Friday, 24 August 2012
THE DARKEST TREASURE
Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Darkest Treasure
Format: At time of writing this is a cassette-only release on the Wulfrune Worxx label (France) in 2012, cat ref WW333. The demo comes in the label's usual format with black and white copied inlays, and a C60 style tape.
Edition: Hand-numbered to 66 copies
01. The Darkest Treasure
A welcome return to this most old-school of formats and labels - a demo tape, released on Kommando Skogen's Wulfrune Worxx label in France. Takes you right back to those heady days of 2004...! Nazgul's tape, he is proud to note, is #1 of the 66 made.
And speaking of welcome returns, in essence what you've got on this limited edition tape is a 2012 redux of music from an earlier time in Uruk Hai's discography (acknowledged on the inlay, with recording dates cited as 2009 and 2012), brought up to date with a twist of lime and a little umbrella sticking out of the top. It is an excellent example, to quote the recent Radio Rivendell interview, of Hugin "always mix[ing] sounds from old Uruk Hai tracks with new ones to create something like a concept through all the releases I've ever done..."
Now, such an admission (if 'admission' is quite the right word) is bound to polarise opinion to some degree: there will be advocates, and there will be critics. Advocates will note that if you do something well then why not do it again, but better. The critics will cite this as a classic example of an artist being a 'one-track pony'- in other words a person or thing considered as being limited to only one single talent. They might also raise the not irrelevant issue of money: the cost for the paying public of buying what could largely be said to be the same release more than once. Whilst the practice of releasing alternate mixes of a song as part of an extended CD single (or as bonus tracks on an album) is commonplace, the idea of re-purchasing lightly re-worked material at full-cost over and over again might be a tough one to swallow.
Yet ask the man on the proverbial Clapham omnibus who he think is the greatest band in the world and amongst the myriad of names you'll be given you'll doubtless hear Coldplay, AC/DC, Motorhead and/or Ramones. But all these bands have something in common: they have one song. Not literally, because they have the decency to give them different names – but they are all essentially re-working the same musical idea over and over again.
It's not unfair to say that certain bands have taken the whole "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" maxim to heart and based entire careers on one good idea. Ramones, a band who understood what it meant to be a brand, are masters of this. Such was Johnny Ramone's unerring dedication to their visual and musical identity that he imposed strict codes, and any deviation from their sartorial and musical formula was strictly verboten. Fortunately, the Ramones one song – you know, the one that begins "1,2,3,4!", has no extended guitar solos, and clocks in at around two minutes – is a belter!
The same goes for AC/DC, whose song about rock/rocking/rocking all night long has been stretched to a 35-year long metaphor for sex. Just try substituting the word "rock" with "fuck" and see what happens. Exactly. Nothing. The song remains exactly the same, but in the best possible way. Because, ultimately, we like familiarity - we want to know what we're getting. It's all about familiar signs and signifiers lighting the way through a world of chaos. German Marxist theorist Theodor Adorno summed it up when he observed: "The familiarity of a piece is a surrogate for the quality ascribed to it. To like it is almost the same thing as to recognise it."
There's a reason why Coldplay are the biggest band in the world and it has nothing to do with musical innovation or winning personalities. It's because of that song with the piano bit, the surging chorus and the message about you and me and life and stuff. The one you recognise. This familiarity is something Oasis understand and turn to their advantage. When you see them play you are not having your expectations of what constitutes a performance challenged. You are either submitting to entry-level rock thrills or you are in your thirties and re-living your teens.
Just like a magician who is famous for a specific illusion, there are lots of other successful b(r)ands out there who have re-created the same trick over and over, or at least continually re-presented it in recognisable forms: The Killers, Status Quo, Iron Maiden, the Prodigy, the Fall, Motörhead, Manowar. The list goes on and on. In financial terms, it's possibly the best move a band can make, to write one amazing song and run with it. And so long as people keep buying it, or are too blinded by fanatical loyalty to notice otherwise, they won't stop. Even Nickelback fans.
Ultimately, you pays your money and makes your choice with these things. If you're a fair-weather Uruk Hai fan and own some material from the 2009 period already, you may not need to purchase this tape. If you enjoy Hugin's ambient artistry and appreciate that as the artist he has the perfect right to play around with his own recordings, then by all means take a chance and look out for this one and invest the modest amount asked by Wulfrune Worxx to make it your own. Or you might choose to wait for the inevitable CD release instead....!?