of making this project successful,” a refreshing mission statement in today’s ad-infused world.
This week’s tracks come from Savium’s 2006 album Inane and Serene. You can download the whole thing free of charge (I think), or you could hit the jump first for my thoughts on four of the songs.
“Animus Girl” serves as a perfect introduction to Savium’s work. It’s probably the peppiest instrumental guitar track I’ve ever surfed. It borrows from recent trends in the pop/punk genre, mixing overdriven guitar with major chords and a generally upbeat feel. I’m reminded of Green Day’s American Idiot album, not because Savium’s pulling any The Who’s Tommy shit, but because of its ability to move deftly between moods and time signatures. 3/4 (or 6/8) time possesses a natural buoyancy, which takes the edge off some of the In-Yer-Face punk guitar. The track’s a nice mix of even-keeled tunnels and super bumpy sections – the ones that remind of those speed strips that always crop up before tolls on the interstate. You know, the ones that make it sound like your car’s farting?
“Steena Luv?” is a bit schizophrenic. It just can’t decide what type of song it wants to be. It seems to ask, “Am I a videogame cover song?” “Was I originally a chiptune?” “Am I from an obscure Radiohead tribute album?” After some initial rough water, the track levels out, letting you slide evenly (and quickly) to the end. The ominous waltz (more triple time!) of the chugging guitars then gets peppered by high-pitched guitar work, more stars winking in and out of existence than the more common Starry Night-like melodic trail that wailing guitars often leave in their wake. It lightens up the song’s timbre without relieving the tension. Sure, it’s a little intense, but the lack of lyrics allowed me to zero in on the task at hand: playing this song.
“Cacophony” starts with an immense feeling of foreboding. As Lebeth claims in the week’s intro notes, it sounds tailor-composed for a Tarantino Neo-Western. Think a guitar-laden arrangement of “L’Arena.” Perfect for the next time The Bride gets stuck in a coffin. The track picks up in perfect synchronization with the music; the distance between crest and trough increasing as the song’s brooding turns to murderous intent. What follows is a series of winding red tunnels set to dramatic guitar work, making the descent toward the finish line a little more terrifying than normal. I was worried I might be passing through a wormhole. Unfortunately, the traffic count is pretty damn low. If you enjoy the music, go download the track and slap a Steep tag on it. Or maybe give it a run on Mono if you haven’t scored all your Mono Ninja achievements yet.
The most interesting aspect of “Amiable Boy” is the echoed, dreamy guitar solo a la Joe Satriani’s “Clouds Race Across the Sky.” This plays over a weird half-time feel that I initially had a hard time getting into. Then, for yet another song, savium employs a triple time signature. At this point, I’d had enough triple time. It’s also his worst implementation of the meter: the bass line sounds like it’d be better suited for humiliating tuba playing.
Each track was played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters. Savium’s stuff on the whole works well. It got me into that zen place where I can just focus on navigating traffic, without annoying lyrics or poorly looped techno. And yeah, I fully expect “Cacophony” to make it into some film student’s Tarantino-like opus.