The Compressions
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The Compressions

Columbus, Ohio, United States

Columbus, Ohio, United States
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The inert, lifeless bodies of 39 men and women lay methodically scattered around a rented mansion in the hills of San Diego, California. They all bear the same attire: black shirt, black sweat pants, and a pair of black Nike Windrunners. Fiction, not fact, can only deduce why each departed member rests with a five-dollar bill and three quarters concealed within their pockets. They all wear armbands reading "Heaven's Gate Away Team."

This, essentially, is the response I received when I asked Mark Himmel, musical architect behind Columbus's new American-roots rock and roll band The Compressions, what some of his other choices were for band names. He had toiled with "Heaven's Gate Away Team," but was more enamored with "The Compressions."

Clearly, based on the merit of this response alone, Mark is a dark dude. But not in any kind of David Koresh way - more like the kind of dark only great musicians can conjure up. The ones that tiptoe the edge and transcend despair to write something with clarity and meaning. Mark's music and cleverly written and disguised lyrics trudge a trail of finding meaning in the death of a loved one by fundamentally changing his perspective on life to something slightly more positive and full of youthful benevolence.
"[The album] is not about the end of the world. It's about how real the end of the world is," he stated.

As we sit in a local studio, Relay Recording, talking, drinking beer, and taking interval slugs of Jameson whiskey with his band, Mark's appearance is that of an urban Waldo, garbed in a red-checkered flannel, suspenders, faded-worn jeans, bold black framed glasses, and a knitted winter hat.

Columbus scene-ster aficionados and patrons of admirable local music alike know the name Mark Himmel - and the incredible pedigree of melodic composition that he has left in the wake of every instrument his able hands encounter. Bands like the raucous Slide Machine and national avant-garde indie-god Sinkane are all on his resume - a resume that is about to be updated when The Compressions drop their 13-track debut LP, entitled Stomping Ground, sometime in the spring or fall of this year.

The ensemble that accompanies his live shows happens to know a little bit about how to quench local ultra-critical music thirst, too. His band mates are as entrenched in C-bus music lore as Himmel himself. Drummer Lauren Mattei once belonged to the all-female indie-rockers the Rosehips, and longtime Columbus Alive! music writer Chris DeVille relinquishes his Moleskine notebook for a Gibson SG and some rock and roll. But it is keyboardist and singer Claire Pollard who adds a soft complexity of depth to the songs with her warm harmonies, an intriguing counterpart to Himmel. Her keys fill out each arrangement, complementing each band member's part like a subtle kiss.

The Compressions are able to summon a wide variety of influences to pull off a sound that is entirely their own. At the height of their powers they are Ryan Adams ala Heartbreaker, amalgamated with Brian Jonestown Massacre, sans heroin.

Himmel has cultivated his creative process down to a nearly authoritative science.

"By writing all the musical parts myself, I am able to take the creative tension out of the equation and allow the band to really focus and perfect their individual parts," he said.

An astute musician once told me that practice does not make perfect - but rather, only perfect practice makes perfect. This axiom is not lost on The Compressions. The tone and feel they achieve did not materialize by chance. Himmel and his Compressions have taken time to construct music that harnesses some incredibly heavy material - be it death, life, uncertainty, or the grave mystery that surrounds the Hale-Bopp comet.
Key Tracks

"The Maker"
The Compressions' standout single off Stomping Ground, Himmel sings in a mild rasp about loss and redemption with a drifter's bluesy-rock backdrop, with lyrics like, "Kiss your youth goodbye, give your life a try, believe in the child, as crooked as a smile."

"Gravity"
Herky-jerky and laced with angst, the song "Gravity" rips with a growl and a snarl from Himmel. However, it is the other form of gravity, the kind referring to severity, which seems to give this song its title. The song ends with an ominous decree, "I'll never have enough for everyone!" - 614 Magazine


Discography

Debut LP "Stomping Ground" coming 2010. Lead single "The Maker" premiered on CD101's "Independent Playground" February 11, 2010.

Photos

Bio

Write up from good friend, Ahmed, SINKANE, online blog:

Mark Himmel is somewhat of an amazing character. Outstanding drummer, great song writer, hauntingly powerful vision and, probably, the most powerful used car salesman smile in rock n roll music. Don’t believe me? Just talk to him for 10 minutes.

His new project is called The Compressions and it is good. It’s very very good. Mark has always had a great understanding of melody, [and] The Compressions is a very simple project that incorporates standard instruments to create classic rock and roll. It is, probably, one of the most refreshing musics that I have heard in a while. It seems like a lot of people (including myself) are trying to incorporate so many different elements into their music so as to create something new. Mark isn’t doing that at all. He conjures up the spirit of Neil Young with this band in such an amazing way. His voice is haunted by his words but seems optimistic. Listen for yourself:

(sinkane.wordpress.com)

The Compressions is a project that Mark Himmel started in the spring of 2009.

Recordings: All music is written, performed, and recorded by Mark Himmel

The material is primarily about the contrast between society and social tendencies.