| La Cigale, Paris
Swiss cyber trio The Young Gods kicked off their Euro/world tour at a
packed Cigale in Paris, just a few days ahead of the release of their
new album, Only Heaven.
They did so with a brilliant display of what can be done by one musician
with top-of-the-line music software and digital sampling technology, a
kicking live drummer and a good-looking, good sounding, powerful lead
All the articles and reviews I read in the French press have delineated
the Young Gods' musical territory in relation to NIN and Ministry, some
writers bringing those names up as matter-of-fact descriptions, others
heaping scorn on the American bands, one going as far as writing of NIN's
"...tired formula of Depeche Mode plus FM metal guitars!" If you're unfamiliar
with the Young Gods, NIN/Ministry is as good a comparison as any, even
though one could add to that musical family the likes of first cousins
Heldon, Foetus and Swans, and paternal uncles Pink Floyd, Terry Riley
and Jimi Hendrix.
The early-Floyd angle is especially pertinent in the Young Gods masterful
handling of quiet space and ambience, both on the album and in concert.
Many years ago, pre-Darkside Pink Floyd used to feature quiet "spacy"
moments during their live shows: shimmering 'Space Echo'ed glissando guitars,
VCS3 bloops, bleeps and sequences dripping off bird songs, interlaced
in swirling quad with seagull squawks and buzzing bees.
The wonderful thing, unthinkable today, was the absolute silence, awed
and mesmerized, with which the audience welcomed the band's invitation
to space out: no 'Whip-it" mutant to scream "Rock 'n' Roll" between dust
rushes and drunken slobbers, so when one of those gulls passed overhead
in the panning quad mix, it was so quiet you could almost hear the guano
hit the ground all around you!
The Young Gods brought back those halcyon days when they amazingly pulled
that stunt at La Cigale the other night. On at least two occasions, most
notably during a perfect rendition of the epic 'Moon Revolutions' (at
16:34, the longest track on "Only Heaven", the dramatic pendant
to 'Summer Eyes' from 1992's TV Sky), the Young Gods created with seeming
ease a mood of quiet 'Umma GumMeddle' introspective tension, gliding through
regions of space fraught with unspoken menace, coolly and hypnotically
stretching the fabric of space-time, finally shattering the apparent peace
with a swirling mixture of wailing guitar feedback, apocalyptic tribal
drum grooves and mountains of samples.
Samplers are the Young Gods' main "instruments". On
stage, all the music, save for the drums, is played from the keyboards:
bass, guitars and 'everything else'! And it all sounds quite real and
perfectly placed. In all honesty, I have to say that therein lies the
one weakness of a Young Gods' live performance: almost by definition,
a trap drummer and a keyboardist do not "move" much on stage, so one cannot
help a feeling of stasis to overcome the proceedings. Even a
strong front man like Franz Treichler, who moves well and struts effectively
cannot offset the relative motionlessness of his two mates. By comparison,
the wildness and abandon of Trent Reznor and his Nails do bring a NIN
performance to a level of emotional excess barely approached by the Young
Gods. But that remains a relatively minor point considering the power
and diversity of the songwriting and arrangements.
Another potential problem for a sample-heavy outfit is the aggressivity
with which record companies and copyright lawyers have sued and pursued
the buccaneer sampler: "Pay us a lot of money for the rights, or we'll
sue you for all you've got and ruin your life and career!!" So, rethinking
their approach, the Young Gods simply play what they need beforehand and
sample themselves! And in so doing, they have spared themselves the accusation
thrown at other sample maniac modernists: namely just being rearrangers
of other people's music, relying only on redistributing the sounds, timbres
and musical colors of instruments and programs played and thought out
by others. These
Gods do indeed create their own universe!!
Now, this being said, I couldn't help but notice various bits and sound
bites that I'd heard somewhere else before. Musical illusion or perspicacious
listening? You tell me! Only Heaven was recorded in NYC during most of
1994, with remixing, overdubbing and vocals recordings produced upstate
at Bearsville. Early Swans percussionist/engineer/producer/technologist
extraordinaire Roli Mosimann, a Swiss compatriot, is once again at the
control. Franz Treichler has described him as the "sound catalyst and
decoder", and he is the engineering hinge on which the doors of technology
swing open to reveal the Young Gods' sound vision.
time on their hands, a nice budget and NYC's vanguardist mayhem right
outside their front door for organic inspiration, the Young Gods have
created an "Opus Technoid" of great force and shimmering beauty, avoiding
the unidimensional approach of, let's say, Ministry's cold rage, NIN's
absolute despair or Foetus' horrifying destructiveness.
Listening to the Young Gods gives you the exhilarating feeling of being
right in on a new world of sounds, with long shelf life, unfolding along
with you into the musical future, unlike other "modern" tech bands, futurist
on the first day, passe the next and requiring another helping of new
product very quickly to fend off obsolescence, that killer virus of the