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Ethereal Verses about Ethereal Subjects

by Max Barashenkov / Images by Laura McCullagh / 06.09.2011

“I always like to drink a cold glass of my own piss before I play,” admits guitarist Adam Hill before the Sleepers mount the stage to play their second show with their new vocalist. I, in turn, pay respects to his rituals. He leaves me with the promise of three fresh tracks, written after the arrival of the new frontman, and reminds that tonight is dangerously close to the seventh anniversary of the band. I assume the position and prepare to be the loud-mouthed asshole my boss pays me to be, hopelessly hoping to suck some inventive marrow out of the bones of two bands that have been reviewed, interviewed and featured countless times by anyone with a pen or a blog. Prepare to be media’d.


If I wasn’t physically afraid of Daniel Botha, I would suggest that he is way too bland for the Sleepers’ elaborate sonic arrangement. The three to four hundred-strong crowd, currently swaying to their progressive post-rock, would naturally disagree. But it is only when Nicolai Roos backs him up that the vocals match the instruments. This is not to say that Botha is incapable, by the third track he showcases some impressive man-range – hopefully the band keeps playing to his strengths and expands in this direction – yet his movements on stage are awkward, stilted and uninspiring. Perhaps this can be written off to the fact that he is still getting into the Sleepers’ groove, but eighty percent of the energy emanates from the two guitarists and their utter surrender to the sound. We follow their lead, not his. Later, the editor of a monthly Cape Town music magazine compares Botha to the “vocalist from A Perfect Circle” and I’m not sure on whom the irony falls since Maynard James Keenan also fronts Tool, the band that the Sleepers were constantly compared to in their previous incarnation. Despite their constant maturing of sound and professional delivery, they remain the H20 of the rock scene – drinkable, tried and reliable, sometimes incredibly refreshing, but in the end, just water.

With Open Arms

Isochronous, on the other hand, are a bouquet of flavours and are the kind of band that music writers love to paint in picturesque landscapes with invented words. I’m not a fan of female vocals, but even I can’t deny the sheer epicnicity of their performance. They have everything – from well-crafted melodies and catchy riffs, to sudden bursts of heaviness and intriguing musical choices, from the slowly ensnaring stage presence, to the bluntly good looks. Tonight’s set, a launch of a number of new tracks from their latest release, Inscape, is bound to run a wildfire through the local media, but let us turn to something Isochronous are actually bad at, namely their song titles. “Torpid”, “Oxygen”, “Attic” and “Gravity” all bore around on the new record, unjust names for some of the most exciting pop-rock in this country. I believe the band needs some help and have taken upon myself to give the songs of this Mercury Live set more fitting names and possible thematic direction. In chronological order:

Track 1 – Adventures in Post-Dramatic – A quest of a lonely, beaten-down sound to earn its rightful place and meaning in the world, in the end prevailing with the aid of Hollywood cinematography.

Track 2 – The Scent of Deflowering – A science fiction tale of an alien plant finding love in the arms of a human astronaut.

Track 3 – The Honestest of Intros – A band of strangers lay themselves bare in front of an inconsiderate Wild Western town, spinning songs of desolation, and win over hearts with tales of blues.

Track 4 – Love You Can’t Hear – A sober admittance to waking up from a beautiful dream, a chorus of hands sending off the vision.

Track 5 – JC The Builder – A song of an ordinary Jesus building his own make-believe. Walls of sound climbing, climbing and climbing until the inevitable crash never comes.

Track 6 – Ethereal Verses About Ethereal Subjects – Using words such as “infinity” and “reality”, the poet projects himself into the sublime, never to return.

Track 7 – Rape Is Purely Subjective – A simple love story.

Track 8 – The Godly Mediocre – A mathematical formula proving that any audience will surrender to any musical being after enough lubrication and a strong fan-presence at the core of the crowd.

Track 9 – The Meeting of Teeth and Pavement – A poet’s lament of a past filled with vicious beatings by rugby jocks, not looking good in his mother’s clothes and eventual castration.

Track 10 – I Urinate in The Urinal – this is not a song title, this is what happened.

Track 11 – Newton’s Finest – Basically Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope transcribed to music, full of everything human – love, hate and disappointment – in the face of certain death.

