Monday, February 27, 2012

Floater


Not many people outside the Pacific Northwest have ever heard about the Oregon-based band Floater.  I think that's a real shame, considering they are one of the best and most accessible bands I've had the pleasure of seeing live... about 42 times or so.

Many fans of Floater actually know, and keep precise count of, exactly how many times they've seen the band live... which usually is as many times as they possibly could since discovering them.  I lost track years ago, when I was too busy to attend most of the shows, but I do my best too keep up on any new CD releases.

Like many fans, the first I heard of Floater came from their second album Glyph when their song "The Sad Ballad of Danny Boy" gained some national radio airplay back in 1996.

"The Sad Ballad of Danny Boy"

While it's very much not my favourite or their best song, it still spiked a bit of my interest, and I attended a concert with some friends...  Early Floater shows were quite unique and regarded by fans as "an experience" more than just a simple rock show.  Usually, the room would be dark and filled with smoke and incense up to five minutes before the band would come onstage, a single beam of light projecting from somewhere behind the drum set, a montage of sound clips swirling around the room as various TV screens at every angle played random clips from old black and white films.  Once the band came out and began playing, the atmosphere stayed the same, shrouding the band in smoke and film projections (projected onto the smoke itself).  All this led to shows being more oriented towards the audio/visual experience and the music itself, as opposed to the band and its members.

"Peter The Destroyer (part 2)" (live)

After my first show, I went to the local music store and bought both their albums.  Their first album Sink is undoubtedly heavier and harsher than any of their later music, but it's also one of my favourites.  I will admit that I think most of the vocals and musical layers are buried under really poor production quality, so a few years ago I went through the album and re-EQ'd the whole thing.  Upon listening to the newly EQ'd version of Sink, I noticed even more layers of swirling guitars and sound clips than I had ever before been aware of... making this fantastic album even better!

"Snowblind"

While Sink is significantly a heavy metal album, there are still plenty of moments where their music is brought down to show a much softer element, giving the band the label of "space rock."

"Weary"

Their second album Glyph expanded their musical styles, adding far more depth musically and lyrically. Still staying hard and heavy, this album brought about a much more clean sound to their music.

"Persecutor" (live)

"All The Stories But One"

My personal favourite is their third album, 1998's Angels In The Flesh and Devils In The Bone.  Veering further and further away from the heavier music, Floater began truly finding their sound and soul with Angels.

"Settling"

Essentially a concept album, Angels was a seventeen track journey from birth to death and rebirth, book-ended by a two-part song that would quickly become a fan favourite for live shows.

"Endless I & II"

Around the time their fourth album Burning Sosobre came out, the live shows had slowly started to rid themselves of the atmospheric aspect, Rob cut his hair, and the band began to interact a little more with the audience.  The music was still good, and starting to mellow out a lot more.  Personally, this was when I felt they were trying to be a bit too much like The Doors, but I can't say I enjoyed them any less.

"Independence Day"

It probably didn't help much in my mind either that the album included a cover (albeit a good one) of a Doors song...

"Waiting For The Sun"

It wasn't until recently that I read that a big part of the reason behind their mellowing out in sound was in hopes to rid themselves of some of their "more rude fans" ...  This actually makes a lot of sense to me, having seen many of that rudeness at their earlier shows.  A lot of their earlier crowds simply felt the band was a "drinking band" ... but Floater had grown far beyond that, and they had grown up.

But their next album, Alter, took a long time to grow on me.  Maybe it seemed a bit too over-produced for me (a strong contrast from Sink's poor production quality).  Alter just came off as too crystal-clear sounding... and not the gritty Floater I had seen god-knows-how-many-times.  It was almost as if they found a song template and stuck with it.... but I can also name many great rock bands that had their periods of being in a rut.

"Alone"

I've since grown to not only appreciate, but really enjoy Alter.  Once I got over my stubborn wall, I was able to listen to the album more objectively, and now I consider many of the songs to be "classics" in the Floater canon.

"Come See Everything"

By this time, their shows had been stretched to two nights each... One being a normal electric live set, and the other being a more intimate acoustic set.  The band re-worked some of their songs for acoustic instruments and also wrote some brand new songs for an acoustic album, rightfully called Acoustics.

"Out of Sight"

By 2006, I had long since stopped going to the shows.  Most of the reason for this was the venue they used to frequent shut down, and I wasn't a fan of the large theater they began appearing at.  Between work, the band I was in, and the change of venue, it just wasn't as big a priority for me anymore... but I did manage to catch a few of the acoustic sets at one of the little bars in town for the release of Stone By Stone.

"Space In Between Us"

The album is pretty good, but I'll admit that it's my least-listened-to album of theirs.  I suppose I should give it a re-listen considering I heard it this past week, but I still can't think of any songs off of it.  Most of the album makes me think they wrote a lot of the songs for their acoustic sets, and then merged them into an electric album... or maybe they just decided to cross the whole two concepts into one sound.  There are really some good songs on Stone By Stone... just none that apparently stick with me for long!

"Breakdown"

So this brings us to the most recent album by Floater.  I didn't even realise the 2010 release Wake existed until mid-2011 sometime.  I decided to check their website to see if there was anything new in the works, and sure enough, it already had been worked and released.

"Killing Time"

Wake was produced and released by the band itself, and on first listen I was thrilled.  Perhaps it was the layered vocals, or maybe it was the dissonant chords... but the Floater that I remember from the days of Sink, Glyph and Angels was back!!  Back, yet more mature... I honestly hadn't been this excited by a new Floater album since Burning Sosobre or the live album that was partially recorded in my hometown.

"Enough"

I was (and am) not disappointed by anything on this album, and I am crediting Wake for reviving my interest in a band I had pushed to the back of my music collection long, long ago.

"Simplest Way of Life" (live)

So if you are interested by any of what you hear, definitely search out any of the band's albums (although it's obvious which ones I'd recommend over others), and get yourself hooked.  Then force it on your friends, and maybe this amazing band can one day be known all across the country.