The History We’re Part Of

Posted on 23 July 2010 by dubs

Musical Charis
People People

Musical Charis has teamed up with JMB Records to release their latest full length, People People. For fans of “the gift of grace,” what you expected is to be expected. Musical Charis storms through this disc with the troubling aspirations of a K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the ‘70s weekend. Tarantino wanted ‘70s music in a ‘50s-style film; Musical Charis is portraying 2010 with a late-‘60s/early-‘70’s feel. Except obviously the most glaring issue we have to wrestle with is that this isn’t the ‘70s; it’s 2010, which is both eerily different and similar, an issue we’ll revisit in a moment.

Musical Charis melds together many different instruments: keyboards, xylophones, piano, six-strings, acoustics, electrics, bass, tambourine, drums, female harmonies on the hook, it’s all there. They bring the opposite of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” with a sense of location, something of the telecommuting agrarian commerce, a connection to the sort of emotive force of sound not Chunneled through Auto-Tune–creating a raw set of harmonies that acknowledges dissonance even when the individual melodies seem to be correctly aligned via analog. And that dissonance, that tension, is where Musical Charis is directing itself in a significant way.

 In Blake Abbey’s words: “Let time run round until we dizzy ourselves /…/ A new age is calling and I am stalling again.” Which brings us back to the eerie differences of today and the ‘70s. The different part is easy–time has changed, obviously we don’t live in the ‘70s anymore, or you likely wouldn’t be born. Abbey says as much; the similar is where things get weird. The ‘70s had the failing Vietnam War, economic stagflation and later a banking crisis created out of intentional federal manipulation of interest rates (we almost bankrupted Mexico. No biggie). Flip to today and we’re waging two multi-front wars operating, economic fears of stagflation and a banking crisis that was created by the finance industry out-manoeuvring the last round of spectral banking regulations (better yet, because of inflation fears, we’re asked to tighten up even further through government austerity). But what’s eerie is that this similar past is somehow accounted for as a better time. It was a time as all times are, in and of itself–each moment its own minute crisis. Things happened that made a difference then; things are happening today that have an equal force.

Musical Charis characterizes the opposite of this, as a form of nihilism, quite neatly in “Forward.” The critique of action stands out as the accumulation of the song ascending, a rising tension, a failing perspective, “And though we all stand up/In the end…/And though we all stand up/What are we fighting for.” Musical Charis suggests that these words need some further contemplation. As they end the track we can say, indeed they do.

The next track begins, “Can you, can you see the past/Looking forward on a map.” This is a revision of knowing the past in order to create a better future, but the next part matters just as much as the former: “Are you satisfied?

A call to action if there ever was any. Yet, as noted, Musical Charis turn their thoughts inward, focusing on self, and the stylization therein, where tracks like “Jezebel” burrow down into the sort of Crossroads in each of us, making a deal with the devil so that we can represent the passing of freight trains on our guitars. That worked when Ralph Macchio could out-cast the real abilities of Steve Vai, but today the trains are barely moving freight and whoever Ralph Macchio became, in the world we know, Jaden Smith has now replaced him. Musical Charis reminds us of all the history we’re all part of, and the history we’re not; what we do with that good data is up to us.

Words by dubs

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