One of the joys of being around for almost a full seven years (secret: keep your eyes peeled for a 7-year birthday present soon!) is that I can follow artists through their careers. We’ve covered every single Felix Culpa release except for their debut three-way-split EP. We’ve covered half a dozen Fairmont releases. We’ve covered just about as many Marc with a C albums. Green Song is the fourth release that’s associated with musician E Deubner that we’ve covered – two solo albums and an album by his band Futants preceded this latest solo effort. This is his first under moniker The Hotel Chronicles.
One of the reasons it’s so fun to cover artists over the long range is that artists grow and change. It’s neat to see where an artist was, where an artist is, and where an artist is (maybe?) going. That’s what makes Green Song especially interesting to me. When I reviewed The Wasted Creator in 2006, Deubner was cranking out heavy, industrial-influenced rock tracks that had almost zero pop influence. Over the years, Deubner’s aesthetic has refined and changed, although never losing the core of dark, distorted, truly alternative rock.
Green Song is the strongest effort that Deubner has put out yet, because like Grant Valdes, Deubner has put his focus squarely on composing and not on becoming a rock star. I’m not sure what the green song that he’s singing about is, but it’s referenced at the beginning, middle and end of the album. The decision to tie the album together thematically also causes Deubner to tie the album together musically, making one of his most ambitious but most cohesive collections of songs yet. Deubner stretches his musical boundaries by including burbling ’80s-style electronica (“Intermission”), Beck-style hip-hop (“My Baby’s Coming Home”), and modern beat-making production (“Love Me, Leave Me”) in his dark, vaguely apocalyptic rock this time around.
Green Song isn’t for the unadventurous. Deubner’s aesthetic, while honed on this album, is still not within the realms recognized as modern rock. If you approach this thinking it’s a Nine Inch Nails sound-a-like, there’s a good chance you will be disappointed. You might not; there is definitely industrial influence that an open-minded NIN fan could enjoy. Songs like “Just for Fun Fun Baby, Run Run Run” and “Green Song Part II” rock out in a way that calls to mind his work with Futants, and those are two tracks that could be enjoyed by many.
But for every accessible riff (like the great opener of “A Minute to Love”), there’s two or three things that would never see the light of radio (like the simultaneous weird falsettos, quaalude guitar tempo, and old-school hip-hop beat of “Love Me, Leave Me”). For every accessible tune like “A Minute to Love,” there’s the late-night basement experimentation of title track “Green Song” and “The Final Push.” This is the way E Deubner wants it, and while not every one of his ideas succeeds (“Reborn” has an awful vocal performance that dooms it instantaneously), he is hitting with a higher level of success than on previous releases.
E Deubner’s Green Song is a solid statement from an artistic with a unique aesthetic. The rock/industrial/other presented here is the work of an artist continually refining his sound. This is a big step forward, but not his final destination. There are a lot of new elements introduced to his sound on this album that will need to see refining in future albums, just as his guitar riffs have. I can’t wait to see where he goes next. Recommended for fans of industrial, experimental rock or experimental music in general.
Band Name: E. Deubner
Album Name: Death is a Vacatation Through Time
Best Element: Solid songwriting
Genre: Dark rock
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not sure how I first heard of outsider music- but somewhere along the line I became aware that there were musicians who were completely destroying the pop music scheme. Artists like Jandek and Daniel Johnston are two of the most ‘well-known’ of these oddities- prolific musicians who create and release music solely for themselves, with no hope nor ambitions of getting famous.
If E. Deubner continues releasing music at the clip that he has been, he will soon take his place in the canon of outsider music as the out-of-place genius that he shows signs of becoming.
As a cohesive whole, Death is a Vacation Through Time is a great album that easily combines genres as if they didn’t even exist. Whether churning out an industrial backbeat, lightly tapping the keys of a piano, riffing on a heavily distorted guitar or creating eerie, complex soundscapes with myriads of unreleased tension, Deubner shows his songwriting prowess throughout his latest album.
As could be inferred from the title, this album is dark. Heavily distorted guitars of an almost industrial variety and urgent drumming by a well-used drum-machine coexist with mournful guitar melodies, copious varieties of mood-setting keyboards, and clean guitar work to create songs that don’t really fit anyone’s mold of music.
There’s really no place for this album in the pop canon- it’s not something you release on the radio, nor is it music that would be good as soundtrack music (unless you had one really creepy, futuristic, militant movie to score). It strikes me as similar to the classical music I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to- modern composition, to be appreciated as composition.
