Sunday, April 12, 2009

Review: Apollos Thebe - The Voice of God that hopefully won't Stawp

“You can take the time to find out what has really kept you here.”

I’ll come back to this.

Two minutes and 47 seconds into track six of Apollos Thebe’s self-titled EP. Drums and bass; rhythm building up to something bigger. Cue the acoustic. Then the cello. Then it comes together, and the vocalist informs us of the time available to find out what has kept us rooted to the spots where we sit now.

A rhetorical statement, surely? The answer is on the stage. Apollos, you are what have me entranced. I wish I could replace the word ‘sit’ with ‘stand’ but, alas, the Button Factory is empty on this Saturday April 11th, meaning a place at the bar, out of sight of the other ten or so people in the venue, is in order. The Sprites are ordered a plenty.

I first came across the five-piece - self described as varying genres, from New Wave to Progressive, Electronica to Powerpop, with a taste for the film score side of things too - at a Radio City gig back in February when I went to see The Thousandaires. A happy coincidence. Despite only catching the last few songs of Apollos’ set, the band’s performance that night was enough to convince me to buy a copy of their EP. I found their sound to be intriguing. This lot warranted further investigation.

Which brings us to the present (via a chance meeting with the band’s brilliant photographer the day after the Radio City gig, but the Puppet Magazine adventure will be covered in a later post, no doubt). The Button Factory may be dead, but the performance is alive. 

Perhaps it could be considered a tad controversial or egotistical to name a song The Voice of God (Clear The Throat), but if it was ever justified, it may as well be Apollos’ tune. There are only five lines of lyrics, repeated, looped, telling us to take our time and letting us know that they will never let us go.

Because they, Apollos, actually care what the people who follow them think. What all 822 MySpace friends think and what all 841 Bebo fans think (these figures have more than likely increased by now). They even threw in a birthday greeting for a late arrival to the Button Factory gig.

The band recently made it onto Phantom FM’s play list, and appeared on the show to talk a little about the band (unfortunately I committed a cardinal sin and missed it!). However, as posted in the band’s Bebo blog, when they say “we” they do not simply mean the members of the band, but the people who helped the band to where they are now.

“We are yours”, they state, and you believe it when you watch them, as they play with smiles on their faces even though they are only playing to a handful of people. The handful are the people they care about, the dedicated Apollos’ groupies (although they may not appreciate being called groupies). A band that really cares is a rare thing to come across. Rarity means uniqueness, and Apollos certainly have that.

Their sound is unlike much of the new stuff arising out of Dublin, with the cello in particular adding a dimension too many bands these days attempt to find by sole use of the keyboard. Apollos’ blending of the keyboard and cello gives them an edge over other bands and a sound other bands can only cast envious ears toward.

Stawp and Amber, as well as Voice of God (Clear The Throat), are stand out tracks (despite the unfortunate irony of a false start with Stawp on the night - they had to stop Stawp; oh dear, I went for the horrible pun) with their pace making them anthems in a sense amongst the Apollos following, at least to those who turned up on the night. Numbers gradually increased as Apollos progressed through their set.

Despite this, it is the beauty of the instrumentals that has captured my heart, which they did not play at the Button Factory. Tel Aviv sounds as tragic as it is inspiring. Images of helplessness flash across my mind upon hearing it, yet something about the end brings a ray of hope.

Then AonmyE sounds like an orchestra piece that defies conventional orchestra pieces, even with its background chanting, simply because of the speed it moves at. When I listen to this song my head never stops moving, and the fact the song has no lyrics means words sit on the tip of my tongue. Anyone can practically sing anything they want to it, making it a song for anybody and everybody.

The band’s EP is available in Tower Records. Obscurity can only remain for so long for Apollos, as it would be sheer tragedy if big things do not happen for them. A tragedy for music lovers who rely on the radio for the latest ‘tunes’ that is.

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