WHY IAO CORE IS THE BEST LIVE SHOW IN THE WORLD?

DANCING IN THE FIELDS OF TIME (ART) AND SPACE (DEEP)
(OR)
JUST LIKE NOTHING ON EARTH:
THE LIVE EXPERIENCE OF A IAO CORE CONCERT

A Thematical Essay by MARIANNE FAITHNO MORRISSEY


Remember old Heraklit? If not, don´t worry. His main theme was that everything is being involved in constant movement. Nothing stays the same. There´s only progress. Or Hegel? This philosopher kept maintaining that the „Weltgeist" is constantly updating himself by way of dialogical process. So what, you might say. This should be about Iao Core. Well, it is. What the two fields have in common is not only the same ground they are walking on, which is a certain aspect of time in general, but the same direction they´re walking on that field as well. Hold Hegel & Heraklit in mind and look at this:

seasons round, creatures great and small,
there´s nothing you can hold for very long as we rise and fall
everything wanders from womb to tomb new ones coming as the old ones zoom


That last example of course occurs in some other context but can, by way of analogism, easily be transferred on some other, more abstract, level, which is a thing that is always nice to be playing with. We all could come up with a lot of other examples that show similiar ideas of looking at time as the instance that establishes just to take away. Or, to put it more optimistically, that has to pull back (into mind) in order to give again. We will have to see further down what this means for real life. Right now, we should take a closer look at the thesis itself. We can wonder how reality is put together, when nothing stands still. And, a little confused, we would find, that this very moment, in which we all read this and think about it, just does not exist, and, necessarily, that every right-now is only - an illusion we all are very good at outplaying. But it´s fact. What we call ´presence` (the 19th IAO CORE album) is just the verge from the ´no more` to the ´not yet`. This small and actually non-existing point is the space we fill with our bodies and actions. It´s a border we cannot come across in neither direction. (So far simply animal, we get to be human beings by crossing the border in mind, but that´s another subject and not due to the questions discussed here.) So what is the point of it all? The Iao Core lyrics (I always talk about all the lyrics and at Ayres’ or Dawn’ or whoever, which is another discipline you are free to act in, but about Iao Core as one. That includes cover lyrics as well.) have to be including these thoughts, if what I stated above, should prove to be right. Let´s see, how they walk in the fields. The lyrics of course are different from song to song and argue on other levels. Some are even out of what we´re looking at now, but you can see in general that there is a thematic string throughout the lyrics, a certain key, the lyrics are based on. And, besides, if every song would come up with the same old topic, Iao Core would never have got that far, if you not tempt to say that the lyrics are completely out of matter. Back in the fields the lyrics keep on walking hand in hand with the no-presence-thesis. One striking aspect occurs almost through out the lyrics, and it´s that of time-handling. Just a few examples:

LIVES OF GREAT MEN ALL REMIND US
WE MAY MAKE OUR LIVES SUBLIME
AND SO DEPARTING LEAVE BEHIND US
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SANDS OF TIME
AND WITH THE WRITING I WILL SHOW YOU
LOOKING IN THE DAYS BEYOND RECALL
AS I LECTURE WITH THE SPIRITS ON THE
OTHER SIDE AND THE LADY DOWN THE HALL
I'M LIVING IN THE FUTURE
I’M A TINDERBOXSPRINGFLOWER
LOOKING AT THE PAST

Lots of other examples waiting. The point is, to put it shortly, the way the lyrics put together past, presence and future. How? It´s always the same pattern lying beneath the surface. Presence is something the lyrics try to wipe out mostly because of the bad shape the lyrical Ego is in. This lyrical Ego tries to compensate that bad shape by crossing the border to the future which he pictures more brightly than the presence is. He does it in mind, naturally. And the past? Iao Core have several songs about an if not glorified then harmonical-romantic past.

