Sunday, March 27, 2011

Contrasting Similarities: Toe and Lite

I enjoy variety in my listening, and often my interest in variety will dictate the direction that it takes.  On the other hand, I do get on kicks with certain styles, and I see no reason to shake them if they continue to hold my interest.  In January, I was checking out a lot of electronic instrumental music, and to rebel against that, I went on a math rock kick at the beginning of this month (because you know, THAT’s so different).  This led to my current interest in Japanese progressive/instrumental music, and right now, even though I have tried to taper off listening to this subgenre, I keep fighting the temptation to fill up the CD player entirely with the stuff.  

In a previous post, I mentioned that Lite would be coming to Austin as part of the SXSW festivities, and that I was also looking into another band called Toe.  Those two seeds came to fruition simultaneously.   Toe's The Book about My Idle Plot on a Vauge Anxiety showed up the day I was going to see Lite at SXSW here in Austin.  There will hopefully be some footage of that show online soon, so I am going to wait to gush about it too much, but I will say that it will be seriously hard for any live act to top Lite this year.  

Book About My Idle Plot on

Between Toe in the car and Lite at the Gingerman, that evening threw gasoline on the Japanese instrumental rock fire I have been warming my hands around.  Although Toe’s similar instrumentation, ideology, and approach seems similar to Lite, their ethereal approach to twin guitars readily distinguishes them.  Toe’s music is intimate and organic in a way that makes them seem more “post-rock” than “math-rock.”

Now, let’s talk over on camera three for a second.  I dislike (nay, hate) the categorization “post-rock.”  I think it is essentially empty.  It’s a label created for progressive rock made after 1995 that intends to distance it from the excesses associated with that style.  Some influential bands such as Sigur Ros and Tortoise have been christened as “post-rock,” and as a result the term has the circumscribed melancholy associated with these bands, circumventing thoughtful description.  And that's the issue: as a category of music, “post-rock” is non-descriptive – it means nothing more than an “alternative” to “alternative.”  I fully accept my complicity in promulgating this term here, but also my reluctance to use it for the sake of brevity.  More on music categories later.

While listening to Toe on the way home, and enjoying it, I also struggled to keep the energy and precision of Lite’s show in my awareness.  I came home and immediately downloaded two of their EPs, Illuminate and Turns Red, and burned them onto a CD.  I even printed out cover art for the case.

IlluminateTurns Red - EP 

One of Lite’s strongest attributes is their attention to composition above individual technical ability.  Despite the obvious virtuosity of each of the individual members of Lite, they don’t showcase “solos,” in the classic sense.  I can’t argue the point that Lite uses lots of notes, but I think their chops coalesce in service to the melodic aspects of their work.  Filmlets was primarily guitar-driven, but synthesizers play a more pronounced role in Illuminate/Turns Red.  This is not to say that they have given up on their distinctively angular, riff-driven approach.  Instead, their use of synthesis widens and enhances the sonic possibilities of their work.  This live clip has two of my favorite songs from Illuminate.

Image Game is my "fight song" right now.  In a live setting, it was devastating.  Not only does it showcase their energetic mastery of precisely executed and thickly harmonized melodic lines, but also their ear for atmosphere and ambience.  Side-by-side with Toe, I think the differences between the two bands are apparent, but I also think that fans of one will probably like both.

No comments:

Post a Comment