Thursday, November 02, 2006

Songs To Learn And Sing #2

Second up to reveal what you should be listening to, and our first guest of the run, Stylus contributor and maintainer of Delete As Appropriate, Iain Forrester:

Art Of Fighting - Heart Translation

Art Of Fighting are from Melbourne and are named after an old Japanese computer game. I first heard of them from an Australian friend who sent me their first album, Wires, a few years ago. I liked it, but it was one of those records where nothing really stuck enough to make me come back to it.

Fast-forward a few years and I come across their follow-up, Second Storey, with very few expectations, only to be blown away by a few of its songs and, most of all, its stunning finale. Post-Sigur Rós or, well, Coldplay, there are an awful lot of bands trying for just the same kind of epic sound as Heart Translation but few ever nail it quite as perfectly. It builds up over most of its six minutes tantalisingly slowly, tension in every ponderous bass note, deliberate piano chord and smear of guitar even before Ollie Browne starts singing. He sounds like he’s taken an emotional beating at the best of times, but from the start here he sounds positively shattered, grasping desperately for a lifeline.

In its key moment, though, the song eventually surges with triumph, rather than despair. A beautiful hum (keyboard? guitar effect?) comes in and his line "THERE you were, black silver dressed in gold" is a revelation that the written words can’t do justice to, filled with relief and awe and wonder. I’ve never had much of a religious experience and I don’t know if Browne has, but I imagine it feels a bit like that moment in Heart Translation.

But just much of the heartbreak and power of the song lies in how fleeting the moment of light is. It isn’t God that he’s addressing and reality crashes in, the object of his affection crushing him beneath with "a million words, so few sentences" as he tries and fails to understand. This sort-of-chorus comes round a second time, louder and more overwhelming than the first, and then the song runs on calmly for another couple of minutes, its numbed musical anticlimax strangely appropriate.

If you’re going to make a big deal out of not being able to talk to a girl, then, this is how to do it.


swisslet said...

that's another great song - and another one by a band I've never heard of.

What does it say about us that our first three choices are all resolutely downbeat?

It's that old chesnut about happiness not being as producing as many great songs as misery...


Simon said...

Heh, there's one coming up at the start of next week that's the virtual opposite of downbeat...

swisslet said...

(sorry, my english went a bit wonky there due to some partial deletion)

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