The theme throughout the work is one of pushing forward, whether it be by the spare but insistent drumbeat in “Waking Up to Chaoticism,” the squalling guitar noises in “Churning Through Motions,” or the nearly out-of-control drum-machine spasms in “I Went to the Edge of the World.” The insistence is backed up by drawn-out tracks that drag the songs backwards, creating a tension that keeps me returning to these songs. The underlying organ drone and plodding lead guitar line in “I Went to the Edge of the World” fight the quick rhythms to pull the song in two directions, while the low noises and guitar melodies in “The Fire of 1818” keep the song from going forward or backward quickly. The finest tracks here are nothing short of brilliant in their scope and execution.
That’s not to say that there aren’t still problems- sung vocals, a problem on E. Deubner’s previous album, continue to be an issue on tracks like “I Went to the Middle of the World,” where the dramatic moaning gets a little too off-key and over-the-top to stomach. While this awful performance is redeemed by the Atari Star-esque “Time is an Animal,” in which Deubner actually carries a good melody and keeps an (almost) solid tone, the difficult vocals elsewhere are still a low point.
E Deubner is like Daniel Johnston- not in sound, but in the unfortunate way that the brilliance of his songs can currently only be appreciated by those who write music themselves. It takes patience to enjoy this album, and it’s not something you put on to casually chill out to, which means it lies in stark contrast to the listening habits of about 99% of the current music-listening population. But it is a shining testament to the fact that modern composition is the way that in-the-know rock bands are going, and it is one (tiny) step closer to letting all those outsider bands into the big game of accepted music.
Band Name: E Deubner
Album Name: The Wasted Creator
Best Element: Unique take on rock music.
Genre: Slow, heavy indie-rock
Label Name: N/a
When I picked up E. Deubner’s [u]The Wasted Creator[/u], I was expecting something acoustic or electronic, as is the case with most solo projects these days. Thus, I was pretty shocked to hear an album full of caustic, biting, slowed-down rock. There are even shades of industrial on this album. Needless to say, this is not your normal solo project.
Neither is it a normal rock album. What E. Deubner lacks in tempo he makes up for in sheer aggression (the hugely distorted guitar chomp of “The Stapler Manger” and “Greater Cause”) and unpredictable songwriting (the nearly alt-country twang of “Inevitability Be Damned” and the industrial thud of “Everything Gets Forgotten”).
The sheer aggression is an underlying force throughout this album- although this is by no means a metal album, there is an ominous undertone that comes from the presence of Deubner’s heavily distorted guitar. This is only counteracted by the frequent contribution of warbly, fragile keys- the antithesis to the menacing growl of the guitar. The vocals here are also often manifested as a distorted snarl (“My Past is Due”), only enhancing the discomforting mood. When the distortion is dropped off the vocals, the voice turns out to be a weary, off-kilter voice that fits very well against the menacing, ominous background.
Ominous is a good way to describe the songwriting of E. Deubner- throughout this entire album, a generally foreboding feeling abounds. His songs are not conventional, which does lead to some songs that never quite sit well with the listener [“Inspiration’s a Bitch (When You Don’t Have a Pen)”], but there are some brilliant songs here.
“Inevitability Be Damned”, while not the best example of Deubner’s sound, is my favorite track here. It drops the heavy distortion off the guitar and the vocals and lets Deubner’s songwriting prowess shine through. It’s a very unique track, as the ominous mood is temporarily lifted for a more organic sound.
Although the description so far has made these songs sound quite similar, they’re really quite diverse, which makes picking a ‘best track’ difficult. “My Past is Due” shows his songwriting skill best, but it’s not as hard and dissonant as the excellent “Greater Cause”. The best all-around example of his sound would be “The Stapler Manger”, with its slow build to intensity, but in terms of songwriting, it’s not the best. “The Cotas Loop” is another track that could get votes for best song, as it features a great riff, strong vocals, and several mood changes.
E. Deubner has crafted a highly unique album of distorted, plodding, churning rock. It’s a challenge to listen to this album all the way through, and a challenge to understand what’s going on. But once you’ve gone through it a couple times, the pieces start to fall together, and you’ll probably agree that this album is pretty stellar. But you need an attention span. I hope I hear more of E. Deubner and his unique take on rock music.