Title: A Very Serious Knock Knock Joke
Artist: P.V. Herrera
Release Date: 24 Feb 2014
Genre: Atmospheric Shoegaze
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: BFW Recordings
A very serious knock knock joke is no April fool’s prank. Especially since it was released back in February, way too early for an April fool’s joke. But, here’s the issue, in a way it feels like a joke that’s backfired. Either that, or it’s a joke that I do not see the genius of this work. At this point, I am unable to decide which.
I like to think that I can connect with nearly any type of music. Okay, I do have limitations: most opera, for example. However most jazz, rock, pop, classical, ambient music is well within my range. And, I also find a lot more bleeding edge, experimental music is attention-grabbing – though not continually the foremost accessible variety of music.
In the world of Creative Commons and Netlabels, there are colossal expanses of space for artists to explore their craft. This is one of the things that makes this scene endlessly fascinating: without the confines of an industry to push artists in specific directions or write successive hit tunes, artists get to experiment. Even more interesting is that audiences get to listen to those experiments, where the typical record company wouldn’t release an experimental recording (unless the artist had a huge following, and sales were guaranteed based on hardcore fans).
With the Brobdingnagian space available, many excellent musicians have stepped forward. When I consider guitarists particularly, some names that come to mind are PeerGynt Lobogris, Cloudkicker, Cousin Silas, and Daniel Estrem. If you wished to explore experimental guitar work, The Ghost Between The Strings pays dividends you can’t even begin to imagine. And there are many others I have not mentioned here.
So, when I listened to P.V. Herrera’s release, I had some well established expectations. Not from a stance that I thought it was going to be in a similar mode to any of the artists that I mentioned above. However, I thought I would connect with the music on some level: in the techniques, or maybe something new in the style, or something experimental I hadn’t heard before.
Instead, I felt like I was listening to a set of unfinished recordings. Oddly, it reminded me of some records I had in college. They were purportedly early recordings of Jimi Hendrix. Home tapes he created while still honing his craft. They were pretty rough recordings that featured a guitarist, a bongo player, and sometimes an electric piano. Those particular recordings have been documented to not be Hendrix however, since the recording dates conflict with other known events in Jimi’s life.
But, that isn’t to say there aren’t a few really cool tracks on this release. Both ‘Eyebleed’ and ‘She Left Me Without Closure’ did manage to grab my attention, and let me have a glimpse into some of the possibilities that P.V. Herrera might explore further.
Where It Went Wrong
So, specifically where did this recording go wrong? I think it comes down to being, or at least sounding like, a one-man-in-his-bedroom recording. These are recordings that sound like they were one person, recording loops / samples, and using a drum machine. Then on top of the loops and drum machine are layers of raw guitar sounds. Sometimes they are refined, harmonic or rhythmic counterpoint. But more often they feel more like streams of consciousness layered on top of each other. Frequently the potential for structure in the song is lost, and it all comes out sounding like a cross between a rehearsal and an act of self-indulgence.
Which is very unfortunate. Listening to these songs, I can hear the potential in them. I can hear technique and talent seeping through around the edges. It simply gets lost in the waves of sound.
Part of this might even be attributable to an absence of engineering ability. As I stated, I get the feeling this was very much of a home-brewed recording. And, while P.V. was compelled to play around with the sounds and textures of the drum machine, for example, it doesn’t seem there was enough thought put into a way to shape the layers into a form that might be followed.
I know there is an experimental aspect to this recording. But possibly due to rather lack-luster engineering, anything that might have proven itself as a really good experiment cannot simply be found here.
I really don’t love writing negative reviews. I particularly don’t love writing them when I can hear some potential. I want to pull for any artist that puts their work out there for the whole internet to listen to and share their experience. However, I also feel obligated to point out the times that I feel like the potential didn’t come through in a work. It’s unfortunate that I can’t find more positive things to say about this recording, but I think in due time P.V. Herrera will surprise me with something I fall fully in love with.