Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Abney Park...

These days I don't listen to anywhere near as much new music as I'd like to so it's really rare that I find an album that I end up listening to over and over again. But every now and again I come across an album like Aether Shanties by Abney Park.

Abney Park are a concept band with a bizarrely specific concept. Firstly they are a steampunk band which is an odd concept itself (warning - I have not really researched this and the following summary is me making it up as I go along). Like it's cyber cousin, steampunk seems to have origins in literature (the William Gibson/Bruce Sterling novel The Difference Engine), games (Space 1889 and The Chaos Engine) and film (Steamboy) but not music - the music part seems to have come afterwards, inspired by the source material rather than the other way around. Abney Park's music certainly fits in with the steampunk aesthetic, a mix of traditional and contemporary styles and sounds.

But within that general concept there is a more specific story, that of a band of pirates roaming the skies in a steam-powered airship. After five albums this concept is carried off with a confidence and strength of imagination that makes their world seem believable enough for the songs to work in context and for it to seem less like a gimmick and more like a lifestyle. It's the kind of image and aesthetic that a more established concept artist, Alice Cooper for example, might use for one album to tell one story.
Abney Park's story is ongoing, and that's what makes it work.

Whether you buy into the backstory or not, the songs are mostly awesome. As the title suggests, the album mainly consists of sea shanties modified to fit their 'steampowered airship pirate' theme. There's a consistency of style throughout the album, but at the same time a real mix of styles that makes every track sound different. I won't go on about it too much - I'm not very good at talking about music, which is why I stick to films. But it is a very good album and I recommend checking it out. You can find out more about Abney Park on their website here.

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