Davenport Cabinet – Damned Renegades (2014)

WP_20141019_001Equal Vision Records ■ EVR295

Released September 30, 2014

Produced by Davenport Cabinet
Mixed by Mike Major
Side One: Side Two:
  1. 41°15’22.0″ N
  2. Everyone Surrounding
  3. Aneris
  4. Bulldozer
  5. In Orbit
  6. Sorry for Me
  1. 74°21’31.7″ W
  2. Students of Disaster
  3. Damned Rengegades
  4. Glass Balloon
  5. Missing Pieces
  6. Graves of the Great War



Thanks to the questionable choices of WordPress¹, I lost about two hours solid of writing on the initial draft of this, which left me irritated enough to just sit—writing irritated on something like this is a recipe for disaster.

Now, then.

It’s not for nothing that I restart a previously dormant project.  I’ve been mostly running things (in an entirely different style) at Meandering Milieu, covering more in the range of comics and movies than anything else. Music never really stops being an important part of my world, but this particular blog (as I noted in my review of the previous album by Davenport Cabinet) is not really suited to writing during full-fledged employment, as it takes a pretty hefty time investment to do it the justice I intend.

Why, then, is it being revived?

Well, a few weeks ago I was at a show and met Travis Stever of Davenport Cabinet. After some jokes passed around the circle², I mentioned that I’d written the “vinyl” review of Our Machine and Mr. Stever very amicably told me he’d liked it and asked me to let him know what I thought of the new album. In my head, there was a twinge: I’d recently fallen out of favour with the employment gods, and had not pre-ordered the album as I’d hoped, but figured I’d just drop a line when I got around to it. I thought it was kind to respond with memory, but figured the chances that my one rambling writing had struck enough of a chord to stick were pretty low and let it be (and enjoyed the show).

Turns out, I may’ve been mistaken, as I was prodded out of the blue with a very polite question about actually writing something on the new album—after a moment of stunned confusion and pancake-levels of flattery, I agreed and snagged a promotional copy. Turns out that, taking pity on my financial state, this particular album (in the ultra-fancy, all-the-bells-and-whistles bundle form) had been pre-ordered for me by my own mother (thanks, ma!), of which I was notified after I mentioned the shocking request. That, then, is how a not-vinyl promotional copy was reviewed on vinyl and photographed poorly above, should you be curious.

Now, I realize that with a context like this, it might seem as if I’ve either been buttered, or am aiming to do so myself. I can very, very strongly testify to the contrary: that two hours I lost was crushing. It takes a lot to put this particular approach together, and that informs, further, why it’s not at all fun to do for anything mediocre (or less!). Witha predecessor like Our Machine, though, it’s not a huge gamble–it was in my Top 5 for the year last year—vacillating between two and three because I’m indecisive. These things together meant I was confident that doing this would be worthwhile to myself, anyone reading, and the band in question, with no questions about ethics (barring those who just can’t resist)

It’s a set of coordinates on which we open the album: “41°15’22.0″ N”. Deep, warm tones are interrupted and subsumed by sharp, distinct, clean guitar and the long-drawn bows of E’lissa Jones’s violin and viola. It’s quiet and a bit sad, the guitars acting to counter the other strings, but only slightly–it’s something truly weighty through which they press.

Snake-like muscular guitar starts “Everyone Surrounding”, with Michael Robert Hickey’s drums and Tom Farkas’s bass thudding beneath it, while additional guitar draws a web of suspension around that weight. Thanks to a comment from that same Hickey on a video for this very song, I know that the voices are Tyler Klose’s, multi-tracked. If the guitars’ undulations are snake-like, his voice is just riding the waves, until that chorus: “Don’t break down, don’t give it up, you got it/They were wrong about everything you wanted”, where his voice reaches high and chops to a rapid tempo, highlighting the space and lengthy syllables of the line that follows, which emphasizes the song’s title. Indeed, it is that line which finally closes the song, lowering as if defeated to ring for only a moment.

“Aneris” contrasts with the muscle of “Everyone Surrounding” by focusing its introduction on a distinctly picked melodic line. Hickey and Farkas then push the track out of this lazy swing with a thumping beat. The voices in verse are more in line with the feel of the guitars, even when set against that same thumping beat. But when they are kicked into the chorus by a perfect alternation of tom and kick thumps with cymbal and hat work, it hits the kind of chorus that is a lot of what I love about Davenport’s songs: “Talented with bringing the end/Maiden of structure music of minute hand/Broken circles will spin around again”. It’s complemented perfectly by Hickey’s percussive choices and skips along, zigging and zagging up and down in a delightful way. The bridge that follows its second run abandons that for bright, ringing guitar and shorter repetition: “She won’t leave She won’t let you fall/She won’t speak She is above it all”, which takes the instruments back through their first two progressions neatly and catchily, to their end.

Despite the title, “Bulldozer” spends much of its time rather restrained. The opening lacks restraint, in the best possible way: it has a tone that immediately makes me think of Davenport Cabinet as a sound, and, when I first heard it, brought a smile to my face as it confirmed that this was the same band, not a leap entirely away from what had already come. It’s warm and round, akin to a Jeff Lynne sound, though a bit more muted, which is such a wonderful touch that it’s difficult to express how good it just feels. The instruments seem to lead the voices around by their noses, until the words take control: “And never speak my name again to anyone”—the relaxed feel of the song is gone with Hickey pounding away (with a nice touch to the beat that stops it from being simple on-beats) under absolutely electric electric leads. The brakes are put on shortly, though: “And nothing can take you away from me”, returning the song to that tone. When the bridge begins and says, “Will we find a common ground?” I can only respond “Yes,” as the song itself finds a balance between the subdued introduction and the ever-increasing wave that leads to and through the chorus. A brief isolation of muted guitar introduces Scott Styles’s guest solo, which flies off into the stratosphere and perfectly meshes with the return to the tight curls of the chorus’s crescendo which gets one more run through, leaving us with a twinned set of guitar lines.