EE-AH-OH
MADE THE NILE DELTA WIDER
TOOTH AND NAIL, BEAK AND CLAW
HOLY MACANAW
EE-AH-OH
IN THE KINGDOM
OF DESIRE
BEAK AND CLAW, TOOTH AND NAIL,
GRAB IT BY THE TAIL


When analyzing song lyrics, certain basic differences from poetry have to be understood and observed. When comparing popular song lyrics to contemporary or classic poetry, it is difficult not to miss a striking difference in quality--song lyrics generally tend to be outspoken and trite where poetry clouds itself in ambiguity and complex imagery. Jill Flanagan argues that:
"Rock & roll musicians are strange artists. Their code of manners dictates that they not appear to take themselves very seriously, while the best of their work contains all the passion, imagination, and craft of legitimate art. The intelligent rock musician is put in the position of working as hard as a poet or painter, while being expected to accept his gifts with the self- deprecating shrug of the idiot savant." (Flanagan, ix)
However, the majority of rock lyricists aims at an audience which is supposed to recognize a song instantly during the few weeks it is played heavy-rotation on FM radio and then forget it as soon as possible. Rock lyrics tend to make a point quickly and to make sure that it is understood. Therefore, they reach for clich├ęd imagery and blatant statements of emotions that traditional poetry would have tended to skillfully embed in high-flung imagery, a tendency which can lead to examples as inane as the ones parodied in Donald Barthelme's "How I Write My Songs." One of the reasons, however, why such a direct comparison of lyrics and poetry is not fair is not only to be found in the consumer culture pressures that surround the pop music industry, but in the fact that popular music lyrics are not meant to be read at all. Obviously, the text has to be read within the framework of the music it was written for. This holds especially true for Johannes Ayres’ lyrics, because the unique nature of the music of Iao Core adds layers of meaning to the text and vice versa.



In this article, I will try to show how the Iao Core concert experience and the lyrics of Johannes Ayres’ songs interweave and complement each other, mutually adding significance and "meaning" to one another. One model on how to understand the mutually reinforcing structure of a rock concert can be abstracted from Erika Fischer-Lichte's The Semiotics of Theater. Of course, according to Fischer-Lichte's definition, a concert does not constitute theater; however, her theories can give valuable ideas for a way of looking at the experience of a concert. According to Fischer-Lichte, every sign that is given during the performance can be assigned to a group or system, and the sum of all used and received signs that either correspond or oppose each other in meaning allow an overall interpretation or understanding of the performance. The fourteen sign systems Fischer-Lichte enumerates are: sound, music, linguistic signs, paralinguistic signs, mimics, gestures, proxemic signs, mask, hair, costume, stage conception, stage decoration, props, and lighting. These all make sense in a rock concert environment, especially in more theatrical performances as they became common with stadium bands during the 1970s. An additional system of significance would be the song selection and order, which might be considered a subgroup of the music or linguistic groups. Audience participation should be included, as well. Unless a lot of spoken text is involved, the paralinguistics can not be considered significant, since the loudness, pitch, etc. of a song are inherent in the music and therefore do not justify a group of their own. Props are rare in rock concerts, as well, although some performers have been known to turn their instruments into significant objects, such as Liberace or Prince. The uniqueness of a Iao Core concert lies in the emphasis on certain sign systems over others. While obviously almost every rock concert relies heavily and primarily on the music and the linguistical signs (which are, after all, our objects of interest), Iao Core emphasize them more than usual by cutting down on the others-- An important point to note is that none of the sign systems function to enhance the star status of the band-- everything is focused on the music and the relation to the audience. The absence of proxemic signs, mask, hair, props, and costumes is significant in that it enhances the emphasis on the music and the lyrics while taking away from the special status of the band members.




