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Condor Moments » Wireless Bollinger

Condor Moments

We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy

Wireless Bollinger

February 5th, 2008 by RichyMidnight

by Steve Scully


“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare coined this little phrase. It’s a lovely sentiment, really: name’s being constructs; artificial means by which we attempt to identify people, things, places and all that jazz. The truth of the matter is, at least in terms of art, one hell of a lot of thought goes into names. Condor Moments may not roll off the tongue with a great deal of conviction, but it may very well be one of the most apt names of all. Let’s break it down. A condor is either a huge, near-extinct flying bird (not a tautology), or an extinct Chilean and Ecuadorian coin denomination. A moment is vague time measurement, implying brevity despite its indefinite nature. Condor Moments are, therefore: brief, indefinite moments in time where one becomes condor-like, ie flies, nearly dies, or is exchanged for goods and services in Chile or Ecuador. Now, did that make any sense? It’s not meant to.

A few years back, System of a Down had a surprise hit with a strange song called ‘Chop Suey’. The charm of this track was that it allowed the head-banging types to take centre stage, while not skimping on the indulgent, flowery vocals of Serj Tankian. Condor Moments aren’t much like System of a Down, but they do represent a similar mix of styles: singer Richy Midnight is like Tankien-via-Nick Drake, jumping between barked-out phrases, operatic wails and quiet folky musings. This inconsistency, this brash and impetuous refusal to stick to any one ‘feel’ or sensation for even a large portion of any one song is what characterises Condor Moments’ effort for the album’s entirety. Songs are divided into segments, moments in which this band either alienate or attract; a hit-and-miss quality something that goes hand-in-hand with adoption of such an attitude to songwriting.

‘Butlins’ Rash’, the album’s opening track and paradigm, breaks from acoustic folk to Queen-like grandeur, piano-driven theatrical rock and distorted guitar solos. A polyrhythmic, many-voiced, multi-generic mind-fuck is the only real way to describe the breadth of Condor Moments’ styling. When they settle down, they can provide listeners with the occasional piece of gorgeous, harmonious heavy rock – it happens midway through ‘Butlins’ Rash’, and again pops up towards the end of ‘Palace of Earthly Delights’, when the vocals are belted out, yet take a nice backseat to the rhythmic and dynamic changes. ‘Made for Love’ is another frantic mix of genres, hitting its straps with a drop from frenetic full-band sound to a clunky piano and vocal chant.

As eclectic as their style may be, Condor Moments are most definitely treading ground that’s already littered with footprints. Mike Patton’s best side project, Mr Bungle, started the ball rolling with haunting circus rock, polarising listeners: some were scared, others drawn to the hypnotic weirdness of it all. In Australia, Snowman have created a brand of theatrical horror rock worthy of a Vincent Price voice-over. Condor Moments might be doing things their way, and might not be giving in to any of this ‘formulaic’ or ‘generic’ rubbish, but paradoxically, a denial of mainstream values is becoming mainstream in itself.

What are ‘alternative’ values then? What are ‘indie’ values? What’s ‘originality’? It’s easier to pose the questions than the answers. From their name down, Condor Moments pose nothing but questions. The album has ended, confusion ensues… but it’s a nice, cathartic confusion.