I had a pretty novel thing happen the other night. I like to listen to music while doing homework, and I had a Last.fm station going for a particular style. (In the .0002% chance that you aren’t familiar with Last.fm stations, it’s like “genius mixes” or Pandora or what have you: algorithm-based music suggestions generated by your prior selections).
See, I’m kinda quirky with my listening habits, and when I’m trying to read or focus on something, I can’t have music with vocals on because the words distract me. I can even get kind of distracted by complex musical structures or lively melodies/rhythms, or well…anything ear-catching, really. So, what I usually put on is chill shit. Lately, I’m really gravitating towards ambient music. In particular, I like dark, textural stuff, like Aidan Baker (you may be familiar with his work with the group Nadja). What he and other similar artists they play on the station do is this really loose, swirling, reverb-laden style without a lot of structure or dynamic. It’s just these big pads and washed-out guitars, and I fucking love it.
The station kept playing all these bands who often collaborate with each other: Aidan Baker, Aun, thisquietarmy, Tim Hecker; all contemporary stuff, all like-minded, and all fitting together nicely for obvious reasons – and then the weirdest thing happened. As I was looking down at the pages, this one song came on and really piqued my interest. It totally fit in with the rest of it, and I was digging it so much that I looked up at the screen to see who it was (while you’re listening to the stations, Last.fm will show pertinent info on the band: pictures, albums, bio, similar artitst, etc.) and the band that was playing was one I’d never heard of; it was this band Maeror Tri. As I said, it totally gelled with the rest of the station. It was vaguely electronic, yet kind of heavy and brooding. It was just these dark swaths of ethereal melancholy. But as I read the brief bio, something jumped out at me: “Maeror Tri was a band from Germany, founded in April 1988…” Wait, what?! 1988? Had to be a typo. So I did a little digging. Sure enough, they formed in ’88 and broke up in ’96. How could this be?
I was shocked, to say the least, and sat there for some time, kind of sorting out my head. I guess I’d never considered that some styles that hang out on the fringes of popularity could exist for a lot longer than people are aware of. I’ve been into experimental stuff for some time. I’m aware of the Steve Reichs, the Brian Enos, the Robert Richs, but they all kind of exist in this knob-turning, early moog-adopting cloud off to the side. I’m a huge fan of their work, but they’re basically electronic artists, really. It’s not quite the same as what Baker and his peers are doing now.
But Maeror Tri appeared to have made their stuff exactly like the modern guys are doing it. They have guitars that they have patched into a bazillion effects pedals, and they interact with their amps, working with feedback and buckets of reverb. It’s basically like live-processing guitars. There’s just something really interesting about the extreme similarities in both the methods and execution of these two different eras of musicians that I couldn’t help but be rather taken by.
For comparison, here’s one of my favorite songs from Aidan Baker, released in 2007:
And here’s the song I was initially so enchanted by from Maeror Tri, released in 1996:
I mean, eleven years isn’t exactly forever, but it’s plenty of time for significant stylistic and tonal changes to occur in a genre. Think of the technological innovations that took place in that time span; for those two bands to sound so similar definitely says something. Whether that be “how were Maeror Tri so far ahead of their time? Are they like, really emo wizards or something?” or “why was that genre so stagnant that it sounded the same after over a decade?”, I’m not entirely sure. I for one think it’s amazing, but I can easily see someone else discrediting it as a complete travesty.