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Sailing the Aether with Abney Park

I’m biased.  I love music with a science fiction and fantasy slant.  To be honest, that’s what first drew me to Abney Park.  I saw them at DragonCon in 2008 where the program described them as a steampunk band.  (Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that hearkens back to the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in terms of setting, technology, and tone.)  I became a fan the moment I listened to Lost Horizons


What impressed me about the band was their eclecticism.  The lyrics were great and delved into the world of airships, pirates, and uncanny clockwork devices.  Definitely steampunk.  And the music was an amalgamation of genres and styles.  It was rock, it was darkwave, it was dance, it was eastern, it was middle-eastern.  It probably shouldn’t have, but it all worked beautifully.  And I wanted more.  Yeah, I bought some of the earlier work, and it was well-crafted and enjoyable, especially The Death of Tragedy.  They still incorporate some the pre-steampunk stuff into their live set, but I wanted another ticket to that strange new world they had discovered beyond lost horizons.  Finally, the wait is finally over.  Abney Park is off and sailing again with Aether Shanties


My expectations were high.  They had previewed some of the new songs in Atlanta.  The crowd responded enthusiastically.  It was energetic.  It was steampunk.  But what I responded to mostly was the song’s “difference.”  The music sounded unlike anything on Lost Horizons or before.  These were new songs, and they definitely stood out – they had a different sound, a different feel.  Maybe it was the accordion . .  .  Anyway, I just knew that Captain Robert was going to lead us into new territories on the new cd, and he has.  Aether Shanties, if anything, could best be described as New Horizons.


The cd begins with a couple of songs – Under the Radar and Building Steam – that sound like the steampunk music they had crafted for their previous release.  However, when you get to Until the Day You Die, My Life, and Throw Them Overboard, things change.  Abney Park adds a new dimension to their musical mixture: time.  When I heard these songs, I not only felt like I was somewhere else, but also somewhen else.  I didn’t know it at the time because I hadn’t imagined it, but this was the only element missing from Lost Horizons.  The previous release was their compass, but now captain and crew have reached their destination: Aether Shanties is unadulterated steampunk.


Abney Park circa Lost Horizons.The band is tight and in fine form throughout.  Along with his wonderfully mysterious and fantastical lyrics, Captain Robert’s vocals are delivered superbly and also adds darbuka, accordion, and harmonica into the mix.  Nathaniel’s guitar blisters as needed, but he also fills the aether his ethereal violin and sends us spinning with his mandolin and bouzouki.  Kristina’s back on keyboards, of course, but adds some lovely piano touches, especially on Victoria.  Daniel’s bass holds everybody on course, but he also takes time to work in some acoustic guitar.  Ms. Jody Ellen joins the crew for this outing., but don’t be fooled.  She’s not simply a backup singer.  Her voice weaves and hovers around Robert’s.  It is powerful, beautiful, and haunting – all three at times.  The Captain couldn’t want for a more wide-ranging and capable crew. 


Let me clarify something else.  I am not a die-hard-pith-helmet-wearing-crazy-clock-work-device-wielding steampunk fan.  You don’t even have to know what steampunk is to listen to it.  Anyone who’s not afraid of adventuresome music will find delight here. There is neither a wasted note nor a wasted word on this cd.  If I was going to complain, it would be that the cd, clocking in at just over 36 minutes, is too short.  I will not fault the captain and crew for that however.  I’d rather have a superb work than one that was “a great cd except for a couple of songs.”  As is, Aether Shanties is pure, anachronistic joy.    


 Listen to "Building Steam"


 Listen to "Until the Day You Die"


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Reader Comments (5)

I agree...it's a good album. They are great live and it translate to this album. Thumbs up.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

have you considered an embedded music player on your blog -- lots of people have them -- then folks could get a sample of the music.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersue

This is the main reason I read www.nerdbloggers.com. Surprising post.

March 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAubrey

How do you do it, www.nredbloggers.com?


March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCorrine

Hah I am literally the only comment to your amazing read?!?

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoderick Mallory

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