Irene Rible (FMA Admin)
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Irene_Rible on 10/30/2012 at 01:45AM
It’s Halloween again at the FMA! This year's audio treats include some poignant advice from the Book of Matthew, H.P. Lovecraft inspired musical insanity, instructions from Eastern Europe's answer to Willard, haunted Korgs, and finally, what you would hear in hell for eternity if your call was put on hold. For more FMA Halloween selections check out the mixes from 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Irene_Rible on 03/08/2012 at 03:15PM
So after a long Free Music Archiving hiatus I was happy to discover that Angels in America released their album Narrow Road to the Interior and made a WFMU appearance! If you're new to them, Angels in America are two people going by the aliases of Moppy Pont and Merv Glisten. They started making music in 2007 while going to high school in New York. At their most noisy and distorted they resemble no-wave and industrial acts from decades past, with occasional shoegazing quieter moments, but mostly they create nightmare soundscapes that are wholly other.
They sent their first two cassette only releases to WFMU in 2009 and chose The Free Music Archive as their sole public presence. You can get a sense of their cultural taste from the books and newsletters they distribute as part of the Pleasure Collective which includes an impressive mélange of arcane, debauched influences while Merv's weird and wooly Free Music Archive reviews expose the musical diet being fed into in these sonic regurgitations. And then there is Moppy’s performance art, including her role in Smile Stealers, a student film that looks like what Matthew Barney would create if he directed a Sid and Marty Krofft production.
More contradictory to their music is their “public persona” (by that I mean their twitter page and one interview). Their twitter page exhibits the kind of banality media studies professors rail on about during fiery tirades regarding social decay and the decline of Western Civilization. You won’t glean any insight into their music from this, but you will learn that Merv likes donuts. They also named their first album Cunt Tree Grammar (like that Nelly album - they love puns!). When I ordered some tapes from them Moppy’s package came wrapped in adorable Hello Kitty stationary while Merv’s included a complimentary Limp Bizkit keychain.
So yes, they can be willfully and perplexingly retarded. But aren’t nonsense and absurdity just fun, distracting road stops along life’s frightening, existential highway? Merv and Moppy may laugh, but their music doesn’t. Rather it cries, and screams, then breaks some stuff, gets driven to the hospital to get a Demerol injection so that it calms down, and passes out.
It’s hard to say what the x-factor is that makes this band so unique. Maybe it's the sense of dangerous excitement you feel, like you've discovered a little keyhole through somebody's skull and you’re nervously eavesdropping in on their internal dialogue. Or maybe it’s how Ms. Moppy’s soft, sultry voice and sad, heavy eyes make her like a dreamboat sailing towards a maelstrom. Her half-sung/half-spoken vocal delivery is forever vague and ineffable, much like a dream, by the end of an album you can only pick up small glimmers of meaning, and you're left anxiously scrambling for resolution. At times her voice can hypnotically lull you to sleep (“Tooth Hound Sand”) and other times she writhes and aches with a physicality resembling erotic death throes (“The Akkursed Share”, "In Spades"). The Mazzy Star comparison in the Digitalis review seems strangely appropriate. She’s like Hope Sandoval’s younger, punk sister Hopeless Sandoval (these guys are getting to me - I couldn’t resist a shitty pun!). Songs such as “Free Galaxy” and “Follow Me Out” are pretty enough that in a more indie-rock friendly incarnation she could be making melancholic make-out music à la Ms. Sandoval…except she might chew off your tongue and spit it in your face.
Premonitions of something sinister haunt most songs with Moppy usually sounding like a borderline psychotic waiting to unleash her vengeance upon a cold, cruel world. Angels in America almost make me yearn for the kinds of frantic fits and panic attacks that would enable me to fully partake in this masochistic unhappiness. When you stop listening it’s like shedding yourself of an abusive lover, but then being sad that the bed is empty.
But why Angels in America succeed as a band has nothing to do with feeling good, it's about being truthful which is why I feel some sense of comfort listening to these broken, distorted songs that always hover on the brink of collapse. Much like the romance of watching any manmade artifice slowly wither and cave in to the elements, the beauty of these songs is that they seem to have breathed a sigh of relief and given up the struggle against entropy.