My Ishmael Live: Plot


Out 6 2011, 23h10

Animals As Leaders at Kosmonavt, September 29, 2011

An adventure of the great discovery.

Everything started from polyrythm this spring. Wikipedia article featured the following:Contemporary bands such as Tool, Animals as Leaders and Dream Theater also incorporate polyrhythms in their music...Well, Tool that’s for sure, Dream Theater, am, there’re some, but wait a minute. Animals as Leaders!? What?

The Band

Digging to the band, a lot of its aspects seemed to me noticeable and uncommon for the scene. Like Tosin’s behaviour when he’d been asked for solo project by the label, and refused until picked enough skills going to music institute for a year. Like his name, well, such a Star Wars character, Tosin Abasi ;-) The way they all are attired. No kind of metal attribution, no tattoos, to trained arrogance. Not to mention the way Tosin is dressed, like 20s detective in EMG studios and the like :-) These are quite adorable, since when they play they’re just musicians.

Listening to their debut record, Animals As Leaders, I didn’t comprehend from the spot, how great and pushing it is. But after third time, I guess, I’ve realized. Masterpiece! Well, this happens to me frequently with complex music like , as it takes time.

Augmented 6th and the like

It’s been a year or more, since I’ve been so interested in learning a piece of guitar music. The piece that would challenge you in many areas of your skills, while being utterly graceful and touching. Their pieces are interesting mostly in any area, as rhythmically and in the sense of time, in voicing of chords, in the way solos are written, rhythmically, melodically and of usage of alternative techniques like sweep, tapping and slapping.

Fortunately, for ones like me, having no much time, and good capability as well, for transcribing music by ear, there’re tabs for all of their songs. And most of them are quite precise but only some are playable on a standard range guitar. At least Point to Point is playable on 6-string guitar. On Impulse is bit harder since 7th string is frequently used for bass notes in main part, though, transposing too low notes an octave higher doesn’t spoil the tune. So, I mean, it’s pleasant to play their stuff, and pleasant to learn to play their stuff. This is what the title is mostly about.

The harpists

In the past decade there were some well known bands experiencing extended range guitars, mostly 7-stringed. But for majorty of players rarely were able to utilize the given range by the style limits or by their own, rather just lower strings. It’s about Deftones, Korn and others. They would quite easily fit common or baritone 6-stringed guitar, just with lower tuning as other do, like, Slipknot or In Flames, which is sort of more honest. So by transposing virtually all of this stuff might be played in standard tuning. The only guy who had been leaving me unsatisfied with standard range was John Petrucci, whose parts are catchy and interesting, and in the same time, are spanning whole fingerboard. As a brief example, Misunderstood comes to the mind.

As itself, the existence of the 7-stringed guitar didn’t cause any confusion even in case of abuse. But when 8-stringed guitars started to appear, it seemed to me stupidly funny. At least in case of Dino Cazares it is, as of video introduction of his new band’s record. His parts would fit in 3 string guitar. Then Deftones released their Diamond Eyes which for me is their worst record where Stef started to play his new 8-string guitar, who I’d give 4 to 5. All songs featuring low chords with low F# sound to me very crappy. Like ambient equivalent of a puke, I’d say. So the future seemed like this and 8-string thing was rather ridiculous to me at that time, until...

Until the moment I’ve head Wave of Babies. I guess Animals As Leaders is mostly playable on 7-string guitar except some moments in a few songs. But the song is evidently lower which it exhibits throughout. The song is something unbelievable, with all its power and groove. With its polyrhythmic sense which mostly from beginning starts by the race of guitars and drums. With elaborately aligned solos that nail you back to the rhythm. It’s so many great aspects of the song. Good sounding live version is here.

It’s rather rare feeling, but in the most tasty moments, maybe in moments a metric modulation occurs or appearing of evident second meter or another significant pulse change, it draws a smile on my face. Kind of pleasant smile, when you’re focused on music and it rewards you with something significant. And well, definitely, it had been happening to me listening to Tool (of course I’m not trying to compare them, Tool’s level is unequaled, and also they’re acting in different sub-genres, tough no one knows what will happen in ten years), and maybe, quite rarely, with something else. And I’m happy about another band with the capability :-)

So quickly, the 8-string thing has been legitimated. And even I’ve started to think I wouldn’t mind to have one. For example, the guitar Tosin played On Impulse with Strandberg #17, which looks pretty attractive, though as pricey as attractive (> $3K). Whereas his Ibanez RG2228 with active EMGs, which he played the rest songs with, is not at all. Btw, Javier changed his Ibanez RGA8 to prettier kind of sunburst custom with passive DiMarzios, claiming them having better sound, which is quite reasonable.

There’re many topics of discussion of musical and technical aspects, but the post is actually about the gig. So I end this part with cite by Javier from a great interview of many common and technical questions, with Tosin and him.From a metal perspective, I don’t think there are any other bands that are using the 8-string the way Tosin does. We’re not just playing straight chugs on the lower strings. We’re using all eight strings as a whole instrument, as if it were a piano where we can play the lowest note while still playing higher register notes on the upper keys.
The gig

Unfortunately, the more you wish for something, the more cruelly in shatters if it happens to fall. So this is the saddest part. And it’s about Tosin face for three to four first songs until he put up with it.

