Travelogue Fireworks Review
Welcome back, to yet another Jon Sonnenberg release.
AND IN THE SAME YEAR EVEN!!!
Earlier this year, Jon introduced us to his follow-up full length CD to "Imaginary Hospitals" titled, "The Noise Is Only Temporary," which delivered on all levels to the regular Travelogue listener, as well as to those who are fans of Jon's many projects in general.
On July 4th, Jon released yet another set of songs that he had been working on for possibly just as long, titled "Travelogue: Fireworks".
For those interested in purchasing Travelogue: Fireworks, Jon has this to share on its current method of purchase:
Jon: The only plans for a CD right now are a CDr of the recording when the vinyl is purchased from my website (which is not yet in my store and only sold through Holiday Records at this time). Holiday has a digital download available with each purchase. Strictly digital download (without purchasing the vinyl) is handled by French Kiss Records.
The most interesting aspect of this release is that the percussion is provided by recordings Jon took of fireworks a few years back. I think it's fair to say that those who follow Jon as listeners on his many musical expeditions, are both skeptical initially, and pleasantly surprised subsequently with what he comes up with each time he sets out to record.
The concept for Fireworks initially left me skeptical once again, as when he introduced the ideas behind "The Prometheus Project" (with Israel Slick) and "Acoustic Selections."
You think to yourself, 'It's a neat idea, but how's it going to work exactly? It doesn't sound like it can be done in a way that would maintain one's interest for very long.'
At the same time, you have all of Jon's previous releases to look at and go 'Well, he pulled that off, so surely he's got something up his sleeves for this as well.'
So . . . does Fireworks deliver?
Let's find out, shall we?
Now in all fairness, I must admit that this review is not based off my first listen of this release, as it was when I did my review for "The Noise Is Only Temporary," so at this point I have pretty much already developed my likes, and my (ahem) dislikes, of the songs throughout.
Keep in mind that any derogatory comments about a song are not made to critique Jon's talent so much, as to give an idea of what I personally felt about the tracks.
You might listen to the same song and say to yourself, "30N's an idiot! This song is the best thing since sliced bread." and if that's the case, then AWESOME!
(I think.) lol
The first song is 'Cathedral.' And what better way to kick things off than with some big booming fireworks for the percussion, introducing the listener to the treats to come.
Jon pulls out his bass guitar on this track (and won't be putting it away too soon :D), once again reminiscent of the Prometheus Project, and always a fun diversion from Travelogue's usual synthesized electronic atmosphere.
The song is not too heavy, but has enough of an edge to keep the listener interested. There is also the added entertainment of trying to find out just what firework sounds can be distinguished during the track.
My favorite portion of the song is from 2:27 on.
When I asked Jon what exactly 'Cathedral' was about lyrically, he had this to share.
Jon: Cathedral is about a church that loses its effectiveness as a ministry, where they are more concerned about the image and superficial issues rather than the importance of Christ and His message. I feel that people need to understand what they believe when they are a part of something like a church - it is not just a social club.
This is one of my favorites off of this release.
I often turn this one on when I take off to work in the morning.
It's pretty fun driving music.
The use of the fireworks for the percussion really shine here.
Though the lyrics are few . . .
"Under the willow trees we rode
Fast as the lightning turns and folds
The silhouette of him pursues
Embodiment of cruel desire
I saw his shadow coming close
One glance is all I need to fear"
. . . the vocal combination of Jon and Mandi really sound great, and make you come back for repeated listens.
If you're wondering just who "he" is, as I was, Jon has this to share:
Jon: He/him represents a general concept of evil. Evil is a real thing that happens around us. It does not often have a face or even a shadow, even though the song refers to this. Sometimes evil is simply the greed and lust that we deal with in ourselves and other people around us.
Any shares from the rest of you, on whom the he/him has been in your life, and similar experiences?
The instrumental track is another of my favorites from this release.
I'm not sure what it is about the track that grabs my interest.
There are not very many travelogue instrumental tracks, and I suppose that's another reason why I enjoy and appreciate this one all the more.
I asked Jon if this track was about when he had first started making music as a group/band:
Jon: Exactly - 1994 was when I started working with other people within the confines of a "band". Pivot Clowj and House of Wires felt like more of a collaboration between friends than a band. I still consider Robert one of my best friends to this day. Some of the older songs that I wrote are such a part of who I am and printed so far into my conscience, that I find myself remembering parts of songs like I would remember a hit on the radio where I spontaneously sing along. I remember the first time that I actually heard an audience sing along with me at one of my performances. It sort of struck me as odd because these songs are so personal to me - but it was also incredibly flattering to hear.
This song, in my opinion, is the best off of this release.
The lyrical content, as far as I can tell, is about death.
Recently there was a death in my family.
It was one of my uncles whom I had not been in contact with for a long time.
Because of this, combined with the lack of his presence in my life for many years, the lyrics to this song make me think of him.
However, this is not the only factor that makes this song my favorite off of 'Fireworks,' because I enjoyed it before these events even transpired.
The lyrics are a bit lengthier, and puts one in the circumstance of questioning whether there is more to our existence than the here and now.
