The band bio on the Century of Aeroplanes Web site says, “If you throw the Century of Aeroplanes into the Ohio River, it will surely sink to the bottom.” I don’t know if I believe that’s true. Sure, at times, the music is quite heavy, but so are boats, and if you throw a boat into the Ohio River, it probably won’t sink to the bottom.
All of this wonderment over whether the Century of Aeroplanes will float or sink reminds me of the famous witch-test scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and when it comes to that, I feel much safer arguing that the Century of Aeroplanes is, in fact, a witch, than I do in discussing its buoyancy.
The Century of Aeroplanes is a musical project spearheaded by Rob Collier, who enlists the help of all sorts of friends in the process of realizing his compositions and ideas. The music is a bewitching cacophony of instruments and experimental noise collages. The tracks on Travel in Any Direction are abrasive and beautiful, mind-numbing and thought-provoking; it’s a musical S&M-fest of hauntingly pretty pianos, eerie percussion and reach-for-the-Tylenol mechanical-sounding drones. And the thing is, after the drone has drilled itself deep into your mind, you realize it isn’t mechanical at all, but is actually some sort of stringed instrument, a violin or viola perhaps. And that is a perfect simplification of the Century of Aeroplanes’ duality.
Collier says that each Century of Aeroplanes record is unique, but adds that Travel in Any Direction, which is available in its entirety for free download from WM Recordings (www.wmrecordings.com), is admittedly one of his less accessible recordings.
“Travel in Any Direction is very much about sonic textures, though I hate terms like that. It’s about creating sounds that can exist on their own — sounds that by themselves can be ‘songs,’” Collier says.
Collier’s sound-songs include some consisting only of physically manipulated cymbals (“The Most Difficult Lecture in the History of Television”), layered double basses bowed to create sustained, non-melodic groans (“These Things Take Time”) and drum kits featuring coffee cans (“Hurling Through the Midwest”).
The Century of Aeroplanes has other releases as well, though many of them are only available in various European countries. There is Repellent Communications of Sea Creatures, released by England’s Unlabel, and there will soon be a new release from Greed Recordings of France. Additionally, Postdawn Nurseries, a Massachusetts-based label, will release a record collecting some of the music from these European releases.
Though the primary composer for the majority of Century of Aeroplanes’ material, Collier — also bassist in Fire the Saddle — does have an occasional songwriting partner, usually Birmingham’s Madison Stubblefield. Also, when performing live, Collier is joined by an ensemble of electric bass, double bass, violin, viola, trombone and piano.
Come see Collier and company as they land the Century of Aeroplanes on stage at the Rudyard Kipling tomorrow night.
Who doesn’t like family bands? When brothers perform together, there is always a unique chemistry unlike anything non-family bands can conjure up. Sure, sometimes this chemistry manifests itself as a strange and often violent sibling rivalry a la the Gallagher brothers of Oasis. Other times, however, it is pure magic.
When Phillip Olympia started building up a cache of songs, he realized it was time to turn to his long-time musical collaborator and brother, Anthony. The pair worked together, with Phillip playing guitar and singing while Anthony embellished each track with mandolin. Before long, the songs were ready for recording and performance, so the brothers enlisted the help of their friend Joe Dattilo to play bass, and they were off.
A few months later, Olympia’s debut recording, Bridges, is finally ready for consumption.
The songs play like a campfire jam, complete with tambourines, handclaps and finger-snaps. Dattilo’s jaunty two-step bass playing style provides a perfect framework for Phillip’s rhythmic guitar work and Anthony’s frantic mandolin pyrotechnics. It’s fun music, and the Olympia brothers and Dattilo are clearly having fun making it.
Olympia’s record release party is Saturday at Old Louisville Coffee House, where they’ll be performing and selling some of the first available copies of Bridges. The Ever Constant Sea and Alligator, Alligator’ll join them.
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