Big Worlds, Small Town

Feel No Other
Feel No Other
Silber Media, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
This is a nice change of pace – smooth sailing ambient/drone-flicker shoe-gaze w/a touch of melancholy-baby to it.
Feel No Other is a band from the Silber Media family that’s been around since 2009, when Brian Lea McKenzie (late of Electric Bird Noise) started composing some instrumental music in his spare time, just sort of sketching out a sound that he enjoyed. He soon realized, however, that, to make this music of his complete, he needed vocals. Specifically, strong, female vocals. At first McKenzie got together with Claudia Gregory, who sang in the bands Exhaust the Fox and Claudia vs. the Queen of Hearts. It was during this period that the two, after having met and decided that they enjoyed each other’s style that they began to play some shows together, incorporating these new songs of Brian’s. But it wasn’t until 2011 that the “stars aligned” and things soon worked out and they ended up working together on a more permanent scale that Feel No Other was born.
Claudia Gregory has a background in “Americana”, while Brian has a big interest in things cinematic as well as creating dreamy, cinematic soundscapes. The two, quite nicely, complement each other and the architectural style which that envelops is one of a grandeur that swells as one gets further into the album. It may seem, at first, that “Americana” and Cinematic dreamscapes are somewhat disconnected, but If you want a good example of the marriage between Americana storytelling and cinematic soundscapes, a great example that fits right in is David Lynch. He is an archetypal American. If you’ve ever hear him speak, you’ll notice a sort of flattened twang to his voice that is almost tuneful, being born in Missoula, Montana. Two well-known classics of Lynch’s that explain what I’m getting at are: Blue Velvet, which takes place in “Anytown, USA” and, while the action and the depraved world that the characters Kyle McLachlan who plays Jeffrey Beaumont and Laura Dern, his soon-to-be girlfriend (when Issabella Rossellini isn’t getting in the way!) play are typical American teenagers – squeaky clean, curious and, Beaumont, at least, is determined to break out of this sheltered existence and dig deep and explore what lies beneath the surface, after finding an ear on his way home from school in one of the film’s first scenes. The whole film can be summed up as Lynch’s way of showing the underbelly of “white-picket-fence” America; the corruption of the “American Dream”, if you will. And this is how the “Americana” of Gregory and the Cinematic head of McKenzie’s come together. Another example of how Lynch pairs these two quite (seemingly) effortlessly, is in Lynch’s one and only foray into television: Twin Peaks, which was a breathtakingly beautiful series about another small town. One set in the Pacific Northwest. The splendor and everyday America that shows on the exterior of this town and the people in it belie much darker things that are happening inside the quaint homes, not only the jarring occurrence of the murder of Laura Palmer, but all the seedy goings-on that we, as viewers, come to see as how the people here really live and, by extension, I think, Lynch shows that appearances aren’t everything – which is a simple enough aphorism, but in this case the appearances mask quite a slew of deep, dark secrets and terrors.
Getting back to Feel No Other and Feel No Other, Ms. Gregory has a voice that really builds throughout the album. She has a quite powerful and beautiful voice. On the song “Altavilla Milicia” (sounds like something about a band of guerillas living in a shack up in the mountains), she whips out this almost operatic sound that really opens things up, as if her wide ranging vocals are evoking a panoramic vista. “Eclipse” is another serene, but sedate tune that has a bit of the stage to it – as if she’s belting out a solo in a surrealistic play or the soundtrack to a like movie. It’s about nighttime, stars, the night sky, and the goings-on below. Too bad it’s only 2:51. There is a keyboard on the song as a background, that’s it, just the synth. It’s eerily beauty is quite alluring. The next tune, “la fiance de l’eau” (the fiance of water) is sung in French. It has a ringing mandolin-type string instrument in it, as well as a regular acoustic guitar. No drums or electronics. It seems here that as one gets deeper into this album, the better it gets.
This partnership of theirs is a great match. From however different backgrounds they may come, they have one symbiosis that shines brightly and that is they both have a commitment to the perfect atmosphere, musically speaking. This could easily be a soundtrack to a road trip through the highways and byways of Middle America, or it could be a paean to the great films of the past 60 years that reflect, in a panoramic, ultra-modernist, magnified view of the grandeur in the surrounding beauty that is home to an almost infinite amount of personalities, quirks, truths, myths and legends.
Whatever the real meaning, it almost doesn’t matter, when, while listening to it for yourself, you’re able to be transported to distant, serene plateaux that sometimes sparkle with dizzying lights, other times makes you want to cry, it’s so sad but simultaneously beautiful.
The end of Feel No Other is made up of two, minute-long songs that start to lead you back to your own place but at the same time, embed memories of this incredibly buoyant album. It’s a bit different from the typical noise/drone/experimental craft that Silber Music is known for, but they do seem to know a gem when they come across one, which is why Feel No Other, with their shoe-gazing, nocturnal images and dreamy, empty film-noir streets, fits in quite well. For more on the band and to see more Silber Music titles and bands, visit http://www.silbermusic.comKM.feel-no-other-album


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