Assemblage 23 – “A Storm Is Brewing”

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06 Oct, 2004 Share

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The name Assemblage 23 has, in recent years, become synonymous with and mentioned within the same small prestigious circle of our scene’s modern electro contemporaries. However, Tom Shear, A23’s resident mastermind, has developed a distinguished, melodic, sound-fusion unique amongst his peers. Deftly combining intelligent, substantial lyricism with boot stomping, high BPM club anthems amidst gentle, forlorn balladry, one can argue that with each new release the stakes reach insurmountable heights. ‘Storm’ is a culmination of Tom’s production talent and a testament of his ability to emotionally affect the listener while keeping feet moving on the dancefloor. With a humble first release on the now defunct Gashed! label (Contempt) and signed to Europe’s Accession Records and North America’s Metropolis, the fury of LP’s, extended singles and remix projects keeps Tom in strong demand as producer, remixer and guest vocalist. With notepad out, I grilled Tom with the following tough-as-nails questions… (By Dan Koven)

SL: The new record, “Storm,” follows the similar A23 pattern with a potent mixture of high-energy dance anthems, powerful lyrics and sparse balladry. What differences can fans expect with this record and what comparisons can you personally make with past work, production wise?


A: I feel like I learn more every time I do an album, so it’s always my goal to apply what I’ve learned to sort of refine and improve the sound of A23. With this record, I learned a lot about arrangement and how paying attention to what synth parts you have going on in different frequency ranges can really clean things up and make it possible to pull off more complex arrangements without it sounding like a mess. So this is a much more layered album than anything I’ve done in the past. I think the average track around the “Failure” era had about 20 or so tracks when I recorded it… “Storm” is about twice that.

SL: Why is the last song always the "experimental" one such as “30kft”, “Lullaby” etc.?

A: Figuring out the track order is a bit of a science unto itself. And one that I am not positive I have totally come to grips with yet. There is usually at least one track per album that seems like a natural ‘opener’ to me. Usually something with an intro that sort of eases you into the album versus just starting right away. I save the ‘weird’ track for last mainly because I think it disrupts the flow of an album when bands put something very weird or uncharacteristic right in the middle. It gives me a chance to do something a little different, but if the listener doesn’t care for it, they don’t have to skip it to keep enjoying the record, basically. Ironically, though, the last track has often turned out to be one of the more popular tracks on the past albums, so go figure.

SL: Speaking of 30kft, um, uh, what the hell is that all about? Trying to evoke a mass-suicide?

A: It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, I suppose. Basically it was inspired by a documentary I saw about plane crashes. They were talking about how the advent of cell phone technology had changed the way they were able to piece together why crashes happened because many times, people would try to call their loved ones to say goodbye before the point of impact. As part of this, they played some answering machine messages that people onboard the planes that crashed on 9/11 had left their loved ones and it was one of the most tragic things I had ever heard. It really left an impression on me, and since I fly a lot myself, obviously that’s the kind of thing you’re sort of forced to think about yourself. So the song all came out of that, basically.

(…)

To read the complete interview, be sure to buy Side-Line issue 49!

image Side-Line issue 49 at Side-Line shop
image Assemblage 23 CD's

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Posted by: ashenol on Oct 24, 04 | 7:43 am

haloed666 - Yeah, but he/she's still an idiot.

Posted by: Side-Line on Oct 22, 04 | 3:49 am

People please... stop this game. We have this comment field for you too discuss not for calling eachother names.

Now sit, shut up, take a beer and shake hands!

Posted by: haloed666 on Oct 22, 04 | 3:44 am

ashenol - don't need to get defensive. Everyone has the right to have an opinion about everything. You can't force someone to like something simply because you think it's good or profound. Having a preference, that does not conform to yours does not make one an idiot. It just makes him/her different than you.

Posted by: ashenol on Oct 22, 04 | 3:34 am

@cevinkey 3- You are an idiot. Shut up. Listen to its depth, and you may alter your thinking. But you're still an idiot.

Posted by: cevinkey 3 on Oct 21, 04 | 9:09 am

i think the point is that storm pretty much just sucks. it was probably the biggest dissappointment to me as an A23 fan. almost as disappointing as their live show...

