Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Spanish Donkey - XYX

I've recently discovered a wonderful resource for experimental music called "Signal to Noise": a bi-annual magazine devoted strictly to unusual music ranging from free-jazz to harsh, tonality barren music from people like Merzbow. 

The Spanish Donkey is a band I came across for the first time because of this lovely niche publication. Almost no bio is available on the project and as of 2012 there is only one album available, "XYX". A cursory Google search informs me that the band shares a name with a medieval torture device (read here for all the delightful details).

First track, "Mid-Evil", starts off with spastic but not entirely un-musical electric guitar noodling over a warbling waveform drone. The guitar's initial tonality provides the piece with an ambiguous position between the poles of light and dark but it inevitably takes a turn for that darker pole.After sixty or so seconds of tangled duet between guitar and synth a skilled but frenetic drummer makes himself known, providing fills that like the guitar dance between structure and chaos. In the last ten minutes there arrives the at-first sinister but essentially light-bearing, jazzy, tones of an organ.

"XYX" sees the synth become far more prominent and loud, in an oddly normal way, making use of measured-sounding whole notes and surprisingly traditional tonality. The guitar becomes more jazzy but no less weird. Drumming on this track builds from quiet accompaniment to rolling
thunder: a very obvious 20+ minute crescendo.
"XYX" succeeds beautifully because it provides open minded listeners with interesting sonic experimentation held together by the glue of intermittent bursts of tonal sense and structure. The whole thing comes across as very moody without being terribly deliberate. This is definitely on the more accessible end of experimental music without being too predictable.



1 "Mid-Evil" 37:36
2 "XYX" 22:18

Northern Spy, 2011