Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Armen Ra-Black Mountain scale

The memories of the Who and Led Zepplin were stirred by my reaction to the opening act at the Portishead concert on Oct 10 at the Sound Academy in Toronto. My life-partner, Laura, and I were trying to decide where their opening act, Thoughtforms, should rank on the Armen Ra-Black Mountain scale.
Armen Ra is a therimin player who opened for Grinderman in November 2010. To quote JrazyBlog, it was "the equivalent of having Zamphir open for Slayer." Talented perhaps - but the last thing in the world I wanted to hear at a Grinderman concert! It would be a 1 on the scale, whereas Black Mountain, who opened for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds a year earlier, since I bought one of their cds the next day - would have been a 10.
Our conclusion: Thoughtforms was ultimately about a 4 on that scale, almost redeeming themselves with their final track, but still failing to convince me that the 2 guitarists could actually play their instruments. They could make lots of interesting and atmospheric noises and create a fairly convincing wall of sound when they got wound up, but tune, rhythm, melody and other such musical notions were ignored. I usually love "experimental" but these guys just seemed sort of juvenile and formless. I feel that the same rule applies as for writers and painters - show me you have a grasp of the basic techniques - then dazzle me with your innovation. But having failed to demonstrate a mastery of the basics (I will admit that the drummer impressed throughout the set), it just felt like they were - as one site put it - like a bunch of kids noodling around in their bedroom.

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