Track By Track: Isis - Features - Alternative Press




Track By Track: Isis

July 19 2011, 7:00 AM EDT By Annie Zaleski

Photo: Robin Laananen

Keyboardist/guitarist BRYANT CLIFFORD MEYER takes AP track by track through ISIS’ posthumous live release, ISIS Live V 07/23.06, which comes out July 26. Stay tuned to tomorrow to hear an exclusive stream of the album.

“The Beginning And The End”
That opening loop thing is from some Olivier Messiaen piece. We used that to segue into “The Beginning And The End” so much, it almost became part of the song. We must have played this song live 400 times, and the riffage at the end always was a real shitkicker. [It’s] still an obvious choice for the introductory piece to a show and/or record. The ending was always a little improv style, working well sometimes and not so well other [times]. This [version] was pretty good, though perhaps a hair abrupt.
“The Other”
This song was rarely performed live; I think we played it around the tours surrounding Oceanic's release and the tour this was recorded from. Obviously, it’s one of our stranger songs—I’m pretty sure [vocalist/guitarist Aaron] Turner wrote that intro part—and it was hard to reproduce the weirdness of the recording on stage. I do remember wondering while writing this if people were going to think we smoked one too many joints, as this was a big strange departure from any of the Celestial stuff. The end of this song is still one of my favorite parts of any ISIS song—apparently we were pretty into Slint’s Spiderland around this time.

“False Light”
This was more of a Celestial-type song: very long parts, one key. I think we began to lose focus on the middle psychedelic part when playing this one out, and it just sort of got phased out of the live set. This version is pretty good, though. [Jesu founder] Justin Broadrick mixed this set—the recording side anyway, our main man Greg Moss is Boss was our live guy—and did a great job. It really shows on this particular song.

Another staple of our live set forever and ever. It was always fun to play. Jeff [Caxide, bassist] had that beginning part, I'm pretty sure. [Radiohead's] Kid A or Amnesiac had just come out, and I think the influence is pretty undeniable. (That's still my favorite Radiohead stuff, probably.)  Mike [Gallagher, guitarist] also wrote a lot of that beginning guitar stuff, which I've always really liked. Our friend Maria [Christopher] sang on the studio version of this song, which I think also helped make this one of the more popular ones.

The one and only live performance of this ever. It’s not the most simple of our songs to pull off: the timing is weird, the guitar part is a little tricky and there’s no singing to follow or distortion to cover up our mistakes. But here it is, a cool, weird ISIS song. The recorded version is all right, though: We tracked down some electronic drumkit from who knows where and [drummer] Aaron Harris and I just figured it out somehow and recorded this song with tons of great overdubs. It turned out great. I think you can hear the "analogness" of the tape we used back in those days, which is pleasant as a motherfucker.

Certainly one of our more "epic" compositions, and always enjoyable to perform, giving us all a chance to go a little nuts. We often had guest appearances for this song, and Justin Broadrick played guitar with us on this occasion. Final—one of Justin's monikers—also played that night along with the mighty Oxbow, which was wonderful.  
“From Sinking”
This was certainly a Turner riff. Very ISIS. I never was crazy about the keyboards on this song, but they sound okay on this performance. We were getting into a little of the post-rock stuff, and I wasn't sure what do over the quieter, more melodic parts.  But everyone else on this song sounds killer. [Oceanic] was the first time we tracked in a "real" studio, Fort Apache in Cambridge, Massachusetts. So hearing drums out of that place was really exciting for us. We all somehow seemed to really improve musically, and [producer] Matt Bayles was really into the recording side of it, as well. Looking back and listening again for the first time in quite a while, I'm still pretty psyched on this record as a whole; it’s one of my faves for these reasons.
Holy fuck. This is a prime example of why I gave up the singing thing a long time ago. Jesus, I apologize for that. But yeah, this song also phased its way out of the live rotation. Luckily, we had better ones to replace it with. I remember sitting with Jeff [Caxide, bassist] and our friend Jim, and we listened to the demo I made of this and “-/Maritime” on Boylston Street in Boston. They seemed to like it, which was a nice feeling. I almost definitely stole a Keelhaul/Zeni Geva riff for that middle part, I couldn't help myself. [They were] two big influences for sure.