I thought it would be fun to review some of the acts that are part of Gilded Age Records (a collective of steampunk artists that I joined earlier this year).
First up, and chosen both on musical merit and geographical proximity (They appear to inhabit the same area of South London as me), are the Peryls. The Peryls have been described as ‘Alt Folk at its folking best’ – which is an amusing and mildly helpful description of their sound.
A small digression
(I say mildly merely because I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘folk’ when used to describe pop with acoustic instruments. Folk means something else… but this is a pointless digression that would be taken out by anyone capable of editing his or her own writing)
Back to the Peryls
The Peryls are all minor chords, Root-five basslines and fun narrative lyrics. Instrumentation is acoustic guitar, cello bass and minimal percussion. My favourite track is The Ember, from their new EP ‘I Have Not Slept One Wink’ – which has enough twists, turns and unexpected chords to keep my muso soul content.
Elsewhere there are hints of trad jazz and the pop music of yesteryear, all of it held together with a subtle but effective vocal and a great ear for instrumentation.
Over a few tracks I found myself wanting the vocal to be mixed a little louder, and more to be made of the dissonant notes that crop up here and there, but by and large the tracks they have up on myspace are very musical and imbued with a real steampunk personality. The visuals too are top notch, as you can see from the video above.
A massive digression
This leaves me wondering – Exactly what should steampunk music sound like?
It’s a question I’m happy to discuss but don’t honestly believe answerable. The absence of african influence and use of european instruments in the music of the Peryls certainly makes sense – but if they didn’t wear the victorian get-up would anyone think them steampunk?
Similarly my own music makes use of electronics that arguably are out of place. Which I excuse by saying that A. my music is more about steampunk than of a steampunk world and B. I don’t really care.
The very act of trying to define genre is of course silly, there aren’t boundaries merely different points on various specrums, but it’s interesting how different musical attitudes to steampunk can be.