Gyroscope - Anomaly's first performance
- Category: music
- Published: Monday, 23 May 2016 22:22
- Written by Ian McGrath
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This piece was written for my last college band, Lumberbride, and performed in my Oberlin senior recital back in 1992. It's an instrumental with a strong 7/8 riff, which starts in Ab minor then ends in C minor. Originally Lumberbride performed it with drums, bass, keyboards and electric violin (with the great Carla Kihlstedt on Zeta 5-string). Here Anomaly does it with our normal instrumentation (guitars, keyboards, bass, drums). The electric guitar assumes the violin's part. Later in the Anomaly story, I started playing more clarinet; we developed and eventually recorded a rearrangement where I start on keyboards and switch to clarinet halfway through, and the spacey middle is guitar and clarinet. In the recap, the guitar takes over the keyboard part and the clarinet assumes what in this recording is guitar. I am not sure this version was as effective, but it was nice way to change it.
This recording, from our second gig at the Orange Bear, in February of 1998, represents our first public performance of "Gyroscope." This was probably the first song of our "second set" that we started working on. Starting with the recruitment of Brian on drums, in September of '97, we started working up a full set of music, around 45 minutes. At our first gig, we performed in its entirety. Many of these songs we had worked on for a year or more, back to our time with our original drummer, so it was important to start expanding the repertoire so we wouldn't be bored of everything we played. By the time of our final gig in July of 1999, we had 2 full sets of music in our repertoire (counting only a handful of covers -- we could probably have done another full set of covers, based on stuff we had developed in rehearsal, much of which we never brought to the public.) We had some chestnuts that I felt like we were expected to play at most gigs, but we had a repertoire fat enough that we could afford to leave stuff out (there were definitely a few of the early songs that eventually felt beaten to death, until we started messing with the arrangements again.)
It is fun to listen to this performance again, it's surprisingly strong. The band conveys the intensity of the repetitive odd-metered phrase, and solid dynamics are on display, building and releasing satisfyingly a couple of times through the course of the piece. I like the guitar sound Matt uses; his solos are urgent and engaging. My micromoog was in the shop at this time, so my second keyboard is my old Korg Poly-800, which was an analog synth pretending not to be, so it didn't have the knobs and stuff that helped you make the gurgly noises that make analog synths so cool. So it's hard to even tell there is a second keyboard.
The middle section, compositionally, was an experiment for me at the time it was written. I wanted there to be a constant drone, like a siren going off endlessly, becoming gradually more dissonant and ominous. Originally this was achieved with synthesizer and violin. In this version, the synth carries the weight of the drone. It would have been interesting if Matt had used an e-bow or something -- to my knowledge he never owned one. So the drone brings another kind of intensity to that section, meanwhile the rhythm section grooves on the 7/8 phrase in c minor, keeping things moving. This section is a little rougher, the timing isn't always perfect. It's pretty faithful to the version Lumberbride performed and recorded some 6 years earlier. Later when Anomaly recorded this song in the studio for Taco Pasteles, the middle section would be freer, with clarinet and guitar noodling together, and the drones gone. But I like this droney version. I also really like how when the song is in 4/4 the bass is almost entirely on the upbeat -- making it feel almost like it's still in 7. This would not be our last song in 7, nor was it our first. I look forward to regaling you with the legend of "Meat Balm the Web-footed Groove Hound," and "Get Fuzzy" (interestingly, both of those had lyrics contributed by Don Marvel, the bass player and artistic inspiration of Lumberbride, and its ambitious works).