Rah Bras -
Rah Bras -
Rah Bras -
"The Fifth Allen"
Rah Bras -
One of the things I used to do in between bands at shows was try to count up all the shows I'd been to. I can still remember the show when I realized I could no longer count them up. I had started going to shows pretty regularly and I just lost track somewhere along the way. I remember the band playing was called fLUF and they were just about the worst thing I had ever heard. Maybe they aren't so bad, but I certainly never gave them a second chance. I stepped outside to the patio at Old World and started to mentally go over the shows I'd been too. (I think it was partly because some of the first shows I ever went to were at Old World and it put me in a contemplative mood.) I felt slightly proud of myself for getting out so much and by the time I was done reminiscing it was time to try and grab a spot close to the stage for the next band, Jawbreaker.
It's hard to narrow it down to a favorite show ever, but that came pretty close. Despite fLUF's awful contribution, I can remember the other opening was called Blacktop Special or something like that (not Blacktop Cadence) and they had a rootsy sound and garage bin lids for cymbals. Goddamn... Blacktop something or other. At any rate, flash forward a few years and I'm discussing memorable shows with a co-worker and he brings up his first show ever: Jawbreaker at Old World. I reply with the standard, no, really? But deep down inside I want to say, "Aha, bitch! That was the show when I couldn't count up how many shows I'd been to... condescending asshole." But I don't say a word about it.... instead I soak in my own self-gratification like one-man reach-around. And like Colbert said, "That's a difficult thing to do, but worth it." (About the one-man reach-around, mind you.)
But what even trumps Jawbreaker for me was the time I saw Rah Bras at Che Cafe. Che's at least an hour and half away from where I live, but sometimes, when the bands were important enough, my friends and I (or sometimes just me) would head down to the UCSD campus for some 'intimate live music.' Back then the Che was really chill and there weren't any Security or professional booking agents; volunteers ran it all and they did a phenomenal job. I never had or saw any trouble at the Che.
When the Rah Bras played at Che, The Locust opened (or headlined) so some of my 'other' friends were there too. See, Locust is hard enough to balance out the 'weird' for these folks. They were more interested in Zeke's favorite Taco Bell items than what time signature or vintage synth The Locust were using. So when these squares were actually impressed with the Rah Bras, I knew they had something special. (Rah Bras, that is.) I think my friends were most impressed with the band's closing number, a cover of Ginuine's "My Pony." Whether or not my friends knew it was a cover is unclear, but they did enjoy the ridiculous lyrics and the way the drummer acted out the song.
Most impressive for me was the fact that the Rah Bras could completely pull off their insanely arranged songs. The layered and strange sounds all made their way to the stage that night. It was like having their songs spelled out for you and you're still in utter disbelief. They made all that sound with their mouths, a bass, keyboard and drums? And even more phenomenal, the drummer recreates his off-kilter beats with the technical precision of a fine craftsman. He totally rocked "Poisson" live like you couldn't believe. To this day I have no idea what he was playing on "Water Damage," but he managed to reach down to the floor, pick up this washboard-type-thing, and give it one hit, put it back down, and never miss a beat. Now if you've been reading for a while, or know me, technical proficiency is not really all that important to me, but when you witness something this incredible being created in front of you, and when you are familiar enough with the work to recognize the complexity, well, you just can't forget something like that.
Rah Bras have been, since Concentrate to Listen to Rondo We Christen King Speed
came out so many years ago, one of my favorite bands. And their newest album is almost good enough to make me drop the "one of." I've never been able to commit to a favorite band, but Rah Bras just may be it. (Now admitting this opens me up to a lot... what if you HATE this band? Can we still be friends?) Perhaps it's because Rah Bras manages to embody just about everything I love about art and music. Yes, they have the skills but they also have a ton of ideas. Yes, they have a sound but they manage to progress with each release. And while I don't like Ruy Blas
as much as the earlier EPs, this makes me like the band even more. Who else would attempt to create some kind of Medieval Sex Jam record? There's all the art but none of the artifice (unless it's sort of silly.) The keyboardist/vocalist sold used bras after the show rather than merch. And she even gave consultations on the best size. I think I would have called it 'performance' if I knew what that was at the time.
After a good friend and I attempted to discern the lyrics from the bridge on "The Fifth Allen," we sent what we had figured out to the Rah Bras. They even wrote me back with the 'correct' lyrics, but said that they liked our version better, I doubt that I could explain any better than this series of sound bites and anecdotes, but their latest record which came out late 2005, Whohm, surpasses all the esteem I already held for this band.
Their early efforts always had an epic, operatic underscore to them that sometimes worked well with their bizarre post-rock arrangements and sometimes took to the forefront. Whohm
finds the same grandiose sound and vision but with such a refined focus it thumps you in the chest. And I could be mistaken, but I believe this album introduces to the Rah Bras with the Blast Beat, which is more potent than that most brutal cacophony of all time from "Bus Stop." Yes the double bass pedal can be used effectively.... or shit; maybe this guy just hits one that fast. I honestly wouldn't be surprised. Rah Bras also make use of the almost as hard as the whammy bar to use well, the synth pitch bender. Have you heard a better riff in your life than "Skin=Chronized?" How about one with bended notes? Ever?
The rest of the album is just as mind-blowing. (Did I really just use mind-blowing?) The rest of the album continues along the trajectory set by "Skin=Chronized," the second track, and builds from there. Each song contains so many details that are easy to miss for the big hooks and grooves. The sound is even fuller as Rah Bras uses the production to near its full effect in capturing and creating a gale force of timbre, textures and textbook music terms. I don't know what time they're playing in most of the time, but I know I'd be hard pressed to ever write a song so difficult. Once in a music class I thought to myself, like the Beatles were groundbreaking in digging the foreign American blues records, maybe Rah Bras have records from Atlantis or some indigenous culture as yet undisturbed by the Western world.
I don't think you'll like Rah Bras as much as I do, but I do hope you'll find something you've never heard in there. And hey, you might be really into them like me and start your own blog. And the entire catalog is great as far as I'm concerned and you'd do well to find it all. (Though even I don't have the tour seven-inch with "Bus Stop" live in Japan.)
Here are the lyrics to that bridge from "The Fifth Allen:"
"When there's time / there's a place with poison gates / I bitterly eat the bars on my plate / And all those wires / They made my mouth all tired / An optical exception with an illusion of mire."
You can listen to "No Furture," "No Lime" and "As She Rah" on Whohm's MySpace
(But Rah Bras Whohm