It also makes me think about how important it is to cherish the time we do have with one another while we are in this age.
Let the listener beware, this is one of those songs in Travelogue's growing catalogue which will stay in your heart and mind and haunt you for a long time to come (in a good way :D).
LAST ENCOUNTER and THE TIGER IN WINTER
While I find the lyrics of 'Last Encounter' intriguing and quizzical, I feel I get lost as to the exact meaning behind them.
I think my favorite part of the song is the backing vox that can be heard really well around 1:50.
I also find myself wondering about the reference to giants in the lyrics, as to whether they are the tests and trials Jon has gone through in his life, and it makes me think of David and Goliath, obviously.
Now yes, I know I am jumping ahead a bit by combining 'The Tiger in Winter' with my feedback for Last Encounter, but you will understand why shortly.
Think back to the interview with Jon that was posted here on Flish a few months back and you will recall Jon mentioning . . .
"The first album that I ever released was all Christmas songs - it was called "Christmas according to Jon" and was released on cassette.
The A-side had 6 songs or so, while the B-side had backward mixes of the same 6 songs in reverse order.
They weren't simply reverses of the same mixes - the reel to reel tape was flipped and entirely new mixes were made of the backward recordings."
I'm curious if The Tiger in Winter happened to be one of those songs or not.
While it probably was not what Jon mentioned here, what Jon has recently shared on his soundcloud page found here ( http://soundcloud.com/jon-sonnenberg/travelogue-tiger-in-winter ), prove to be quite interesting.
listen to the awesomeness at work. : D
Besides this neat piece of detail, I can so imagine a dance club remix of The Tiger in Winter happening at some point.
It sounds like it was made with that possible consideration in mind ahead of time.
Hint, hint, to anyone out there interested in giving it a go. ; )
Having waited a long time to hear this song, I was very surprised to find it included here on Fireworks.
When Jon had first made mention of 'Aside,' he was originally intending to release it along with 'Beside,' as a stand alone release.
Whether or not he still plans on doing so, and as to why "Beside" was not included on this release as well, I will leave for Jon to reveal.
Should this song eventually appear in another format than how it is performed here, with the fireworks as percussion, it will be nice to go back and hear it in this version as well.
Before the fireworks release I had heard only live versions of both tracks, and actually preferred the song 'Beside' over 'Aside.'
However, having now heard it in a finished form- and with the lyrics available for reading- I have a newfound appreciation for the song. It comes across as if Jon is offering comfort to a friend going through difficult times, albeit a friend in a far off place. I liked lvl's song 'Mirror' for much the same reasons.
I asked Jon why "Beside" was not included on Fireworks and whether or not there would be a non-fireworks version of Aside he told me,
Jon: There was never a "Fireworks version" of the song "Beside". That is strictly a concept for a 7", which I still plan on releasing at some point. Originally, there wasn't a non-Fireworks version of Aside, but I really like the concept of a record with the songs 'Aside' and 'Beside.'
Oddly enough as I listen to this song, and as I mentioned in my previous review of Jon's "The Noise is Only Temporary" cd, every now and then I'll hear a track by Jon that makes me think of the Beatles.
For me, 'Plagiarism' is that track on this release.
And while I am reading the lyrics, I am brought back to something I recall Jon mentioning in the interview I did with him for the release of "The Noise is Only Temporary."
Jon: "The Noise is only Temporary" is a retaliation, but also an acceptance of the fact that music is more accessible and temporary now than it ever has been.
There is simply more of it around -- anyone can find it in a simple internet search, etc.
The internet has brought a diverse audience, but also has watered down our voice.
There is so much noise out there to listen to.
Some of it is really good.
Some of it .. Well.. So many things to distract our attention.. And to think that I am just one of the many distractions is an observation that I have had.
I am part of this noise, whether or not you get something from my music/art or not.
While you may not recognize the same relevance to this statement while listening to the song, and/or reading the lyrics as I did, I personally find that "Plagiarism" makes the point lyrically, that Jon was trying to explain about "The Noise is Only Temporary."
Sharing this with Jon, he added,
Jon: "I think that is fairly accurate. There is a lot of noise and distractions in our lives - now, more than ever.
Most of today's ideas seem to be borrowed or heavily influenced by many things. This sometimes blurs the line between influence and plagiarism. I think that it is impossible to not be influenced by concepts and ideas around us though, even though it may be indirectly influential.
Despite all of the noise I believe that there are still infinite possibilities with music, songs, and art, that haven't been imagined or conceptualized yet. New possibilities are often dependent on technology or materials available. As technology advances, our tools evolve and make new art possible, and human kind will always need a way to express ourselves."
In closing, I think the oddest part of all is that, as I near the end of listening to the songs on this release, I tend to forget that they even have the fireworks as a backdrop. It's almost as if that factor just fades out of your mind and you just begin to accept them as part of the music as a whole.
I find that very creative on Jon's part, and yet another reason why I find him so incredibly talented and one of my favorite musical artists.
Special Thanks go to Marta Llumbart for the use of her artwork to accompany this review.
Thanx, and may God Bless you.