In my lurid traversal of this world, I’ve found that there are really only two kinds of people: those that listen to emo, and those that post rants on Youtube saying that what the first group of people is listening to isn’t really emo. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to fall into the latter category, where previously I was totally unique (at least that’s what my Mommy tells me).
This disc right here, Hidden Arithmetic, is a compilation of two live sets Indian Summer recorded in 1993 or 1994. The first, at Pitzer College, is a straight-up live recording, which was, up until this release, not officially available. The second recording on the CD is a live-on-air performance for some college radio station, and was previously issued as the rare Live Blue Universe CD.
Reviewing the actual music is probably the most difficult part of this. Indian Summer’s music wasn’t about technicality, or hooks, or how tight their pants were; it really was about true emotion. The songs do tend to follow a pattern of “quiet part, build up, fucking insanity, quiet part,” but to boil it down into something so simple is doing the band injustice. The twinkly melodic parts are pleasant enough, but the real focus of the music is the chaotic bits. Just when you’re completely relaxed by the sparse and, well, slightly whiny melodies, Indian Summer lets loose with pure hardcore intensity. And yes, there are screamed vocals, but they don’t come across as contrived in any way -- it feels like the vocalist is merely expressing himself the only way he can.
One of the more esoteric aspects of Indian Summer’s sound is the fact that, in the background of every song, some old Bessie Smith blues record is playing. It makes for a very strange atmospheric effect, especially on the radio set. It does come across as a little pretentious, but I guess that was part of their schtick.
Anyway, there are a few moments on Hidden Arithmetic where I’m just blown away by the power of the music. On track 5, which is known by fans as “Woolworm” (yeah, all of the songs are untitled, I guess that’s pretentious too), the second build-up just gets me every time. When the vocalist screams, “I am the angry son!,” I get goosebumps.
Both of these live shows are pretty phenomenal in their own rights, but to have them together...wow. Plus, since this is the only recording still available from the band (just try to find the discography CD on eBay, I fucking dare you), it’s worth getting for historical value alone.
The only drawback I can think of is the shoddy packaging. Basically, it’s a cardboard box with some map of the stars stamped on it, and some pretentious quote, in Latin, no less, about music. The CD itself is in a cardboard sleeve that’s been doodled on, and each CD is numbered (I got 1902!). Unfortunately, there is no information about the band, and no lyrics -- not even a pretentious, Ebullition-esque diary entry. Still, the packaging is only a very small part of the product, and it’s the music itself that matters.
To me, Indian Summer is emo, and anyone who says otherwise can go…listen to this CD. You most likely won’t be disappointed.