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Inspiration

Inspiration: The Cosmic Sounds of Midday Veil

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Inspiration: The Cosmic Sounds of Midday Veil

“98.3 KEXP, you’re listening to Audio Oasis the NorthWest music show. This is Sharlese, and it's now time for a live performance from Midday Veil, here on KEXP Seattle.”

There are certain bands that you hear in your lifetime that completely sweep you away when you first hear them. It may be a different style of music, the performance, the tone, sounds, etc. Sometimes this comes later – a realization and appreciation for a band that you never heard before.

I was finding my way through a nice autumn day, blending picante hot cocoa, about 200 pounds of it. The demand was high, after all – winter was coming. My phone was running music on YouTube’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert and found its way to KEXP, based from Seattle. That's when my ear drums were graced with the a mystical, pagan-esque, cosmic, tribal, psych rock sound of Midday Veil.

I was hooked. Their sound so unique to my ears that I had to hear the rest. Their debut album dates back to 2009 with Subterranean Ritual lead by Emily Pothast on vocals. Their music has spanned across 6 Albums and today I'll be talking of their fifth, “The Current”.

This album really showcases an elevation to their overall sound giving very captivating melodies and a journey that is most enjoyable from the beginning to finish. Its filled with strong rhythmic and cosmic synth giving an imagination to the drifting beauty of space. All while presenting such a foundation rhythm and groove that you want to let your mind and body go as you take it in. The type of music you want to dance around the fire too while it's raining, 80 degrees outside, midnight…and, of course, it's a full moon.

One of the biggest contributions to the overall sound and fullness of this album is the addition of Jason Kochan on bass. This gave room for the other musicians to expand their own sound while Kochan gives a performance on the bass that drives their sound forward. While the synths and guitars of Pothast and Timm Mason could expand and give the dark atmosphere that files the progressive sound of The Current.

Side B of the album starts with “Without and Within”, a mystical walk through a dark hypnotic field. It's easy to get lost and captivated in the enchanting and ominous voice of Pothast, while the percussion and bass give the body moving beat, and the guitar and synth create the haunting space in between. Following it transitions into “Sun Stone” and then “Great Cold of the Night.” Sun Stone acts as a bridge between the songs keeping you wondering and anticipating where the luminous heavy synth organ will bring you. It ends bringing in a rhythmic synth and “Great Cold of the Night” kicks off with the perfect beat to get you dancing around the fire. As the final song on this album, it does bring a very tribal-esque sound while keeping their unique way of painting an expansive star filled landscape. The song naturally spans a good 11:15 and brings you through a musical journey that you want to stomp your feet to, raise your hands to the powers above and make some sort of sacrificial offering in the fire.

For a band with an unforgettable sound, I am highly grateful that I have discovered and stumbled upon this dark and mystical psych band, Midday Veil. So thank you, KEXP, and thank you, Midday Veil.

Be sure to check out more from Midday Veil.

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Inspiration: Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

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Inspiration: Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

The medium of the novel is a particularly lucky form of storytelling: it has the ability to, without limit, give information to the consumer directly. In contrast, alternative mediums of storytelling such as music and art have a serious challenge presented when trying to tell a cohesive story that is packed with lore. As we were approaching this daunting task, we started thinking of ways that people have told stories without words. One of the things that we landed on was the video game Shadow of the Colossus.

This game decided that instead of telling a story through copious amounts of text, instead to tell it through experience and art. The gameplay is challenging and the aesthetics are exceptional, to be fair, but the most engrossing aspect of it is the unspoken lore. It brings the player to a point of engagement that is deeper than spelling it out with words simply by presenting the deeply engrossing environment. The creators were masters of communicating through the unspoken as they painted the picture of a lost hero and his horse, in a vast landscape devoid of others save for monolithic monsters, attempting to complete a mysterious task to resurrect a woman whose name you (as the player) don’t even know. As a player, I was personally invested in the unnamed hero and his horse.

All this to say: We are trying to borrow a few notes from the creators of Shadow of the Colossus in regards to storytelling. Our characters are complex and the world that they are influencing (and that is influencing them) is huge, but our stories are told somewhere in the space between the lyrics, somewhere in the quiet time between colossi.

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Inspiration: Disasterpeace's "Vignette: Panacea"

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Inspiration: Disasterpeace's "Vignette: Panacea"

Though we started writing Volume I before the game was even released, Richard Vreeland's (aka Disasterpeace) work from Hyper Light Drifter resonates with me because it has one foot in the classical past and another in the messy, electronic future.

It begins with a soft, emotive piano that's clearly inspired by Debussy's Clair de Lune. It's airy and lo-fi at first, only hinting at the crunchy synth swells that come in to accompany the piano until it finally ends in a noisy static. When writing the 8th track, Solitude, we came to a lot of the same conclusions, or at least drew from similar muses. Chopin's nocturnes have always been really affecting to me. They are classically structured, but in a really deeply felt way. They may be light, deft, and graceful, but never sterile or pre-packaged — and always tinged with bittersweet. This is exactly the emotion wrapped up in our song, and why we drew so heavily from Chopin's style.

But the electronic component is important, as well. The world that Calescai occupies is foreign and often dangerous. Solitude itself is a place only as mysterious as it is feared. The classical component of the song carries the emotion and human aspect of it; the synth grounds that experience in a sci-fi environment that is unfamiliar and uncaring.

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Inspiration: Metropolis (1927)

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Inspiration: Metropolis (1927)

Our upcoming album, Volume I: Calescai, is about three characters and the way their stories interweave. But in reality, there is a fourth, vitally important character: the backdrop, the city of Calescai. It is a strange city high above the ground, with seven gleaming towers that reach up to an oceanic sky above and dark depths that plunge just as far below.

Turns out, Metropolis did that nearly a century ago.

Though I don't think Metropolis was at the forefront of any of our minds when writing the story of Volume I, its similarities are undeniable. Social issues of class are built into the architecture of the city itself; the social strain (or privilege) experienced by its citizens are almost material. Workers crowd in grungy elevators as they literally descend into darkness. The elite occupy a space high above them among the clouds. In this way, the city is more than just a backdrop, and more than just a symbol of inequality — it actually embodies the hegemony of class. Social stratification is also spatial and architectural stratification.

Granted, as important as the movie was for all sci-fi that followed over the 20th century, it's portrayal of class conflict is arguably reductive and unrefined. Our album has never been about class so explicitly, but it does play an important role nonetheless.

Also, that title sequence is still hot 89 years later. Well done, Erich Kettelhut.

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Inspiration: Transistor (2014)

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Inspiration: Transistor (2014)

Darren Korb composed the music for 2011's Bastion, and I immediately fell in love. When my friend, Seth Boyer, did a (very good) cover of one of its tracks, I knew that it was something special.

Transistor is no different.

Korb uses really strange instrumentation to great effect, combining old-world instruments such as harp with grinding guitars and sequenced, clunking beats. The vocals soar over the strange menagerie of instruments, sultry and bluesy, creating some strange pastiche between blues and electronica.

The music is clearly good (which is why we joyfully added We All Become to our repertoire of cover songs) but Transistor has more to offer than just that. The art style is lush and drop-dead gorgeous, a weird amalgamation of cyberpunk and art nouveau that looks like a Klimt painted in rarefied neon. 

Seriously. I could stare at it all day.

Transistor is inspirational in more ways than just aesthetically. Its title character, Red, has several similarities with one of our main characters: Etta. But that's a discussion for a later time...

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