Weird synth meets vicious guitar in the new Subkonscious release
The criteria for designating “city size” is a little ambiguous and so by some metrics Chattanooga is a small city, by others it is a mid-size city. For our purposes, I tend to think of it as at the smaller end of the mid-size designation and in a city that size.
Particularly when you’ve been there for a couple of decades and made it a point to follow (and occasionally participate in) the music scene, it’s always a little surprising when you miss a band that’s been around for a bit. Still, sometimes things just line up that way and the upside is that whether other people have been grooving to it for a while or not, it’s “new to you” and it is always a pleasure to hear a good band for the first time.
I had heard the name Subkonscious, seen it in flyers, and it appears that a great many of my friends and contemporaries have been fans for some time now. Still, I hadn’t actually heard them until lead singer/guitarist Carl Foshay sent me a copy of the latest single, “Mask,” released a few weeks ago. I have plenty to say about that, but first, a little background.
Subkonscious is the brainchild of Foshay, founded by him in 2011 to bring something to the local music scene that he wasn’t seeing elsewhere. Since that time he has been the primary songwriter and driving force while various players have come and gone. Indeed, the group seems to go through more drummers than Spinal Tap, having had five different ones in as many years, but these days the nucleus of the band holds steady with Carl as guitarist/lead vocalist, Chris Hullander on bass, and Garrett Wright on drums.
The band has a healthy presence on bandcamp where, in addition to the latest single, their entire album Contagious is available, as well a couple of other singles including a collaboration/cover with Ryan Oyer. A perusal of the full-length album reveals a marriage of weird synth and vicious guitar that echoes the feel of much of Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails. The parallels don’t end there. Foshay, like Reznor, is a multi-instrumentalist, a skill brought to bear on this new single where he does, in fact, play the entirety of the fairly complex tune solo.
So let’s talk about this latest entry in the collection of alt/industrial music that makes up the Subkonscious catalog. It is not entirely uncommon for an artist from one genre to release a version of a song that was a hit in another genre. A rock hit becomes a country hit, a pop tune becomes a lounge song (thank you, Richard Cheese) and so on.
The success of these songs can either be a hit (Toots and the Maytals version of “Country Roads”) or a miss, whose value, if any, is novelty (Pat Boone’s foray into heavy metal.) There exists, however, a kind of song, or rather a kind of songwriting, that is so rare as to seem almost mythical. Frankly, I can only think of a handful of songs that fit this category.
Simply put, “Mask” is a song that, exactly as written, could be a hit in almost any genre. It has a universal quality that is, again, incredibly rare. This, the canonical, original version, certainly keeps its feet planted in its industrial roots, but with only the slightest tweaking (and that being mainly a matter of instrumentation) this same song could easily be a top charting country tune, a funk jam, a soulful acoustic release…half a dozen giants in half a dozen genres could record this song and it would sound as though it had been custom written for each of them. As much as that says about the song, it says worlds more about the songwriter.
I don’t want this to be confused for hyperbole. With this new song, Carl Foshay (a talented man) displays a flash of talent that is so “next-level” that print cannot do it justice with any degree of credibility. You have to hear it to understand, which you can do now at the Subkonscious bandcamp page.
Better still, hear it live this Saturday at the Tattanooga Tattoo Expo at Camp Jordan where Subknscious will be performing alongside other local heavy hitters like Pains Chapel and Mighty Sideshow.
Foshay started this project out of a desire to do something crisp and original and he’s done that in spades. If you haven’t heard the music yet, the time to stand up and take notice is now.