Song of the Week: "The Hypnogogue"


There was a fairly long period (approximately 1992 to 2005) when The Church was my favorite then-extant band. (So much so that Progarchives asked me to write the band bio on their site, for which I was writing reviews at the time.) This was the most creative period for three of the founding members (bassist-songwriter Steve Kilbey, and guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper) and drummers Jay Dee Daugherty (1992) and Tim Powles (1993 - 2006). During this period, The Church went from simply dabbling in progressive elements (prior to 1992) to becoming a standard-bearer of the neo-prog movement. (The band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2010.)

After a period of straight rock (prior to 1985), The Church's sound eventually developed into lush, heavily-textured atmospheres surrounding a combination of jangly, often arpeggiated guitar work; tasteful, sometimes "symphonic" keyboard figures; compelling, often syncopated drum and/or percussion rhythms; and occasional use of non-standard instrumentation, all supporting Kilbey's unique talk-singing vocals.

I admittedly lost interest in the band when they underwent a series of personnel changes, including the loss of both Willson-Piper and Koppes. Still, they remain among my top ten favorite bands of all time.

So it is with pleasure that I received their most recent single release, "The Hypnogogue." The title alone piqued my curiosity, so I gave it a listen (and a look, as it comes with a very trippy "short film"-style video). At 6:30, it is among their longest songs, and almost certainly their longest release as a single. And it is, in a word, uber-Churchy. (Okay, maybe that's two words.)

Opening (uncharacteristically) with a spacey piano figure, it quickly brings in the signature jangly guitar, followed by an off-time Kilbey and Powles figure, and then Kilbey's vocals. The song progresses nicely into familiar Church territory, with an atmosphere that totally envelops. By the end (and particularly with headphones), one is hopelessly immersed.

The video (directed by Clint Lewis), which is "dystopian…set in 2054," is described by Mr. Kilbey as being "…about Eros Zeta the biggest rock star of 2054 who has traveled from his home in Antarctica…to use the Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging fortunes…In the midst of the toxic process, he also falls in love with Sun Kim and it all ends tragically (of these thing often do)."

I don't know about all that, but the video is extremely "dark" and haunting, taking place primarily in a recording studio (with video monitors showing various things, including images of the band members playing), with major elements including music, drugs, spirituality, and life and death (both of which are represented by water). It ends with Mr. Zeta (who has been immersed in water, wearing a facemask delivering some sort of drug) burning down the studio. (Quite the metaphor!)

All in all, a song (and video) that has revived my interest in the band, and its very bright-looking future.



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