Wednesday, 4 May 2011

4th May 2011 A:B:27 - I've Been Keeping This Family Afloat For Years

This weeks Choose My Music was picked by Dom Walsh, a man I have communicated with on an almost daily basis, collaborated on the A2Z music project with and interviewed on my football website - yet we have never met. Oddly on the couple of occasions he has picked on Choose My Music he has managed to pull out a couple of crackers. This week is no exception and would also qualify as an Audiophile post as this group was relatively unknown before their break up a year or so ago.

In keeping with tradition though, lets get the formalities out of the way. This morning Dom Walsh, at random, picked the combination A:B:27 (Bay A, Row B, CD 27) which lead me to this little gem of an album.

Bound Stems - The Family Afloat

Quite where I first heard this band I am not quite sure. Sadly with the array of music websites filling the internet over the past few years, my memory starts to get a little fuzzy when it comes to more recent purchases.

Looking back it was either on the brilliant Daytrotter website or on Last FM. Considering I do appear to have 6 Bound Stems songs in my Last FM played library and taking into account that due to my recent redundancy, I have a lot of time to watch Columbo, my powers of deduction lead me to the latter as the source on this occasion.

Bound Stems were formed in September 2002 and released a bunch of EPs between 2003 and 2005. By 2006 a full album was recorded and received some very favourable reviews amongst both the indie press and major publications like Rolling Stone and The New York Times. A national tour was booked, including an appearance at Lollapalooza. Things were looking good enough that all the band members decided it was time to quit their day jobs in order to become a fully fledged full time touring band.

12 months later it already became clear to Bound Stems that the lack of a stable income was causing problems. Feeling the need for stability and 'strong roots', they returned to their days jobs and got on to recording The Family Afloat.

I'll be honest, I have no idea how to describe this album. I don't feel exactly safe in my own mind using niche terms like "math rock" (it does exist). Whereas the bog standard 'indie rock" is just a little too vague for my liking too.

What you do have is a really well textured album where every track stands on its own merit. The opening track on its own changes rhythm and direction so much you feel like you have listened to a full album in the first 4 minutes and 20 seconds. My ears and brain tell me is a very good thing.

Often, a lot of the songs follow this pattern. Sometimes it feels like they have managed to merge three or four song ideas into one, yet magically make it sound perfectly natural, which suggests a collaborative approach to writing that many bands could no doubt learn a thing or two from. Oddly, listening to this album as I write I feel the urge to have a bit of an indie boogie....and I hate dancing... luckily no one is home.

The first time I listened to this album I was driving to work. I noticed when I arrived in the car park, that I only had two songs left on the CD so I sat there in my car until every last note was processed by my ears. Like a good book, I just had to know how it all ends.

I actually emailed the band after listening to The Family Afloat for the first time to tell them how much I enjoyed it. I got a lovely email back, then two weeks later, got another one to say they have split up.

If anything this CD demonstrates how difficult it is to break through in this industry. I imagine there are not many people who could not enjoy listening to it. The last track on this album contains the refrain 'I've been keeping this family afloat for years'. Sadly, like most families, the struggle appeared to be too great in this modern age.

On a positive note. Member of Bound Stems now make up the band Like Pioneers and you can listen to them here

1 comment:

  1. Great write up as ever Dom. I mentioned on twitter to you that i had never heard of them before, but glad i have now seen this. I will have to purchase the album whenever i get chance.
    Totally agree with your comments on how hard it must be to get catch a break in the music industry. It seems more and more that people listen to music that they think they should listen to, rather than what they want to listen to. It seems like people like Jo Wiley, Fearne Cotton, Zane Lowe etc are the massive influences on peoples music tastes rather than the music itself. So i can only imagine how hard it must be to get that break and actually get your music out there. Seems like this band may be a perfect example of how hard this must be.