17 Jan 2007 // A review by trevf
The new Caledonia @ Sohl Bar, Hamilton on 13-01-07
- Pseudo Zoot Suit?
- Disco In Outer Space City?
- Under These Stars
- Celestial Satellites
- Sexy Back
- Electro Legs
‘The essential difference between King Crimson and Yes is that King Crimson was based around playing and Yes around singing’ Bill Bruford,
paraphrased from his book “When in doubt, Roll!”
Useful quote that,
especially when attempting to describe sound of The New Caledonia, playing at Sohl (amongst a cast of many) at its final night as a live venue before it undergoes transformation to yet another restaurant in Hamilton's main street.
So its prog then?
Or as one punter yelled to another in a song break “….Mars Volta!....” The answer to that would be an empathic “well, kinda”. Comparisons to The Mars Volta do this group a disservice, though. A better indication of the sound would be King Crimson circa ’72-74. Some of the riffs are positively Frippian, and the vocals, while not incidental (or poor) are clearly not first priority.
All of your classic prog elements are in place
- musicians of frightening technical ability, complex, demanding music, razor sharp ensemble playing, and ear crippling volume. The tedious excesses of that age are avoided pretty much entirely, though. There is a lack of widdley-widdley guitar, and no 20 minute drum solos (although a drummer with a sweatband makes one a bit jumpy), the focus is on ensemble playing and in that regard the NC were pretty much faultless, and an enthralling listen.
So it’s a retro thing then?
That would be too easy. Especially in light of a cover of Justin Timberlake’s 'Sexy Back' that is delivered in style and just at the right time in the set. The bands stated intention is “to explore music in a more creative and experimental direction.” And this is exactly what they do onstage. Even if you don’t really dig the concept, it’s a rewarding listen.
(And visual, too.
“Traditional” prog can get very po-faced, but that’s not a valid criticism here. They are plainly operating at a high level of musicality and loving it.)
There is history here,
of course, and the wry chuckles that greeted their introduction as “48May” meant more than a few were familiar with the family tree (an aside-what is it with Hamilton bands who don’t introduce themselves?) But this is a band with a future, if their collective past is anything to go by. On Saturday we saw polished complex music from a band who are obviously in it for the music and it won a large part of the crown over completely, from the male punters standing stock still trying to figure out how the counting goes, to party chicks trying to dance in 13 (and at times succeeding), to the inevitable rock police standing at the back with arms folded thinking “I can do that”.
The New Caledonia have an album due for release in February, and can be seen live at The Castle (in Hamilton) on the 23rd of November with So So Modern.