Track 12 – A Disappearance in Jazz-Funk Major – A sordid, B-grade picture of really good break-up sex.

[Side Note – Isochronous were too busy for Mahala, so we couldn’t get the actual set-list in order for the revised titles to be matched with their old and pathetic former selves. If anyone has the list, they are encouraged to share it with us.]

Ethereal Verses About Ethereal Subjects


The Merc Stage

*All images © Laura McCullagh

**Check out the rest of the images from this gig here

10   4
  1. YsterHart says:

    With all the shitty soda around, water is pretty fucking grand.

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  2. vanilla says:

    Why so bland Max? Best thing about this review was the photos.

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  3. Nadine Theron says:

    How to write a funny review when the music’s not shit: Well wow.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    I think what bothers me about both these bands is their air of arrogance they carry around (sleepers on stage, isochronous off stage) – like this scene owes them for highly polished imitations. I get their technical talent, and the hard work, and all the fancy pedals and such they need to purchase to get their sound ‘just right’. But that is standard fare for any trully successful band, and those other (mostly international) bands also have the benefit of an original sound in their armory. Lukewarm SA standards doesn’t mean you get to play click-tight every gig and act like we owe you something because of it. You can see their frustration and arrogance ooze. That bothers me.

    Also, when it comes to an original / new / fresh exciting sound, I am curious as to which local bands Max would in fact champion? He seems to want something he himself hasn’t found yet. I suppose speaking from that position isn’t entirely bad, but then you have to be a fellow journeyman, not be an arrogant pack leader who acts like he’s been to the destination before we even see a map. I mean, Hogs, Fuzi, Jay Bones etc, whom Max loves (mostly from association, rather than judging them on the same level he expects from every one else – originality being forefront there). He wrote highly of bittereinder at oppi. What else locally gets him going?

    I’m not trying to defend the bands reviewed here as bastions of originality and export class. I am just curious. I think Max is as prone to star fucking as the next guy. If Max is reviewing your gig: buy him some drinks. Be nice. Have conversations he feels he can connect to. Say something mildly ‘controversial’ only for max to hear, he likes to feel like he’s in on a secret. You’ll get a decent hat-tip in your direction, even if it’s grugingly.

    Skin deep integrity. As relevant as it needs to be. Controversy – just another style to wear. And arrogance, arrogance, arrogance.
    I suppose then, Max would be a perfect metaphor for the bands reviewed above. They have more in common than either party will admit.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    The bit with the renaming of tracks was self indulgent, unneccesary and distractive. It read more like ‘insight into max’ (isn’t he zany, offbeat, controversial and crazy???) than ‘commentary on subject of article’. Poor effort there.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    This part made me laugh because it syncs with my own thoughts around Isochronous’ lead singer:

    “I’m not a fan of female vocals, but even I can’t deny the sheer epicnicity of their performance.”

    As for The Sleepers new vocalist, give him time. It’s difficult to say much after two performances. From what I’ve heard, he’s already dramatically improved from the first one. Who knows where the trajectory will take him (and them).

    P.S. “epicnicity” < do I get a prize for spotting the newly coined word?

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  7. Andy says:

    Anonz and Max Urban Dictionary beat you to it

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  8. Max plays sax says:

    Max, your song names for Icochronous are just plain stupid. They sound dumb and over intellectual in the way a child sounds when they try to be clever.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    creative article, but still not your scene, max. events like this should be reviewed by younger ‘fans’.

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  10. Nami says:

    Hey PatThanks for the concert fcebdaek. Agree that SNG could have sounded better, but think that may have something to do with the audio mix and not wanting them to sound even vaguely as good as the main act. I guess it could detract from the impact that U2 have when they come on if the support artists sound better than them?I unfortunately missed A&M, although I hear their performance was equally as bad acoustically speaking. I personally don’t think they were the right act to support U2 myself, but having listened to some of their music recently I have to say that they are musically and vocally an impressive talent. The guitar work is really, really good and the vocals (while I can’t understand a word of it) has a really unique sound to it. (I subsequently heard that Larry Mullen wants to work on a side-project with them? Totally unconfirmed, but interesting to see if it ever comes about )Each to his own I guess.

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