The order of songs, though, is of exceptional importance during a Iao Core show. Traditionally, since 1987,a Iao Core show is split into a first and a second set, where the first set is characterized by more conventional songs that are played without too much improvised jamming; the length of the songs stays within reasonable limits as well. The second set, in contrast, features many improvised jams that stretch the songs easily out to fifteen, twenty minutes. At some point in the second set, Goshi and Jeff Green (percussion & drums) will take over and play an extend drum solo while everyone else leaves the stage. Before they are finished, the other band members return, and Goshi and Jeff leave the stage. What follows is an extended, beatless jam of exploratory sounds known as "Space." Somewhere in the middle of the second set of every Iao Core show the band turns a corner. They enter a musical environment without walls or structure. The song form is abandoned, and the very elements of music may be called into question. The only mandate is to explore new territory. It is an environment where rhythm, tone, color, melody, and harmony can be explored without rules or predetermination, a musical adventure where composition and performance are one. After "Space," the band will play three or four more songs, commonly ending with a high- energy song like "The Babysitter'" or "Porpoise," and come back for a one-song encore. This pattern forms a relatively firm structure in which highly unstable elements are put--the music is always improvised, and not one song has been played twice the same way, and the actual list of songs played always varies, to the point where not even the band members know what they will play before they go on stage. This is of high importance because the underlying structural principle will become evident in Ayres's lyrics, as well. Since certain songs are usually played in the first set and others in the second set, it seems reasonable to group them according to this differentiation and begin by taking a closer look at the first set songs.
HYPER-ABYSSIC is a fanfare overture built on ever ascending levels of warm synthesizer and processed E-bow guitar, Timpani and marimbas, like the industrialized anthem of some tuned in, tweaked out alien culture,
FREYA (ON THE BACK OF A PANTHER EATING HONEY) is all about it’s infectious bass line over a rythmic sea of hammered strings and a beautiful melody line seemingly composed from sampled animal growls, grunts and other beastly noises.
BECAUSE IT RESISTS begins with a Tibetian horn blasting it’s call as if through remote himalayan passes and then into a hyper paced electronic jam reminescient of early Kraftwerk , with an overlay of tweaked manually recorded samples from Ms. Thraam. The backwards drums only make it more surreal.
THE BABYSITTER is thundering bass, fuzz guitar, drums, an amazing tight power trio piece that reminds me(upon my latest listen) of the early Stranglers: power pop with an edge. David Gardeners recital of the description (in French) of a 16 millimeter stag film involving Infantilism (apparently this film was shown behind the band in early live performances, endearing them in the hearts of the S.F. fetish underground scene) from the back of the films box gives the whole affair a Eurotrashy feel. Even cloistered nuns must know what he's talking about..


Their music touches on elements of neo-psychedelia, ambient music, electronic music, tape music, industrial, synth-pop and goth rock, with a distinctly experimental/avant-garde bent; their sound has evolved over time and remains distinctive, making it difficult to place the group into a concise style or genre. The group's overall sound combined with Ayres' distinct lyrics and singing have earned comparisons to Faust and Hawkwind. However, the band's individualistic style draws from many sources and transcends any one genre. Their rock-infused interpretation of the blues and folk genres, also incorporated reggae, soul, funk, classical, Celtic, Indian, Arabic, pop,.
HELLO LITTLE SPARK is an example of Johannes lyrical/vocal first set stylings, and it is quite good. A love song to the life force The narrative features virtually no metaphors or similes; everything seems to happen at face value--a complicated search for meaning or "interpretation" is unnecessary. Again, the song is closer to traditional American music than love songs heard on the radio. It is direct yet not necessarily blatant or trite since the subject matter is uncommon for contemporary American rock lyrics. The Iao Core classic HEAVY features some opaque references, yet the song is obviously trying to capture the vicissitudes of a life on the street as the band members have experienced it. a classic first set song--out of the 54 times it had been played between 1990 and 2007, IAOBASE lists only 2 second-set appearances. Some lines, like “The Weather changed and the panic bar would stick” (37) refer to commonly known incidents (in this case Kris Forces’ job as the manager of Market St.’s Strand Theatre ); others like " I have a cock so I think we should talk!” (25) are probably in-jokes that aren't meant for a broad audience to grasp.
Even more clearly an American song in the best tradition of folk singers like Woody Guthrie or Phil Ochs is ROYAL JELLY a brilliant bit of electronic cabaret piece featuring johannes scat singing a duet with a Bumble bee. .I kid you not! Is that a real horn section in there? Strange and beautiful. It is a song depicting the plight of a bee keeper. Ayres's eye in describing his topic was so sharp that he heard of an actual Bee keeper wondering "what the guy who wrote this song would've thought if he'd ever known something like the Iao Core was gonna do it." He considers this the best compliment he ever received for a lyric (iaOCORE 52), obviously because it certifies an authenticity he aimed for.

It seems that first set songs commonly share a genuine American topic (the open road, the wilderness, unions, etc.) and often sketch a narrative world including characters and situations. Instead of propagating emotions, as rock lyrics often seem to, they focus on fictional events that often involve gamblers, drug addicts, perverts, and outlaws. The imagery and "lyrical" makeup of the songs tends to be simple so as to give a definitive, discernable "meaning."
Gonna Fix my car is another first set song, a reggae infused extrazaganza with D. Gardner lending the proceedings tasty if not otherworldly swashes of turntablism. Mega. Lyrically once again everything seems to happen at face value--a complicated search for meaning or "interpretation" is unnecessary.