The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina – Act 3
Modern day experimental music has come quite a long ways from the humble yet violent atonality of the Velvet Underground. Technologically, who could have predicted the kind of sonic capabilities that the digital age has yielded us? For the first time in history, there’s an endless plethora of easily accessible recording tools available to artists of all backgrounds and at all levels to tweak and develop their sound using one of trillions and trillions of formulas, devised 100% independent from corporate influence. That’s a phenomenal achievement for a culture of artists who from their very inception were determined to avoid the corruption of commercialization at virtually all costs, even if that brought detriment to their careers (which more often than not, it did).
I recently had the supreme pleasure of sampling one of the more creative experimental rock records I’ve heard this year in The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina’s new album Act 3, out now everywhere that intellectually relevant indie music is sold. Led by the multi-talented, enigmatic songwriter Ryan Shivdasani and backed by drummer Sal A. Mander and bassist Daryl Chen, this psychedelic-tinged power trio wasn’t content to turn out a retro-inspired psych rock record in their debut. Instead, what we find here is a 60’s influenced and 21st century branded sonic journey into the eithers of ambience, free jazz rhythm and surreal lyrical ponderings. There’s a distinctly New York stylishness to the band’s swaggering time signatures that is very alluring on both the surface and when studied under a sharper lens. I found this particularly highlighted in the jovial “Cowboys and Indians” and the jarring, Echo & the Bunnymen-style “Enemy,” the latter also my favorite track on the record. The most attractive quality to “Enemy” is the way that it so openly embraces the dirge, the grit, and the grime of the fuzz-drenched bassline that struts through the darkness and takes the rest of the band with it. It’s a refreshingly grim sound in a year that has featured a little too much self-indulgent, redundantly “feel good” tracks that featured little originality and were obviously crafted with greedy consumerism in mind.
Lately I’ve been a little concerned about where pop culture is headed in terms of its fringe’ identity. I don’t understand how in an era when indie ethics have essentially become the law of the land, how the comradery between underground artists and overwhelming sense of community that came with being an indie act seems to be dissipating at an unprecedented pace. Despite social media making it a lot easier for us to gain access to the untapped music scenes lurking beneath the surface of FM radio, it’s failed to capture the same energy that came with belonging to the old tape trading circuits and punk rock communes of decades past. But that said, maybe there’s still a chance to save the DIY ethic. If there is, it’s going to come through the development of bands like The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina continuing to uphold those ethics and sense of community than made indie rock happen in the first place. Something tells me after hearing Act 3, we’re probably in good hands.