In every musical genre, there is a band that stands out above and beyond the rest as the purest representation of their genre. They didn’t always start there, and the process is sometimes a long and arduous one, fraught with false starts and stumbling blocks along the way. Such is the case with Seattle based Steampunk Band “Abney Park”, the band was organized by Robert Brown in 1997, and finally released their self-named album in 1998. But back in those days they weren’t the pillars of the Steampunk musical family they are today, they were still producing their music as a headliner of the goth community.
Before we go must further, we should perhaps describe what Steampunk is, and that has proven to be a sticky widget indeed. Perhaps the best description of this genre I’ve heard to date is “a celebration of a time that never was”, a sort of neo-victorian/bedouin aesthetic wrapped around a romanticization of the artistry and trappings of a clockwork driven world. The spirit of adventure and the deep mysteries still open to us with the science of a steam-driven world are to be found everywhere. As a sub-culture, and as a musical form, it can be considered a “total art form”, where the style touches every aspect of our lives.
Abney Park has embraced this not just in their music, but in their personal style. “Captain Robert” as he is affectionately known to his fans is perhaps the absolute embodiment of everything this culture represents. From his iconic spiked hair to the clothes he has retrofitted by a seamstress he commissions, nothing about the band or its style is anything like typical. Even the performances are a bit of a vaudevillian circus show, with aerialists and firebreathers serving to fill in the intermission between sets. Add in the utterly custom equipment they bring to the stage, from the retro microphone gleaming with brass, to the scintillating keyboard with its deeply filligreed accoutrements and plasma sphere bringing it to life, and you’ve got yourself a performance you’ll never forget.
The music itself is driving, inspiring, and reaches right down to the bottom of your heart and soul to reawaken the dreamer within. There is a common theme to be heard throughout the music of this singular band, one that calls back to when we believed anything was possible and the future was ours to command. Songs like “Letters between a young boy and his adult self” challenge us to remember those days, and to consider what our younger self would have thought of all our so-called accomplishments. There is no way one can clearly define this music, trying to put a label to it will just have you scrambling for a better way to describe it as the next song keys up.
Best of all is the utter humility with which Captain Robert and the rest of the band approach their rising fame. It is obvious in everything they do, from taking pictures with and hanging out with the fans after the shows, to chatting amicably with them on Facebook, that they appreciate their fans having gotten them to where they are. If you’re looking for not just a new musical experience, but artists who will return your faith in humanity, and in the dreams we once all shared, it’s time for you to check out Abney Park.
Letters between a young boy and his adult self