Professor Elemental

Steampunk music, just like Steampunk itself, is a strange and difficult thing to attempt to pin down and define. The moment you think you’ve found some definition which pleases you, the community produces something entirely different that threatens previously standing assumptions. It’s one of the many, many reasons why I adore Steampunk.

I’ve never particularly enjoyed hip-hop and especially not the culture that is built around music that is often degrading to women and too focused on a materialistic lifestyle. Modern hip-hop doesn’t even require one to be able to sing or play an instrument (see auto-tuning, which many genres are guilty of employing). Systems like this take so much of the authenticity out of music.

So when I heard that hip-hop had made its way into the Steampunk scene, I was at first very unsettled by the notion. But I gave it a shot nonetheless.

I bought The Indifference Engine by Professor Elemental during the week before the con and with all the frenzied adventures leading up to Steamcon II, I had very little time to sit down and actually listen to it. But listen to it I have, and I’m here to tell you, hip-hop has arrived in Steampunk, and it’s going to be alright.

Professor Elemental’s latest album is an amusing and lighthearted exploration of the outer limits of Steampunk music. From Cup of Brown Joy‘s description of the glories of fine tea to Fighting Trouser‘s stylish throwdown, this is one album I am sincerely enjoying.

If you’d like to learn more about Professor Elemental, please visit his website. There, you can learn more about him and his music, find out when he’ll be in your part of the world, and perhaps purchase an album.

Vagabond Opera

I’m not going to lie… I love opera. There’s something so dated about it that it appeals to me on both the historical and Steampunk fronts. My favorite structure in the entire world, the Paris Opera House, was built specifically for the art form, and sets the stage for one of my favorite books of all time, The Phantom of the Opera.

So, the concept of combining Steampunk and opera is already pretty squee-worthy to me.

A Steampunk band based in Portland has done just that, and it’s not just good in concept, but in has execution as well. The Vagabond Opera been together since 2002 and was created by Eric Stern, the Opera’s lead tenor.

Here’s a video clip of one of their songs: Ravella, The River Boat Queen.

If that’s perked your interest, you’ll be happy to know that you can listen to some samplings of their music on their website.

Your next opportunity to catch them live will be on Wednesday, December 22 when they play at Bossa Nova Ballroom in Portland, OR.

Sugarland and Steampunk

So, recently, there’s been talk of Sugarland, a multi-platinum country music band, making a Steampunk inspired album, The Incredible Machine. The album itself is another country album, but the lyrics employ Steampunk imagery.

I’m not entirely pleased about this development. Sugarland is a country band that appears to care nothing about Steampunk as a movement. And, if you need proof if this, check out this quote from a recent article from Rueters:

“The way steampunk works — it’s just different ways to augment rock wear,” Bush said. “Even though we’re dressed a certain way, it gives a heightened sense this is a show.”

I’m sorry, but that’s not “just how  Steampunk works.” Steampunk is so much more than just a method of showmanship for anyone to just adopt when record sales slump. It appears as though Sugarland views Steampunk as a way to further promote themselves and their image. They seem to be grabbing a hold of our image in the effort to promote a record.

For those of you who balk as I do at big-label musicians hijacking Steampunk, you’ll be happy to read this review from the Washington Post that is unimpressed by Sugarland’s “The Incredible Machine.”

The Dresden Dolls are Coming to Dallas

There’s an exciting event for all you Steampunks remaining in the DFW area for the weekend of SteamCon. My airship, Airship La Marianne, is arranging for a Steampunk outing to go see the Dresden Dolls perform at the Granada Theater on November 19th, 2010. While I won’t be in attendance as I’ll be away on the west coast carousing with Steampunks from around the world, my Quartermaster and Boatswain will be there.

