Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Apr 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Wisdom without Words

music_RedSparowesRed Sparowes give history lessons through instrumental music
Post-rock is challenging music. It’s not exactly jazz, and it doesn’t take the same kind of abstract understanding to wrap one’s head around; but still, instrumental music can often initially be outside of the comfort zone of many rock faithful who eventually gravitate from the softer croons of Death Cab towards the drifting soundscapes and sludgy guitars of acts like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky.

Moreover, there’s the confusing issue of how music without lyrics is used to express specific thematic elements that a vocalist might directly address. If Explosions’ “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” is about a sunken Russian Submarine, do specific movements in the song correlate to specific happenings on board? Or is it a more general inspiration?

While drummer and founding member Dave Clifford might not be able to speak for the rest of the genre, luckily he can provide some insight into the work of his own hard-rocking instrumental band, Red Sparowes. The 7-year-old five-piece from Los Angeles will play rare back-to-back nights at the Crepe Place this Wednesday and Thursday, May 5 and May 6, bringing plenty of crunchy distortion, pedal steel guitar, and slow-burning arrangements.

“The music itself is not necessarily written to fit exactly to the concept,” explains Clifford, thus blowing up many people’s preconceived notions of post-rock. “We’ve never picked a theme and then written songs to be kind of like the specific soundtrack to that phrase that the song title is.”

Learning that the sounds on a record don’t exactly fit with the stories they purport to express is something of a revelation. However, for a band which has taken on some really heady song and album titles—their newest is last month’s LP, The Fear is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer—there must be some sort of self-expression going on, right?

“It’s kind of more like this ethereal suggestion,” says Clifford of bridging the gap between music and story. “It’s pretty abstract, I think. It’s not extremely tied per song, of how [music and themes] relate.”

The best way to think about the storytelling elements within Red Sparowes’ music is in terms of poetry. While their overall concepts are in the back of the band’s collective mind throughout recording—as in the theme of China’s Mao Zedong era on their second album, Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun—there’s no direct analog between song and narrative. However, there is very much a story told within song titles, which read like poetry. For instance, The Fear is Excruciating contains an insert which serves as an accompaniment to those titles, explicating the album’s themes of “wrong ideas” in human history.

“It’s tied to the entire concept,” explains Clifford. “You could kind of—if you wanted to—you could listen to any of [our] albums and read the song titles and kind of imagine in your mind the cinematic experience of what is happening. Or you could listen to it and not know what the song titles are at all, and imagine something else. There are basically two separate things that we have tied together as suggestion to people to see what they can get out of it.”

But beyond trying to understand the relationship between muse and music, the overall aesthetic that a band like Red Sparowes creates is not necessarily the most accessible; abrasive guitar work and songs can top the 10-minute mark. Bands like Russian Circles, Isis, and Pelican may share undeniable bloodlines with Red Sparowes in terms of similarity of sound, but many speculate the genre as a whole may have hit its popularity peak earlier this decade. Or maybe it’s just transforming into something else.

“As with every genre, it kind of usually starts out with a couple bands that you can describe as something, and it seems fitting,” explains Clifford. “But over time it really evolves into some bigger murk of all kinds of really different bands. It’s hard to really fit anywhere.”


Red Sparowes perform at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5 and Thursday, May 6, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12/adv, $15/door. For more information, call 429-6994.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals