R E V I E W
‘Synth from the Dawn of Time’ EP by ‘Thagomizer’
While having a dig through Bandcamp I unearthed a recent EP release by Wellington’s ‘Thagomizer’. I hadn’t heard of this artist, no, but their name immediately caught my attention, because I was familiar with the term ‘thagomizer’ – it refers to the four spikes on the tails of Stegosaurus and their kin. The reason the name is so well known as a point of trivia is because it is a feature that until the 1980s had no name, and as it was coined not by a palaeontologist, but by cartoonist Gary Larson in one of his ‘The Far Side’ cartoons. In it, a group of cavemen are taught by their caveman lecturer that the spikes on a stegosaur's tail – the thagomizer – were named "after the late Thag Simmons”. The title of the EP, ‘Synth from the Dawn of Time’, also caught my interest as, when I’m not exploring new music, listening to ‘80s synth pop is my ‘safe place’. [continued below]
The EP’s opening track is titled ‘Unequivocal Size’, and it sets the scene for the whole EP. The title obviously relates to the bulk of some larger dinosaur species, with the keys playing slowly over beats that are reminiscent of the plodding of an enormous quadruped. Perhaps what you might imagine as being the sound and speed of a Stegosaurus, moving at an estimated 6-7 km/h. Instrumentals, the only vocalisations on this – and other songs on the EP – are of the occasional imagined dinosaur sound. Mostly Thagomizer have avoided the classic dinosaur noises of pop culture; the Jurassic Park-style open-mouthed, forceful roaring. Indeed, it is now appreciated that many dinosaurs perhaps didn’t even make any vocalisations at all (though this wouldn’t have worked so well on the EP), while some may have honked like geese. Instead, Thagomizer have walked the safe middle ground; the sounds used include low frequency rumblings, reminiscent of those made by crocodiles, which is indeed what it is thought some dinosaurs may have sounded like, but not so removed from those of people’s expectations. The only blot in this respect is a classic roar used in the final moments of the EP. [continued below]
The second track follows a very similar plodding beat to the first track, but the title introduces a concept I wasn’t familiar with; that of the ‘Apex Herbivore’. Apex predators are well known, being carnivores that sit at the top of the food chain. An apex herbivore, I learned with some reading, is a plant-eater that is difficult to be preyed on, and thus sits at the top of food chains for a different reason. Nevertheless, despite being used colloquially, a search of Google Scholar reveals it’s a barely used term in the scientific literature.
The beat doesn’t speed up until the final track, ‘The Bone Wars’, though not by much. With this track I got to do some more learning. ‘The Bone Wars’ are known, according to Wikipedia, as “a period of intense and ruthlessly competitive fossil hunting and discovery” in the late 19th C United States. Central to these ‘wars’ was a rivalry between two palaeontologists, Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and Othniel Charles Marsh – the discoverer of Stegosaurus – of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, at Yale. Each apparently used “underhanded methods to try to outdo the other… resorting to bribery, theft, and the destruction of bones”. As such, the increased sense of urgency on this track may be interpreted both as an increasing rate in the movement of a dinosaur, or as the race between Cope and Marsh for the discovery of new dinosaur fossils. [continued below]
So, what is my over-arching impression of the music? Well, for me, the EP can be best described as ‘Mesozoic mood music’ – I feel it is likely to have a similar effect to the soothing and meditative sounds of whale songs, relaxing the mind and body… only it’s set in the late Jurassic. The artist, however, tags themselves as ‘dino synth’, and there is a whole rabbit hole you can jump down there. Click it, and it turns out there is already a whole genre of ‘dark synth music about the dinosaurs’.
18/11/2022 01:48:18 pm
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