There’s a popular saying usually attributed to Martin Mull: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. It is especially relevant to writing about good, original, and innovative music, as opposed to a Top 40-like commercial “product”: it is created precisely to express thoughts, ideas and, most importantly, feelings that couldn’t find any other way out in an artistic way accessible to like-minded individuals. Quoting Martin Gore, “Feelings are intense, words are trivial”. But we humans are the creatures of words — we can’t escape using them to communicate with each other, not on this level of existence. So, even though I’m not the best dancer, especially when it comes to architecture, let me try to use the words to describe one of the most interesting new albums I discovered lately — “Modern Ancient Man” by NYC-based HOLY WOW!
The band with the above name is the latest project by Dmitry Wild — a musician, a writer and a poet who’s been active in New York and California since the early-2000s. His previous projects include post-punk / garage Table Dreams and Weapons of the Future and indie-dance Wow! Dmitry’s new band, in a sense, is a homage to both his guitar-rock and synthwave electronic roots. While being eclectic by its nature, showing off definitive traces of such different styles as punk, goth, new wave, electro, garage, shoe gaze, alternative and industrial, the album’s sound is very coherent and mature. It not easy to draw parallels, but in some way the album’s muffled distorted beats, pulsating guitar textures and roaring analogue synths remind the listener of “The Downward Spiral” by NIN, where Reznor and Flood went long way combining lo-fi and hi-tech approaches resulting in a very experimental yet one of the most important and commercially successful rock albums of all times. However, if Reznor’s work is a concept piece exploring the darker themes of a person’s self-destruction, Wild’s celebrates life. Like the light of dawn through the dirty scratched windowpane of a subway car, the album provides hope.
According to Dmitry, the name “Holy Wow!” symbolizes, correspondingly, the two sides of his art — spiritual and commercial. There’s nothing wrong about being “commercial” or “pop”, if it translates as “innovative and original yet accessible”. It’s nice to be an uncompromising experimenter, not giving a slightest regard to what mainstream public might think about your creation — that’s what ultimately pushes the boundaries and enables not only the art itself but the very way it’s perceived by the people to progress to the next level. What we’ve been lacking, seemingly, for some fairly long time is the marriage of the two: the last two decades haven’t seen one single artist who’d rise to the top while having managed to stay true to their art.
The time of truly great pop giants is gone, one might argue, but not because there are no talented artists who write the songs that speak to the hearts and souls of many; it’s just that today people don’t necessarily want to be moved by something unfamiliar. The feelings of today’s concert goers are reserved for the long-established super-stars. When someone buys a ticket for a show or presses the PLAY button, they want to know exactly what to expect: same songs, same sound, same old familiar faces on stage — over and over again. Nostalgia has never been such a well-selling commodity-in-demand, or so it seems. As of the new artists — the circumstances have never been as unfavorable for them. And yet…
And yet while there are still bands like HOLY WOW! with their rock-solid songs and innovative approach combining their various influences and taking them to the next level to define the sound of the rock-n-roll of the 21st century — it feels like not all is lost yet. Rock-n-roll has once being a vibrant underground youth subculture possessing enough momentum to change history and, in this or that form, it might still become one again. Thanks for reminding me that, Dmitry Wild & Co!
– Mike D.