It has been the lack of time, rather than the lack of great music, that has kept me away from this blog so much over the past weeks - but sometimes, even when there's no time, music appears that is so interesting and compelling, so original and creative, that you just have to make the time to write about it.
It's probably not an altogether good thing that we live in times when we are generally much more familiar with the notion of being disgruntled than being gruntled but, believe it or not, "gruntled" really is a word, and when you listen to the music of Melbourne-based quintet-plus-occasional-extras, The Gruntled, you wonder why so little is known of this very peculiar concept of being satisfied, content and pleased.
I first heard The Gruntled a few weeks ago on an amazing radio program of new music called The Ear of the Behearer, on Melbourne's perennially sensation community radio station, 3PBS FM, and it was one of those "wow, what is that?" moments, where you begin to at first feel a little intrigued, a little curious about the empty, droning, minimalist sounds you are hearing, drawn into them, even before they have taken you anywhere, just like the Earth must have felt when it was little more than inert rock and gas.
But then it builds, imperceptibly steady, beats and sounds from worlds past and worlds yet to come, bagpipes, a shawm, a hurdy gurdy, mingling with guitar and drums, rising from nothing into everything. That's when you sense the real magnitude of this music.
The Gruntled's music builds in massive swells of sound - improvised and yet remarkably formed and structured in a way that only happens when musicians are intimately connected with one another, taking their cues, it seems, as much from each other's souls as from each other's instruments. Its unique combination of new and traditional instruments; its weaving together of age-old drones and futuristic noise; its iron-clad grip, with one hand on the innermost soul of your innermost gut, the other on some remote, godforsaken nothingness; makes this music something that seems to span all the conventional notions of time and space.
The Gruntled's music is still very much on the fringes. The only way I could get my hand on more was by contacting the band directly and buying some of their absurdly cheap CDRs. Perhaps it's inevitable that music like this stays on the fringes because, after all, that's exactly the territory it explores so deeply, so thoroughly. But if being on the fringes means that it's not heard, then that can never be a good thing - because somehow, as you will see when you listen to the music of The Gruntled, the fringes is really where ultimately we all belong.
And ultimately that's a good thing; a satisfying, contenting, pleasing thing. A gruntled thing.