The Dresden Dolls describe themselves as “Brechtian punk cabaret” after Bertolt Brecht, and are a leading force in the Dark Cabaret scene. Here’s the announcement for their Reunion Tour:

The Dresden Dolls have been on hiatus since 2008, so it’s very exciting to see them getting back together, and even more thrilling that they decided they would drop by Dallas for a performance. To purchase tickets to the event, visit the Granada’s website. If you’d like to be put in contact with my Quartermaster so you too can attend this event in your Steampunk finery, just leave me a message below and I’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

The End of Days

It’s almost here! Abney Park’s latest album, The End of Days, is set to go on sale on October 15th at midnight, Seattle time. The first 200 copies of the album that are sold will be signed and numbered by the band, and then shipped out that Monday for your audio enjoyment.

The album is made up of 13 tracks. Here’s the list:
The End Of Days
Neobedouin
The Wrath Of Fate
I’ve Been Wrong Before
Fight Or Flight
Victorian Vigilante
Letters Between a Little Boy & Himself As An Adult
Beautiful Decline
Off The Grid
To The Apocalypse In Daddies Sidecar
Space Cowboy

The lineup for this album is positively impressive. Along with the amazing talents of the Abney Park band, there are guest artists galore, from Richard Lopez on Trombone and Alto Flute, Carey Rayburn on Vintage Muted Trumpet, and Erica Mulkey (better known as Unwoman) on Cello.

Though I’m still positively in love with Aether Shanties, I’m very excited to hear the new goodness that is sure to be The End of Days. So… who’s staying up late with me on the 15th to snag a copy of this album?

La Mécanique du Cœur

La Mécanique du Cœur, or The Mechanics of the Heart, is the 6th album of the French band Dionysos and the first to be self produced. The album, along with the corresponding novel by the same name in French, and known as The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart in English, tell the story of young Little Jack.

Born in Edinburgh in 1874 on the coldest day in the world, Little Jack is born with a frozen heart which the midwife, Docteur Madeleine, replaces with a cuckoo clock to save the boy’s life. The clock successfully replaces his heart, but Madeleine warns him to “not touch the hands[of the clock], control his temper, and most importantly, never ever fall in love” or else the clock will explode through his skin.

The tale of Little Jack through a multimedia presentation of music, music video, and the written word is a unique and really rather outstanding presentation of this dark, Steampunk influenced tale. Here’s the music video of their single on the album, Tais Toi Mon Cœur.

If you want the translation to the song, please click here. Be careful though, the music video is something of a spoiler, so if you are interested in reading the book or experiencing the album in its entirety before seeing the video, proceed with caution.

The Steampunk Song

I found a charming song written by Endarkened93 of YouTube about lifestyle Steampunk. Just listening to it makes me smile, so I thought I’d share it all with you!

And here’s the lyrics!

You know you wanna wear a
Victorian era
vest and a cape
or a gown and tiara
with a green mohawk
and gloves that rock
a utility belt, goggles
and a pocket clock

Where the trains are ‘chuggin
There ain’t no plug-ins
You’d better watch out
or you might get stuck in
a dragon’s nest
or a temporal vortex

Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout steampunk
a mix between a period piece
and a sci-fi/fantasy
They only have steam, or so it seems
’cause they also have advanced machines

Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout protest
It’s more than a genre to me
It’s a whole lifestyle
can’t ya see
that I’m a steampunk
on and off the screen

I see a robot, a wizard
and a big, mean lizard
like the past met the future
but the present got scissored
I hate the way we live today
Yeah, I dream about tomorrow and yesterday

Oh, my heart is achin’
for the path not taken
I see a jetpack
and my knees start shakin’
Call it a pipedream
but I love pipes! And dreams!

Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout steampunk
It’s really retro, but at the same time
it’s also techno
H.G. Wells did it pretty well
Jules Verne was great as hell
Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout Star Wars
and Final Fantasy Six
I gotta find me a steampunk chick
so we can make the make-believe come true

(steamy, punkass solo)

So, if you’ve objections
to modern inventions
and long for a world
that went a different direction
then you should really be a steampunk, too
’cause steampunk makes the make-believe come true
I believe we’ll make the make-believe come true.

