INTERVIEW: Rangda | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The word ‘supergroup’ is often erroneously appropriated; suggesting a coven of wealthy egomaniac musicians getting together to satisfy a huge appetite for self-gratification, or a bunch of relative also-rans valiantly trying to carve out a niche in both credibility and career. For Rangda the word holds much more gravitas. Comprising avant-garde guitarists Sir Richard Bishop (Sun City Girls) and Ben Chasny (Six Organs Of Admittance) along with esteemed drummer Chris Corsano, theirs is a honed, riff-heavy concerto of centrepiece suites and satellite pieces. On Friday 15th July they head to Sage Gateshead for a live show in support of latest album The Heretic’s Bargain, which promises as much in exemplary experimental musicianship as it does in their trademark ‘Dick Dale meets Omar Khorshid’ psychedelic wig-outs.

Getting together every few years as Rangda, the trio bring forth a smorgasbord of influences and back catalogue work as diverse as Django Rheinhardt, Bjork, Comets On Fire and various alt. rock and free-jazz projects seemingly as their individual whimsy takes them, and on Royal Trux’s old label Drag City to boot.

Eminently all prolific musicians in their own right, Ben and Chris explained how the Rangda songs come together. “Usually someone will have an idea and then we just work off that. Things will sometimes get more complicated or involved, or perhaps less. They mutate. Some songs are total collaborations and some are more from a certain person. There’s really all sorts of ways that the music gets made” Says Ben. Chris adds “It’s mostly written, recorded and mixed over a few short days.”

So while the recording process is surprisingly very quick and unstructured, modestly monikered Sir Richard explained that in the live arena it becomes more finely planned. “The shows will vary during the tour but we will play most of the new album and then choose some older material as we see fit. There’s always free improvisation, but it tends to be within parts of a song.”

The theme in general is the capturing of a certain force, an idea that is untranslatable to anything outside of music. I don’t believe music needs to refer to anything other than music

Like Rangda’s two previous outings, False Flag and Formerly Extinct, The Heretic’s Bargain is an intricately dense rock album built upon several shorter pieces of music and one central longer suite. Opener To Melt The Moon starts things off razor sharp and heavy before quickly spiralling through surf riffs and descending chord sequences towards 19 minute closer Mondays Are Free At The Hermetic Museum, a monolithic nod to Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. In between there are flourishes of heavy metal and jazz guitar, Spiro Agnew is upbeat but dark, while the black Americana of Hard Times Befall The Door-to-Door Glass Shard Salesman is a steady discordant tumult of feedback.

It brings to mind those early solar system simulations where long periods of relative calm are interspersed by planetary collisions and late bombardments; bursts of beautiful chaos amidst a soupy serenity as the guitars and drums dual and jockey.

Expressive, and particularly instrumental, guitar music (let’s resist the urge to lazily pigeon-hole Rangda as prog-rock) often evokes cinematic narratives in the brain and the way this record builds towards the longer piece of music at the end certainly gives a storyboard feel. I asked the band if there is an overriding theme to the music. “There isn’t really a theme to the record in terms of anything that could be considered a narrative that would be parallel to a storyline or something.” Ben explains. “The theme in general is the capturing of a certain force, an idea that is untranslatable to anything outside of music. I don’t believe music needs to refer to anything other than music. So in that way, there is no outside theme.” Richard continues: “All the pieces were created separately. The last song [Mondays Are Free…] consists of numerous parts (some may say themes), many of which could have become separate songs, but they seemed to work nicely against each other without us thinking consciously about themes or narratives.”

Subconscious themes as non-themes aside then, the impressive animated video for recent single Sin Eaters, created by Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers), was a surreal stop-motion kaleidoscope of skulls and cats amid shifting margins built on layers of psychedelic skies and pastel shades. The visual element is obviously important to the overall perception of the music, however Ben surprised me with his response when I put this to him. “It is important to the extent that most people need something outside the music nowadays. Not everyone. Not us. But a lot of people do.” Chris and Richard were only a little more coy offering, “well, what was important to me about the visual was that I liked it,“ and “it can be important but I think it would be different for each person…we gave [Elisa] free reign to create whatever she wanted based on how she perceived the music. And she did a great job.”

So the message is clear, we should let the music do the talking, or at least let it open the conversation.

Rangda play Sage Gateshead on Friday 15th July.

 

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