Written by: Dave Cantrell
So, we have found during our years of reporting on rock-based music here in the new millennium that a certain kind of internal mind-meld is inevitable. Whereas the boundaries between ‘established’ genres (those inverted singular commas necessary due that g-word’s already slippery and precarious nature) have been growing increasingly porous ever since the trip-hop 90s at the latest, with the exponential, showing-no-signs-of-slowing-down advances in digital technology seeking and most often finding still another way to blend, say, polka and death metal (or something at least as unforeseen), there has been pushback. In a rather joyously perverse way, all this hyper-Burbankian cross-fertilization has, as one might expect, made the lure of those simpler times of traditional, more starkly defined genres all that much stronger. Thus have we seen, in one form or another, everything from twenty-something practitioners of Appalachian hill music to greased-up garage rockers whose grandfathers set the template to Tangerine Dreamers in pursuit of the new komische nirvana all laying claim inside their chosen realm to a new modern-day version of authenticity, a phrase whose very construction is built on paradox. None of which is to say that we’ve been immune to the charm and excitement and even, in some cases, innovation that those artists have brought our way (we lost our unironic shit to early Tame Impala as much anyone) and we fully acknowledge not just their efforts but the frequent gusts of brilliance that blow us right over, we’ve come to realize there’s always been a third way that not only has its own precedence (or two) but also, for us anyway, intrigues with a greater force.
Whether one arcs back to the psychedelic years when the vast terrains of ‘anything is possible’ swept through the art community in wave after lysergic wave, or harkens back to just a relative few years later when punk erupted then catalyzed into post-punk etc., there was in both instances an innate understanding that the boundary lines between this discipline and that, to the extent they ever existed but artificially, were rather suddenly erased. In the former you had ostensible pop acts that just a couple years prior were rising up the charts via strategies that hadn’t changed since the 50s suddenly getting trippy; in the latter you had bands that just months prior had been traipsing about the pub rock circuit now unsettling the hordes with messages of ‘no more heroes’ and the like while at the same time – and this is true in both of those movements – retaining the sense of structure and melody that they’d been grounded in. In short, there was a lot of experimentation, a great percentage of which involved the adoption of previously established formats and twisting them to their own ends.
While the likes of 100 Gecs and countless others seek to explode through any convention they encounter, there are others chasing something akin to those other templates and strategies we just mentioned. Of those at least semi-returning to those hazy halcyon days when, say, Neil Young hooked up with Devo, the tip of the cutting edge, by our lights, are those that manage to take what would normally be heard as a blending of a couple/few bespoke reflexes, gently injecting them with avant or at least unexpected inflections and emerging with a result that not only floors with its unforced naturalism but manages to do so in a way where you can’t see – which is to say hear – the seams. Which brings us at last to this week’s SEM exclusive, the new single and accompanying video from Ben Copperhead.
Taken from the forthcoming Wailing Viridescence album arriving April 28th on Shimmy-Disc, the artist formerly known as Baby Copperhead delves into the elements around us and projects them with a deeply reflective aural spirituality, resulting in what we can only describe as an intimately widescreen experience. Conceived from inside that weird sound dome of eerie urban pandemic silence – in this case in and around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park – the overall sense is one of both immersion and omniscience, exultation and quietude. Having already discovered the joys of analog/magnetic tape recording in the UK years ago and teaching himself how to exploit the inherent limitations to optimal effect, the challenge of channeling the ambient input of his NYC surroundings circa 2020 was a welcome one, and we must say that in the process it’s not a reach to say the ‘voice of the pandemic generation’ has been found. Surreal as fck but grounded deep in the sacred precepts of Song – that melody promises to hum far into my night once this writing is done – the allegorical all too real and the vice as versa as you can get, “Copperhead Vagabond” is a very auspicious intro to an artist we’ve needed to hear. Plus? If you’re anything like us, you’ll once again be amazed by what’s possible while being very eager for what’s coming next. [pre-order Wailing Viridescence here; feature photo: Namiko Suzuki]