STOP MOTION ORCHESTRA - Instant Everything!
So this is the kind of music I wouldnít have expected from a Texan band. Stop Motion Orchestra have only been founded in 2013, but worked really fast to get their debut album Instant Everything! out just one year later. The band is a quintet, but a lot of guests show up on the record. Their choice of instruments is also quite varied. While main songwriter Mohadev plays more or less usual gear like guitar, bass, keyboards, he also performs on less typical stuff like banjo, computers and objects. The remaining members add violin, sampled violin, soprano and tenor saxophones, drums, percussion and synth bass. Finally the guests complete the line-up with bongos, vibraphone, piano and tape. Oh, and there are no vocals!
The musical direction can be described as avant rock, progressive rock, art rock and rock in opposition, but canít that mean anything these days? In the context of Stop Motion Orchestra, expect a light-hearted instrumental approach with incredibly intense and precise playing. Influences are the Cardiacs, whose T.V.T.V. is even covered on the album, Frank Zappa, Fred Frith, Magma and many more. So the rock in opposition label makes sense, even though Stop Motion Orchestra never even try to convey the brutal seriousness of a band like Henry Cow, although their offshoot Slapp Happy wasnít a stranger to fun, as music historians might remember.
Basically the parts which would be in charge of a vocalist are shared here between the violins and saxophones, both instruments often coming with more than one voice, making some truly complex interweaving patters that will take your ears and mind some stamina to untangle, if that is what you want to do. But strangely enough, the music never sounds like a mess, but on the surface always keeps a catchiness you rarely encounter with a progressive band.
Also Stop Motion Orchestra are not satisfied as just being a progressive sounding band. There are so many more mood flowing into the songs. Take for instance Car Chase, starting with a synth bass line that remembers Eighties era cop movies, before switching to a more organic sound that will recall the wonderful blaxploitation era of the Seventies, thank to the groovy electric piano, and the violins even hint at the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Another great example of the bandís unpredictability is Regal Monster, the only track making it over six minutes. Here we get a weird mix of jazz and classical music, all of it coming with a ska beat, and later even adding some computer game music. If that isnít crazy enough for you, I donít know what is! Even the less than one minute long Mono Interval enchants with an echo laden piano solo that is chiming in a truly spooky way. Gives me the goosebumps! My favourite track comes with the concluding Mono No Aware, a song that somehow sounded very familiar to me but is apparently not a cover version. The band is acting at their most supreme here, combining elements of western movie soundtracks and Japanese folk elements. This is truly a mesmerising, unforgettable piece of music.
When all is said and done, after three quarters of an hour, we learn that Stop Motion Orchestra are the kind of avant prog rock band that doesnít need long songs to convey their message. The songs are overall short, and still manage to tell a story, even though no words are used. Also kudos to songwriter Mohadev who leaves a lot of room to his band members but still finds enough space to display his skilful guitar playing.
If at first I was a bit confused with Instant Everything!, as too much seemed to be going on at once, I soon learned that it is best with Stop Motion Orchestra to let the music flow over you, and then decipher the musicís intricacies only later. Only that way you will get everything out of the band. Letís hope that the quintet will keep on producing such intelligent, wonderful and enchanting music for many years to come.