Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review: Swimming in a Red Sea

Following the split of Guillotines back in June of 2008, guitarist and vocalist Gavin White spent a lot of time recording solo pieces on his MacBook under two different aliases: Herodotus’ Dream and Insomnia.

White is very politically orientated in thought and action. He studies Economics and Politics in UCD. He is heavily influenced by the likes of George Orwell and Karl Marx, amongst others, and this comes across in his music. For example in the Herodotus’ Dream song Don’t Bring Me Down, White screams “1984 is coming up behind” and “1984 is knocking on your door”, references to Orwell’s famous novel. His songs have an air of political entrapment about them.

However, following personal circumstances and the break up of Guillotines, White’s songs took on a different approach when he assumed the alias of Herodotus’ Dream. Songs such as ‘Je Taime’, ‘Stepping Stones’, ‘Substitute’ and ‘Untitled #2’ give an indication of White’s mental state at this time.

Interestingly, under the guise of Insomnia, White’s new found passion for electronic music can be seen in songs like Prgtry, Time Magazine and Rotax which utilise the MacBook’s full array of instruments and beat processors. Elements of the acoustic sound of Herodotus’ Dream are also retained in Confession, IP4 and Metropolis, while the tragically beautiful EBG - which stands for ‘Elegance, Beauty and Grace’, the title of White’s Insomnia album - brings out the darkest in White.

Being a fan of White’s solo material, and of previous band Guillotines, I awaited with much interest for months to see if he would instigate a new a band at any stage. He was always keen to get back on the live circuit in Dublin but things were quiet for a time, with White seemingly focusing entirely on his solo projects.

One song from the Insomnia album caught my attention immediately with its slow build up and explosion of noise. It was called IP5. The opening lyrics were “There’s a hand drenched in the red sea/can’t you feel it?” This song was stuck in my head for a time, but I didn’t think it would start what is has started now.

Fast forward to January 2009. White leaves me a Bebo comment. “We recorded a present for you.” I visit the Bebo page of White’s new band, My Red Sea, a three piece consisting of White, bassist David Duffy and drummer Shane (not Shay) Given. I scroll down to the tracks and see one song that was not there the day before. It’s titled My Red Sea. A pattern is forming.

I click play and the song begins its slow build up, with two guitar riffs looping, the bass bassing and the synths synthing. Then the drums come in and the riffs change but the looping remains and the synthesisers come to the fore. Then the riffs stop and White’s all too familiar voice starts singing. “There’s a hand drenched in the red sea/can’t you feel it?” It’s IP5 reworked and made better than it was. Once again I find the words ‘my red sea’ stuck in my head, except this time they are there as a band and a song, not just a lyric.

The band’s sound stems from a range of influences. This include electronic artists such as Autechre, Burial and Boards of Canada and more traditional/mainstream artists like Radiohead, Bloc Party, Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine, Deerhunter and Modest Mouse.

My Red Sea’s Bebo page simply says “This revolution will be televised.” This gives bands, fans and everyone a range of choices. You can sit back and watch the tidal wave crash; you can drown in the crashing of the wave; or you can be at the front of it all, side-by-side with White, Duffy and Given, and ride the crest of the wave.

I know what I’m doing. I’m going swimming in a Red Sea.

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