I was having lunch with a friend my age (mid-20s) a few weeks ago. He got a bachelor’s degree in music and now works as the music director at the church I go to. The topic veered toward orchestral music, which my friend lamented as dying. “I go to the symphony, and I’m the youngest person there by 30 years!” he said with frustration. And it’s true; composers aren’t the sexy, rebellious Liszts of old; hipsters don’t flock to traditional classical works. Still, there are people working in the idiom, and I don’t think we’ll sound the last playing of Mozart any time soon.
The Noise Revival’s Nathan Felix is the latest in this movement of young composers working to create full orchestral work, releasing his debut symphony The Curse The Cross & The Lion today. It is indeed a full symphony of almost a half-hour’s length. This isn’t pseudo-soundtrack music, although there are some moments reminiscent of good film scores. No, this is a consistent piece of music that takes full attention and full energy to enjoy. There are nuances. In some ways, I had to listen with a different set of ears than my usual “indie-pop” ones; there are different goals, different textures, different ways of being. There’s a heartbreaking oboe solo that stands out amid “V. Don’t Give It Up,” which is one of the most beautiful and powerful sections in the piece; that’s not going to happen in indie-pop all that often.
I’m not qualified to assess this symphony against other classical music, but I can say that it’s incredibly rewarding to listen to for those who don’t listen to a ton of classical music. If you’re into orchestral music, have an adventurous ear, or just like beautiful things, then The Curse The Cross & The Lion should be on your to-hear list.
I idolized the Beach Boys instead of The Beatles growing up, so Pet Sounds is a monument in my musical development. Even as a teenager, I was able to grasp how incredibly difficult everything was on that album. So it’s fairly ambitious to cover the whole album in an indie-pop/indie-folk idiom, as the bands on Mint 400 Records set out to do. (That’s a direct download link, btw.)
The Duke of Norfolk (whom I manage) kicks off the album with a singer/songwriter-esque take on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” setting the mood for the rest of the album. The One & Nines conform their Motown soul bent into a passionate version of “I’m Waiting for the Day,” while Fairmont’s stand-out rendition of “God Only Knows” is probably very close to what Brian Wilson would have done in the power-pop idiom. A few of the tracks delve heavily into lo-fi arrangements and performances, so fans of that genre have plenty to love as well. It’s free, too! Enjoy Mint 400’s Pet Sounds.
Nathan Felix is a bit of a staple at Independent Clauses: his band The Noise Revival (sometimes The Noise Revival Orchestra) made its first appearance at IC in early 2006 and has been in its pages ever since. Most recently, TNRO contributed a fully orchestrated version of “Brand New Colony” to Never Give Up. It’s his love of orchestras that propels this latest news clip: Felix, not content with having a rock band that is also kind of an orchestra, is composing directly for orchestras now. Along these lines, he was recently invited to the Levon Manukyan Collegium Musicum Summer Program for Emerging Composers in Bourgas, Bulgaria to record a new orchestral piece.
But he needs your help to get there! You can contribute via this page. He’s currently got about $3K more to go. Here’s a local news reel documenting Felix’s new-found love of composing:
They’re using IndieGoGo for the campaign, which closes at the end of the month. So far they’ve received $21,100 of their $60,000 goal. I jumped in the first day the project was open, because I believe in this project and really want this to happen. Check it out.
“Come Thou Fount”:
“Till Kingdom Come” (originally by Coldplay):
And more of that could be in the world. Let’s help make that happen.
Independent Clauses’ 10th birthday is coming up, and we promised loyal IC readers a present/surprise at the beginning of the year. Today is the day that we unveil that present. We are putting out a 20-band compilation album of covers from Give Up by The Postal Service called Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of The Postal Service. It will be out May 15 on Bandcamp.
We’re running a Kickstarter campaign to finish up the funding of the mechanical licenses. We’re only looking for $695, because this project isn’t looking to change the world: we just want everyone to get paid legally. So, if you want to support Independent Clauses, get some sweet free tunes, support one of the bands below, or generally be awesome to each other, you should hit up the Kickstarter Page and check out the prizes. I’ll handmake you a mix CD! With art!
Album Name: To the Seven Churches in the Province of Asia
Best Element: Stunning songwriting, stellar musicianship
Label Name: n/a (this is a sin)
Band E-mail: email@example.com
The Noise Revival has a lot of guts, and I admire them for it. I admire the fact that they would put barrels of money into an extremely well-produced record of sounds that aren’t going to be well-received by the public at large. You see, The Noise Revival is somewhat akin to a more optimistic Pink Floyd- creating huge slabs of rock that are at times droning and at others complex and intricate. Ebb and flow is the lifeblood of the Noise Revival, and To The Seven Churches in the Province of Asia is basically one 60-minute song broken up into 9 slightly-easier-to-handle chunks (this very nature defeats the purpose of quoting song titles, which I won’t do very often during this review). It’s freaking awesome if you like that sort of thing- which I do, a lot. This album has some extremely strong songwriting and while the vocals could use a little bit of help, these songs are mostly instrumental, which only adds to their gutsiness.
These songs succeed because these songs aren’t long out of pretentiousness. These songs are long because the members of the band enjoy the melodies that they play so much that they feel compelled to repeat them many times in many different settings. This isn’t a band that says “lets play long songs cause it’s cool”- this is a band that says “man, this melody is awesome- how many different ways can we work this into a song?”
Another thing that helps out their sound is that the band members are all on the same page. Each of the individual members seems to be on equal talent footing. None of the members go for the narcissistic touches- each plays their own little part in making the sound go. There aren’t any huge drum solos or bombastic guitar riffings- there’s only what needs to be done. The keys offer up a brilliant touch in “Lie N Die”- then disappear. The guitar repeatedly plays a beautiful melody in “Good Job”, but it never gets excessive. The drums never goes for the throat, put always gently pushes the sound forward- the stomping beat on “Revolution” is ample proof of that. The bassist has a huge contribution on this album- his finesse and melodic ability turn many of the more droning sections of atmospherics into highly enjoyable sections of music.
The only drawback to The Noise Revival’s sound is the vocals, which take some adjusting to. They’re sort’ve like a mournful trumpet- not really all that happy to be there, but you know it’s there. Sometimes the low, swooping sound works in the context of the music, but many times it feels a little awkward. It’s truly the only awkward piece of this equation, though- every other piece fits together like clockwork- including the mood shifts, which are dramatic. The song “Revolution” alone contains all out rock, dream-pop, ethereal moodiness, dancy stuff, tempo changes galore, and I think even a key change, although I can’t verify that. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if there were one in there.
The Noise Revival has crafted an epic with To the Seven Churches in the Province of Asia. This is probably my favorite release of epic post-rock since Pink Floyd committed their visionary whatever-you-want-to-classify-it-as to tape. And while it’s ambitious to pass up people like Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed and all those who made the genre famous, I feel something in the Noise Revival that I don’t feel in the others. I feel an earnestness, an honesty, a passion, a driving force that gives them something more. Also, I feel a lot more variations in sound than I do with other bands. That always helps.
Basically, if you like post-rock and you don’t own this album, you’re cheating yourself. This album is the epitome of both post-rock and the enduring hope of the independent music scene.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.