Posted by: AdolphBuddha on Oct 15, 04 | 9:41 pm

i love what this guy has done so far and i am psyched to recieve the new disc. i'm waiting on the special edition digi-pak edition from Middle Pillar. i embrace an artist in growth and am looking forward to the changes coming....

Posted by: ashenol on Oct 10, 04 | 9:17 am

haloed666: I guess the point I really should have made is that we need to be a more little open minded as fans.

Every time Tool has put out a new album I've heard die-hard fans cussing out the band, saying that they sold out and the like. But after some time passed, those same people went back to praising the band that they had ridiculed, often applauding the same album that weeks before they had attacked.

My point: listen to it again- you just might find you like it.

Posted by: DarkMusicDomain on Oct 08, 04 | 11:20 am

Here's my vote: Another damn fine album from Assemblage 23! Club-worthy or not (is it any less of a good song just because it has a decent pace?), Tom surpasses even Ronan in the expression of thought and feeling through lyrics. C'mon, how many of us have the lush, expansive vocabulary held by Mr. Shear? ... Keep up the good work.

Chris / Dark Music Domain

http://www.DarkMusicDomain.com
http://www.DarkMusicDomain.com/catalog

Posted by: haloed666 on Oct 08, 04 | 4:40 am

ashenol: I repect your opinion, but I think you misunderstood my statement. I am not against bands trying change or evolving. That's why I gave solid examples of bands taking some very big chances (Depeche with songs of faith...., FLA with Mellinium and Civilization and yes, I agree some of his other side projects), and still came out strong. That goes for the other bands that I mentioned, and many more that I can't think of at the moment.

Posted by: ashenol on Oct 07, 04 | 9:42 am

I have been listening to this album solid for three weeks now... It still hasn't gotten old. The depth he (Tom) has added to his music is astounding.
As for you (haloed666)- bands evolve. If a band doesn't evolve, how can they get any better? Up doesn't exist when things are two-dimensional, and it seems that's what you want out of music. Take FLA for example. They have been consistently changing and improving their sound since day one, and that isn't even taking into account their work as Delerium.

Posted by: relic on Oct 06, 04 | 7:59 am

Don't let these opinions change you Tom. It's better to have your music put down for who you are and what you enjoy writing, then to be loved and praised for something you are not....:) Just keep true to your own ways and writing! GREAT JOB with STORM!

Relic...UV

Posted by: cevinkey 3 on Oct 05, 04 | 8:27 am

i agree with haloed666 on the new A23. i couldn't tell when the songs ended or began becasue they're all the same, and all very bland. I also think that Tom Shear and the rest of these bands need to learn is that a song does not have to be 4 to the floor to be danceable. We need more ambititous acts like FLA and Haujobb who are able to evolve their sound with every album. It seems the ebm scene is dying as a result of this monotony...

Posted by: haloed666 on Oct 04, 04 | 11:07 am

I just listened to this album and it's a thumbs down for me, just like the last album (very monotonous/repetitios...and lacks character). The first two albums were amazing, but it's been downhill after those releases. It seems like some bands, like Wumpscut (after Embryodead), Haujobb (after Solutions....), Apoptygma (after welcome to earth), etc. VNV (after Burning Empires)take a nose dive after they produce some of the most awesome work ever heard. I guess not everyone can be Laeather Strip, FLA (with the exception of Flavour....), 242, Recoil, Depeche (pre Ultra stuff), Nitzer Ebb etc. I guess. It seems like all these bands try a little too hard to change (i.e. change for the sake of change). It's like they HAVE to change (Haujobb's 99?) in order to prove something and result is a big fuck up. Yeah yeah, the typical excuse is that "we make music for ourselves and not for the audience" blah blah. Well, my friends, I believe 242, FLA, Nitzer etc. have the same motivation. Take for example, Depeche Mode. They had a major face lift with Songs of faith...., but it was amazing. Same thing with Nitzer Ebb's last album. It wasn't as great as their previous work but still comendable.
Well, just my two cents on the new A23 and some of the other bands who's CDs I'd never buy blindly, since they cannot be trusted anymore.

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