Seriously, this song made me giggle with glee, and it’s a great introduction to Steampunk. And before someone says that he can’t sing, I feel inclined to report his reply to just this criticism:

0BatGirl0 2 days ago  Eh, singing’s not your thing.

Endarkened93 2 days ago @0BatGirl0, Eh, hiring someone else to sing for me isn’t my thang, either.

Well said sir!

Slightly Steampunk: Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester

Tonight, I have a musical treat that straddles the line between Steampunk and Dieselpunk and should be an accessible introduction to our “Period Punk” musical tastes to those curious outsiders looking in on our cultures.

Max Raabe is a German born signer who, along with the Palast Orchester, specializes in recreating the sound of German dance and film music from the early 20th century. While Max does produce his own music, he has been getting considerable attention from Steam and Diesel punks for his covers of pop songs like Britney Spears’ “Oops!… I Did It Again”

If you ask me, Britney has never sounded better! Also, don’t ask me whats with the guy at the end.

There are currently two cover albums out, Super Hits and Super Hits 2. I think these albums would be great dance music for a Steampunk party that was trying to attract new followers to the subculture. It is a kind of halfway point between the music force-fed to the public through radio and powerful music labels and the self produced genius of Steampunk artists like Abney Park.

You can view Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester’s website here, where you can learn more about the band and listen to their more traditional fare in the Music section.

To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Side Car

I recently got an update via the Abney Park newsletter that previewed the lyrics for one of the new songs on their new album and the story behind it. Captain Robert has been undertaking a the modification of a 1936 Chan Jaing Motocycle. You can see it in its unmodified state here.

And when a camp counselor asked Captain Robert’s daughter where she would go if she had a time machine, she responded, “To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Side Car!” And because this is the most epic answer ever, fans have demanded that it be turned into a song on Abney Park’s next album.

And so, here are the lyrics for To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Side Car as written by the good Captain Robert:

We’ve got 3 wheels and a frame of rust
Blue sky above, and behind us dust.
Half tank of gas won’t carry us far,
But your safe tell apocalypse in Daddies side-car.

Got Shot gun shells and 12 cans of beans,
And a old stuffed doll coming’part at her seams.
Your little lace dress you’ve worn too far.
As you watch the appocolyse from daddies side-car.

That life we once had held us far too confined
We’ve left job and school far far behind.
You chew your gum as I chew my cigar,
As you ride the appocolspye in daddies side-car.

We swam the whole day In Oasis’s pool
And the shade beneath palms became our home-school.
We danced past bed time at a desert bazaar,
Now you nod your head In Daddies side-car.

Hooray! I can’t wait for their next album, but I must admit, I’m still in love with Aether Shanties and all its glory.

If you want to get awesome updates on Abney Park like this one, be sure to sign up for their mailing list. You’ll get all the latest info from the band on their the latest exploits.

The Clockwork Dolls

The Clockwork Dolls is a “Neo Victorian Electronica with a hint of Steampunk” band based out of Baltimore, Maryland. I recently stumbled across some of their work in an attempt to find a better Steampunk radio than Radio Riel (I haven’t found one yet, updates to come as soon as I find something). This band stands out to me because I love their particular blend of opera and rock. I’ve always been a big fan of “symphonic goth rock” in the vein of Within Temptation, Kamelot, and Nightwish. The Clockwork Dolls are a short airship flight away from these bands.

Their album, Dramatis Personae, is the story of a young woman who determines to leave the confines of her life and become a airship pirate. My favorite song is “Blades of Autumn,” the song that narrates her attempt to convince her childhood friend to join her as a sky pirate. I love the sound and the lyrical imagery.

You can listen to some of their tracks from Dramatis Personae on the MySpace page… just skip past the “Don’t Stop Believn'” cover (don’t ask me, I don’t know why it’s there) to sample some of the tracks, including Blades of Autumn. If you like what you hear, you can purchase the album here on Amazon. I do hope that they can improve some of their live performances, some of the YouTube videos of their live work is less than impressive. Don’t let this turn you away from the album, I just think that there is a bit of room for improvement in that regard. You can look them up yourself if you care to do so.