Abney Park : Steampunk Mayhem


As following the request of the poll taken last week on The Pennington Edition, Abney Park was voted unanimously as top Steampunk band and so here is their own personal devoted posting.  This post will be based on my personal understanding of their lyrics (not the bands, though I’m sure they will have their own run down on their page), their visuals, costume, performances, and effort.  Basically, it will be a review based on my own opinions…like I would normally write…all the time.  So please, if you disagree with my statements, feel free to tell me and I will redirect you to this paragraph for a another run through of my reasons.

And so, here is a little background for newcomers who surfed the internet, found a link to an Abney Park video and thought “What is this?  I like it!”…everyone else might just like to learn something new today.  Keep that up, I enjoy seeing people reject narrow-mindedness on topics they don’t understand.

Abney Park stems from the collaboration of a band of Steampunk misfits who are including you in a narrative of their adventures involving airships, time travel and science fiction mayhem.  The band formed in 1998 and was mainly an industrial goth band.  It wasn’t until 2006 where their true nature emerged as a very peculiar story unfolded giving the band their unique sound, style, and persona.

The band has had so many dramatic changes it is hard to keep track but from what I can gather, there are now six official band members: Captain Robert (Robert Brown) on vocals and a wide variety of musical instruments (a baglama?); Nathaniel Johnstone on guitar and violin (you can’t have Steampunk music without a violin); Kristina Erickson, the one on keyboard dancing around; Dan Cederman doing bass and acoustic; Jody Ellen on vocals; and Josh Goering  on guitar.

First, they came up with an adventure story that allowed them to explain band and crew changes and disappearances and this has helped them with their Steampunk motif.  The storyline, as given to me by Wikipedia, is thus:

{Since Steampunk is largely derived from science fiction and fantasy literature, the band also created a fictional back-story to explain the shake-up in membership and who they were now, and to set a stage for their new music. According to that story, the band’s plane collided with a time-traveling dirigible called the Ophelia—said to have been created by a Dr. Leguminous Calgori (presumably a reference to the 1920 silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)—in a freak storm. The band commandeered the vessel, deciding to become airship pirates, and formed a new band from the surviving members of the crash. Much of their music since that time has been based around this fictional back-story.}

I believe this to be a stroke of genius!  Truly, even David Bowie came up with Ziggy Stardust and look where that got him!  This is, however, far more elaborate and involves a great many people.  So for creativity I give this band five out of five!

As for their Steampunk effort…that is through the roof!  This is a truly visual band who takes their Steampunk story-telling to a new, artistic level.  From their own site they state:

{Expect clockwork guitars, belly dancers, flintlock bassists, middleastern percussion, violent violin, and Tesla powered keyboards blazing in a post- apocalyptic, swashbuckling, Steampunk musical mayhem.}

Belly dancers!  Brilliant!  Clockwork guitars?  That is a thing of beauty.  For those still out of the loop, Tesla was a forefather of electrical technology branded as a mad scientist for his wild scientific claims.  But, back then, being eccentric was not necessarily a good trademark to have so it was inevitable for him to be ostracized.  Still, based on this posting, I believe I have work for another posting.  Another reason why this band is so inspirational!

Now to the music!  One of my personal favorites is “Sleep Isabella” which has a very caravansarai feeling to it. It is whimsical and I just enjoy listening to it while lying mindlessly on the floor staring at a ceiling fan. Yes, I do this.  I don’t like being distracted when listening to music.  Besides, when I listen to music I think of stories that swirl around my head which gives me ideas therefore musician’s ideas in turn gives me my ideas while I stare blankly at four surging blades attached to my ceiling.  Such a wonderful perpetuating cycle…so to speak.

A quintessential Abney song is one of their most popular videos on the net, “Airship Pirate” which follows their fictional narrative of adventurous dirigible flight and thievery.  The song really only describes perhaps a short day for the boisterous crew yet it is full of fabulous Steampunk terminology and visuals.  Here are the lyrics but please also listen to the song as you read to catch the feel the band was expressing.

Our fires high and the airbags tight
Food’s low but the skies are bright
Props spinning all through the night
We’re low on cash but seen another target

Goggles down and the cannons up
My blood starts pumping as I drain my cup
I give the wheel a spin and I turn this girl around
We’re way above ground but we’re closed in on our target

Flying Jib is filled with air
East India ships filled with despair
We even up, her broadsides bare
Our cannons flair but it’s just a show of muscle

Steady on, she doesn’t need to burn
She tries to flee and she tries to turn
Grappling fire, we latch her hull
She’s starting to roll, but we’ve got her on a leash

With a crew of drunken pilots
We’re the only airship pirates
We’re full of hot air and we’re starting to rise
We’re the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves now

Expendable crew starts to reel her in
Our swords are sharpened and we’re ready to sin
I’m three miles up, we’re about to swing aboard
My tether’s made of leather so I’m not about to fall here

A swish of air and my boots hit deck
No cash, no fuel, no not a speck
Our grape shots made this bird a wreck
And a glance below deck shows a crew of nuns and orphans

With a crew of drunken pilots
We’re the only airship pirates
We’re full of hot air and we’re starting to rise
We’re the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves
(repeats)

Their other works include “The Wrong Side”, which at first sounds sensationally new wave in style, and “Herr Drosselmeyer’s Doll”.  I watched the video someone had made of a live performance and I absolutely loved the lovely dancer Finn von Claret whom sadly left the band not too long ago, I believe, to form Imaginary Daughter.  If I am wrong about this please do tell me.

Out of their twelve albums available, only 2008’s Lost Horizons and every albums since follows their Steampunk storyline including their new album “Off The Grid”.  They even made a Christmas album (website download) and a RPG game was recently released based on their back-story.  Once you’re made digital I think you’ve made your mark, don’t you think?

The last thing I am going to comment on is their website.  I am jealous.  It is so beautiful and I miss the ability to build websites.  ( I said build.  I can design them until I’m green in the face but building them is dreadful!)  Enough of my babbling!  Go and check this band out for yourself and have fun!  They are an entertaining band and their instruments alone are worth taking a look at.

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