This is the time of year when it seems everything should be melting, when to venture outdoors under the rays of that relentless and oppressive sun is pure torture, or so it seems here while vacationing in Phoenix. For this reason, one sympathizes with Vampires, and only venture out when that fiery orb is nestled safely out of sight in the west. On one such evening, 6/8/2013, I went out to Rip’s Ales And Cocktails, to dance the night away at Obscura Dance Night, and to see local synth trio, Vial Of Sound.
Vial Of Sound consists of Josh Gooday, Dave Owens and Kym Gooday, who runs the video synthesizer during their live shows. However, it’s Josh and Dave who write and perform the music. Their sound is a great mélange of late 70’s and early 80’s electronic analog synth goodness fused with the tight techno beats and bass of the early 2000’s, or what people once termed, “electroclash”. They infuse their dark dance-y deliciousness with sweet melodic passages, rather instrumental-like, topping it all off with Josh’s cold robotic vocals. To get an idea of the sound, imagine walking into a chamber where Freestyle (especially their song, “Don’t Stop the Rock”), Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream (their more dance-y work like, ” One Night in Space”), and Vangelis’ “Blade Runner” theme are all perfectly synced and playing at once, aurally pleasuring and inundating your temporal lobe with its sweeping electronic soundscape. Although I’ve heard people compare them to MSTRKRFT and Daft Punk, I’d say their sound is closest to GRUM.
Both Josh and Dave have been pretty active playing with various bands: Josh in groups like get down! to brass tacks, and Dave in the group NEBA (he’s still in the group as a matter of fact). VOS, however, is their first foray into pure electronic music. “It started out as me just collecting synths and doing my own thing”, explains Josh during one of our Facebook chats, “I had a few analogs and sold them over the years like an Akai ax73 and Roland Juno 106, but I started seriously collecting analogs synths in like the summer of 2011…I could finally afford them when I got a fat student loan check from the government, lol!”
It’s rather challenging to not gush like a wet school girl about their music. Hearing a group of their caliber, in Arizona, a hell not known for such acts. When I saw them play Rip’s, I was totally blown away by them. I loved the fact that they were an all analog synth outfit, I loved the tightness of their sequencing, and I especially loved the use of the vocoder throughout their set. “We aren’t the type of guys that could bring a laptop on stage, or prerecorded music, not that it’s bad to do that. [It’s] just not us”, says Josh.
To explain their songwriting process, Dave says that they come up with material while jamming. “It’s not really explainable. I don’t know. Not knowing how we come up with it is how we do it”, he says. Josh agrees, “We just go in there and jam. [O]nce we get something going [that] we like, we expand on it”. He goes on to say that they make a point to not try and rip off other people and just do their own thing. “…I felt like if I knew what I was doing completely, I wouldn’t get anything done. I don’t know if that makes sense at all. Probably not”, says Dave. Indeed, when asked about what inspires their writing, Dave states that he and Josh listen to a lot of music, not just electronic: “I personally love the Beatles, which has not much to do with electronic music. I like the mind sets of Bruce Lee, John Lennon, and Alan Watts. [Josh is] really into Kurt Cobain”. As of late, though, Josh says that he’s been listening to the Presets (a band they recently opened up for in May), Grimes, Jean Michel Jarre, and old Tangerine Dream.
On their most recent release, the EP, ‘Substance Organique Volatile’, Vial Of Sound is in top electronic form. All five tracks are grandiose and free sounding in terms of song structure. It’s like listening to a DJ mixing on the spot. The songs flow nicely from one to the next and are produced perfectly. “Ghost Ditch” sets the mood of the EP commanding us to “Dance! Don’t Stop”, which, frankly, is what all of the songs on this EP make you want to do. One of the songs, “A Lifetime Passed”, was recently set to an animated video by Tel-Aviv based illustrator and animator, Ori Toor. Also included on this EP are five bonus tracks which Josh informs me are from VOS’s previously self-titled EP. It’s interesting to compare the earlier pieces to the recent ones. If the recent tracks are more free in their structure, the five older tracks are structured more like a regular rock songs (i.e. verse-chorus-verse-chorus). The sounds are also more disco tinged like in the songs, “Thumper” and “Pop the Beat”, which brings to mind Anita Ward’s, “Ring My Bell”. Again, Vial Of Sound’s sound is grandiose and cinematic. It’s music one can easily see set to action packed epic movies like ‘The Terminator’. In fact, Josh tells me that one of the songs, and my personal favorite, “Put Your Glasses On”, is an homage to one of my favorite thrillers, John Carpenter’s, ‘They Live’. What more can I say but that I’m in love with Vial Of Sound’s EP with its additional bonus tracks?
When it comes to art and music, the jaded side of me is reminded of that old Latin saying, “nihil novi sub sole” (“there is nothing new under the sun”). Even if the beautiful, danceable, and darkly futuristic music created by Vial Of Sound finds its foundation rooted in 70’s and 80’s electronica, especially since the music itself is produced by vintage analog synthesizers from 1973 to 1984 (as it states on their ReverbNation profile), there is something fresh and new in their music, something that’s completely their own. Whether it’s new or not, even out under the hellish Phoenix summer sun, I would venture out for Vial Of Sound anytime.
“A Lifetime Passed”, newer release
“Put Your Glasses On”, older release
http://vialofsound.bandcamp.com/ (from their older self-titled EP)