Mia Matsumiya builds robots. They do cool things for 30, 40 seconds; they twitch, malfunction; then they die. She calls them ‘tragibots’.
She also makes music. The creation is a similarly painstaking process, interweaving neoclassical form with structural rigidity and melodic freedom, then casting it all in terms of the guitars and vocals more familiar to doom or sludge-metal connoisseurs. We call it ‘post-metal’.
This is a genre which, though rooted amongst hardcore and metal musicians looking to express themselves beyond the verse-chorus-verse straitjacket, is now just as much home to jazz, psychedelic and even classically-trained artists. They simply want to turn up the amps and scream a bit. For each band tagged with the name, a distinct musical heritage is apparent. There are raw, fire-and-brimstone blues behind Oxbow’s The Narcotic Story, while Isis… well, Isis seem to have rather a penchant for bears. Enraged ones, specifically.
All of which might sound horribly pretentious, an accusation sometimes difficult to dismiss. Red Sparowes’ At the Soundless Dawn, an instrumental concept album about the Maoist Great Leap Forward featuring 208 words of track title, probably deserves to be so branded.
But to focus on the self-indulgence is to get caught up on the ‘post-‘; and forget that the music is still very much metal. Oxbow’s ‘Eugene Robinson’ can turn a room of lethargic, undernourished indie geeks into a convincing reinterpretation of a Hieronymous Bosch image with nothing more than his tortuous howling, while thrusting his bemuscled form at the audience. He often adds to the aura by involving the mic stand in illicit, aggressive and possibly quite painful relations.
There are more accessible styles; 15-minute orchestral-rock compositions are never going to make good football chants. This is music that demands, seizes and finally rewards, your complete attention.
The juxtaposition of power chords and piccolos might seem a perplexing one, but if you can stomach that thought and open up your mind a little bit, you will find that the music is immensely rewarding. Who, after all, doesn’t want to live the dream, and one day relish the prospect of having a tormented soul thrust his grief, and his groin, in your face, to an accompaniment of violins.