Everything started to spin when mr. Abasi appeared on stage and shortly peeped around his rack thingies and it started from ambient kind of sound, barely resembling intro to Point to Point. Then clean part started and it wasn’t too bad. Event after rhythm guitar joined and everything got much worse it still was an affective state, still there were a lot of expectations. And when they transitioned to intro progression of Wave of Babies it was an anticipation pinnacle. After the two loops of the intro, heavy part begun. I’ve done couple of handbanging to the so familiar groove and then stopped when I’d been seeing frown Tosin’s face, while soloing without a sound. He checked whether guitar is actually plugged, made several gestures to the stage sound engineer. After that he had slightly appeared in mix. When song come to tapping part and he switched the preset his face had turned to what-the-hell-is-wrong again.

Mix at that time mostly contained of Navene, of some frequency bands of rhythm guitar and ripped ambient fragments of electronic fills. The mighty drumming had been making no sense in such an ugly sonic environment.

Then I tried to move across the venue. At the beginning I was at the right side, close to the stage. Then within Wave of Babies moved center. It made no advantage. From the opening perspective it had been a lot like interpreting game. Like, here add9 and minor triad fingering, then it’s Song of Solomon. And here IDM-ish drums and synths then it’s Tempting Time. After that I’ve tried my last chance and moved to the end of hall right by the sound engineer area.

At the times Abasi been introducing a new song, Isolated Incidents. Clean had been not bad. Then distorted started it had turned out that from the position everything is at the threshold of acceptance. Solos where blurry but happened evidently. Following speedy slap part was there as well. The song itself is pretty good, and promising for the Weightless. Also the major feel is noticeable, since it hasn’t been heard on prior works.

After that Tosin had finally picked his pretty custom #17 for On Impulse. Actually he played recently prior song on Strandberg as well, but by the circumstances, probably, decided to stick with more compressed and stable EMG sound.

So as in prior song, clean part was fine. But when heavy backing started, Tosin’s part had been encompassed with the same noisy veil, again at the edge of good and bad.

At the beginning of Thoroughly at Home, another sound issue occurred. The slapping intro hadn’t been heard. So he switched through the couple of presets for better sound. Live, it felt a bit different because Javier’s progression during the main part was less blended in mix as it is on the record. By some reason, clean chords in break were recorded, while they both were vacant. Then after great low chord voicing part which sounded not as great is it could be, happened solo part which was a bit dirty in performance, and not as sublime as it sounds on record. Then a loop back to intro, recorded chords, and it’s done.

There Tosin announced the last song, CAFO and hopefully promised to come back some day. Then he looped the well-known arpeggio and they started. Both hard solo parts had been played almost precisely, wonderingly with some fast slides he made blind. He exposed the horn in pause before the last part. And after lights faded and they left.

I’ve been at the venue once before in April on great Mogwai gig. And great it was least because of high-gain songs. They’ve had more then half of clean and low-gain stuff, so the loss of third of it was not that dramatic. It feels like that Kosmonavt is not designed for that kind of music. As everything falling the same pitfall.

But the most sad thing is that whatever bad sound is, in this venue or not, a lot of people reply thereafter, that it sounded great, it was perfect and the like. I don’t know whether they are deathly def, were drunk, or there’re use some non-sonic criteria for sonic matters. Worst thing is if most responses are good, there’s no reason to change a thing for promoters. And by this path next great band will happen in the same crappy place :-(

Sadly realizing all the things happened, I’ve been told:What did you expect from a russian club!? You’ve seen Tosin alive, that’s your reward.
Autograph session

At the break time, at least one third of audience left out. Actually, I did plan to leave as well. But by some reason I stayed. Maybe I was still thinking, maybe I needed to see something so much worse to re-evaluate what bas been seen.

Time dragged on slowly. There’re no surprises and after everything ended I walked to the way out.

By the exit under the stairs I’ve noticed some amount of people crowded around gentleman in a hat. Gentleman in a hat?! I’ve moved closely and the honest surprise has been drawn on my face. Tosin himself was standing there, signing everything from tickets to t-shirts. He was talkative and really open. Even more open than bar tenders in opposite side. He told that he had issues with his amp (AxeFX).

After that signing has turned out to photo-session as Tosin has been kindly allowing. There where single guys, girls, group of people and random combination of, thereafter. Because of that Tosin questioned, – Do you actually know each other? ;-)

For short time, in the same place, Javier appeared with a bottle of beer. He did a few photos as well. Answered some question and left. While Tosin stayed until the end when security asked to leave the place.

I’ve asked Tosin for about a tour for the next record, which, he told is only scheduled for States. Lastly I asked him to briefly describe the way he developed his sound. So the receipt of by Tosin Abasi sounds like: Jazz, Meshuggah, Shreding. Quite strange, but I guess he tried to simplify at most and at least it’s what he said.

For that moments the excitement that left me after the intro progression of Wave of Babies, had come back. And most of discontent has gone. Don’t know, maybe it’s his vibe, maybe it’s his ingenuousness.

This hadn’t been shot in Saint-Petersburg, but whatever, the photo of gentleman in eyeglasses demonstrates that nothing had ended bad :-) I’d been leaving the venue in good mood. Next day I found Weightless is available for pre-order and as shortly as in month with some it’ll be reasonable to struggle the local post office to receive it. It’s even a tiny bit more values the moment of the listen ;-)


Photos from the event:

Second part, the Flow of Animals As Leaders at Kosmonavt, September 29, 2011


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