Sunday, February 4, 2007
SPOTLIGHT: The shrinking violet. Columbus' Time and Temperature
It's a little bit difficult to write an article about Columbus musician Val Glenn and her vehicle Time and Temperature. I didn't realize that until right now. So I think the best bet is to talk about what led me to write about her: Ratatat and their horrible song "Wildcat," the equally horrible band The Knife and that band The Klaxons. For some reason these are the groups getting played on indie radio right now and it blows my mind.
With all the great music that currently exists across the world, the powers that be are focusing on the pseudo urban dance party scene music AGAIN. I'm so fucking bored of ironic machine music.
So my natural response is to run for the hills, far away from the new indie techno rabble. I'm looking for some honesty and genuine craft. I've begun a quest to highlight musicians making music you can actually walk away from with a new insight or new emotion you didn't have four minutes beforehand. Isn't that what art is all about? Feeling something?
If you agree, then get to know Columbus' Time and Temperature. Val Glenn has been able to create singer/songwriter music for people who are sick to death of singer/songwriter music. Her songs are melodic and emotional, composed of complex picking patterns on quiet electric guitar and have vocal lines that are delicate and lovely, while still retaining a sense of reality. It comes across like urban hymns, with a slight 60s mod feel - think Nico with a WAY better voice.
"I hated most of the current folk music I had heard; even the things that were supposed to be gentle and gorgeous sounded to me like they came from a forceful place, so I didn't want to demand too much," Glenn said about her musical style. "One of my friends has this theory that there is such a thing as too much beauty. I think if there were consistently more trying in vain to drive the point home, it would have a corrosive effect on the accuracy of what is really being presented."
Originally from Columbus, Glenn moved away for college and eventually returned in 2003 "when I realized higher education was going to ruin my life."
Despite playing guitar for the past 13 years and having a sudden extended fascination with drums, she said it took her two years before getting the guts to perform live. By 2005 she started making the rounds at the east side Columbus venues (Carabar, Milo Arts, coffee shops, Bourbon Street, St. James) and by 2006 was doing that more frequently.
Right now Columbus does not mirror the indie techno thing - thank god. But it does seem intent on bringing back the loud guitars of yore, mixed with intense experimental noise. So where does the quiet calm of Time and Temperature fit into this? Perhaps for every ying there should be a yang?
"As a solo performer, finding a venue was initially intimidating. Another challenge is harnessing a balance between playing with a very cautious, stuffy lineup of other songwriters or feeling like the shrinking violet at a rock show," she explained. "I actually prefer the latter of the two."
When it comes to explaining why she plays the music she does, Glenn becomes more metaphorical about it.
"I don't really stray far in the content of my writing because I think fantasy is the sustaining element of privacy. I just find oblique ways to tell stories about things that have happened to me. A lot of what I observe is based on the obvious complexities of learning to handle the value one places on themselves against the value of having more than the self; naturally and supernaturally," she said.
Instead of naming specific musicians, she explained that she ended up very influenced by her parlay into drums and beat programming. In essence, it seems to have taught her how to fill the space in her songs.
"I took a hiatus from guitar for a couple years and started romanticizing the drums on prog records and listened to a lot of jazz drummers. I was also doing a lot of drum programming at the time for fun because I had this fantasy that I would never play guitar again and become the biggest drum asshole. With programming I had the freedom of using chord progressions for the melody track that I wouldn't have found on guitar. So two years later when I started playing guitar again I heard it in a very non-exclusive way; I could incorporate the percussive elements that I acquired and melody had finally become something new," she said.
So within the current Columbus experimental big guitar noise swirl, Time and Temperature ends up offering a sincere balance.
"Making music is one of the only things I do that arranges an optimistic explanation of where I am and why life isn't a total mess. I don't think the world owes me anything for believing that, I'll be writing songs to the grave. But for now, to put it very simply, I want to do what seems appropriate. There are a lot of obvious and welcome obstacles right now but as far as the whole life thing goes, I don't know what will really happen. I only vaguely know what could or should," Glenn said.