Imperial China - Methods EP
Record Label: None
Release Date: April 18, 2008
Imperial China’s music may remind you of some of the wicked chord contortions of Maps & Atlases, the animatronics effects of iForward Russia!, the spastic chord changes and esoteric patterns of Hot Chip, the clarion garage rock dynamics of The North Atlantic, but probably most of all the band’s music is going to remind you of the boinging and pummeling action that takes place during the spontaneous exchanges in the performance art show, The Blue Man Group. Imperial China’s latest release is their EP, Methods which is comprised of melodies that surrender to a stream of consciousness method of playing by the band members.
Guitarist/bassist/percussionist Matt Johnson or bassist/guitarist/keyboardist Brian Porter will ignite a fuse and then the band moves on from there continually changing the flux of the regattas as drummer Patrick Gough moves between the two. With Porter on lead vocals, Imperial China’s Methods EP takes experimental rock into the depths of performance art and refines garage rock to scientific proportions. The EP starts off with the erratic wiring and avant raptures that move through “There Is No Translation.” The wild chord shifts and alternating riffs of geometrical cuts have a perplexing, enigmatic quality that overflows the music in originality. Chord patterns lance, swoop in and tear like they are guided by an esoteric force as they converse with each other, but not by using conventional notations. Rather, the notes sound off like a chemical reaction as new particles are brought in and the old ones fade away, creating vignettes that change continually along the melodic progressions. The slicing of phrases into fragments and virile chord rotations along “Radhus” cause the instrumental piece to jettison to athletic speeds and flicker softly like the flashing lights of an airport runway. The state of flux that the movements undergo is both physically and mentally challenging as chords are teased, stretched out and distorted through the chambers, demonstrating a vast amount of elasticity in the band’s playing.
The lead vocals of Brian Porter in the tracks, “Sirens” and “Space Anthem” sink into the folds and become a part of the simmering molten beats of “Sirens” and the rattling twitches that take shape along “Space Anthem.” The lyrics are made up of metaphors that symbolize everyday life like in “Space Anthem” when Porter reflects, “Ready-made trees, fake leaves, surround this house of mine / But a house without windows can’t be good for anyone.” And sometimes the symbolism in Imperial China’s songs are meant to make the righteous feel the burden of what they have imposed on everyone, like in “Sirens” when Porter broaches, “Those kids said we are a theatrical mess / And I guess the joke’s on us / Where are those so called men of action / Worn out, they’re now benevolent / They speak and we have no reaction / It’s like their word is our impediment / Are you happy with our newfound theater?”
Imperial China are not your average rock band. They are the Rachmaninoff of the experimental rock world. Nothing seems too difficult for them to play and the band’s level of spontaneity is humungous. The band has a method of playing and interacting with each other on a recording that is completely original and imaginative. Their music has flesh-toned atmospherics rather than usual dream effects. Imperial China’s music may seem like it is from another planet like The Blue Man Group, but IC are very much from this world and call Washington, DC home. The band is currently unsigned and self-released their Methods EP on their own label, Means of Production. People would not be wrong in relating Imperial China’s music to performance art pieces, but like all good performance art pieces, the messages in them are meaningful and people should take note of them.