“In Orbit” lets Hickery veritably paradiddle his way through it, scaling things back and down with that snare focus underpinning a remote slide guitar lead that dips in and out around clean picking that is relatively low in the mix, letting Farkas’s most melodic bass-line drive the song more comfortably. The drums and vocals give the feeling of a sort of impromptu performance of musicians at a porch, or something of that ilk—which is only enhanced by the chorus, which is an excellent example of the harmonized vocals the band favours. It’s a bit of an odd mix: the slide is like something from space, but the rest of the track is utterly earthen. Though the former is not present, the bridge still manages to bring the sounds most completely together, culminating in a sharply toned and soulful lead line that marries the two elements for good.

As if still floating in orbit, slightly reverbed guitar sprinkles out notes in the darkness in “Sorry for Me”, until a lead-in fill from Michael’s drums lights the fuse and the song charges out of the gate. Smooth and slickened slide runs up and down the track’s steady momentum, and then spreads open to a ringing chime—that guitar that was out in space just a few moments earlier. The chorus is falsetto call of the song’s title for normal range answer—“Whenever the captors let me go”—and it actually lets the tempo breathe just a bit. It’s a good thing, as when it comes around again, it’s leading to a winding solo and lead from the guitars that Farkas anchors the hell out of and Hickey creatively backs. A kind of knowing repetition follows the final line, which is indeed heard over and over: “And I’m sorry again”, almost like a broken record, skipping and slowly diminishing to tremolo’d guitar lines that waver out, left to hang as most repeated apologies are. As I played the vinyl version for the first time, I sat hoping, avoiding confirmation, that this would end Side one—not because I wanted it to be over, but because it was the exact right way to end a side. And so I was right—whether by coincidence or agreed plans, I know not.

More coordinates open the second side of the album—“ 74°21’31.7″ W”—and Michael Robert Hickey is left to really shine in his second job: that of string arranger. This time, there is no accompaniment from any rock instruments at all, just a woosh of space and quavering orchestral strings from Jones again, though this intro is yet more brief than the last.

If there was any concern about a relative hesitation to flat out rock on this album, “Students of Disaster” throws it out the window after giving it a good swift kick. Drums crash in and guitars thunder after them, harmonized through melodic leads held to a jolting stop by Farkas’s bass. This time, they don’t really relent for vocals, with even noodling guitar fills sneaking in here or there. While I associate Travis’s voice most strongly with the first time I recall hearing it in isolation—a cover of the Band’s version of “I Shall Be Released”, lending itself more toward folk-rock applications, then—this is where it shines out in its perfect place (recalling somewhat Fire Deuce!). Soaring up to carry the chorus through tinges of the nostalgia that has lingered in all recordings (including the first album, which references it explicitly), it’s almost forgotten when the solo kicks in, book-ended perfectly by runs of that almost operatic chorus. Those big ol’ down-strokes on the chunky riffing just frame the whole thing in great big drapes of rock, which is exactly what it goes out on.

Perhaps to balance out the in-your-face-ness of “Students of Disaster”,  the title track that follows is shimmering guitars and even bells, answered by an early Thin Lizzy-esque (we’re talking Vagabonds of the Western World at the latest, and moreso the eponymous debut or Shades of a Blue Orphanage) lead. With phrases like “bag of bones”, “bourbon on my breath” and a title like “Damned Renegades”, there’s a feeling of morose, cowboy campfire tones—enhanced by the Mariachi-like touch of Gabriel Jasmin’s trumpet. The most emphatically instrumental passage of the album is sandwiched in here, with a knotted guitar solo, increasingly plaintive calls from that horn, and stampeding drums—the only voices that follow are non-verbal.

When “Glass Balloon” first started, I thought all the impressions “Renegades” gave me might have been right: a collision of Thin Lizzy’s early sound with a later choice—the sudden up-turn of their “Cowboy Song” to barnstormer. But no, “Glass Balloon” is expertly placed, but independent. Perhaps my favourite of the straight riffs with a nice little hammer-on/off kick to it runs the tune, even when there’s a lead laid over it. Interesting vocal choices mark the brief moments before that riff returns: “But screaming…to fill the void/Speaking to carelessly until I was so ready to go”—that pregnant pause before “to fill the void” is one of those choices that looks weird in words, but sounds strangely right when sung. Hickey’s rampaging snare brings in a new movement: deep, sawing riffs and a trill of distant lead thud and thump up to a four-on-the-floor pounding, which only harmonized guitars can rescue us from the punishment of. A lightly phased refrain of “So ready to go” repeats over that awesome riff, with bending, screeching solo—and suddenly halts.

With that built-in sound of “penultimate track” we come to “Missing Pieces”. Acoustic chords and pointy—I think that’s a 12-string?—electric licks are the fanciest of decorations on the track. It’s more song than showcase, in the least denigrating sense possible.  Somber like the title track, but somewhat more hopeful, “Pieces” is a vent for what came just before, not lost for energy, but redirecting it to vocal performance and emoting the core. A quiet passage of bass and guitar marriage helps to enhance the relaxing feel of the song, which shifts the vocals to a distant place in the mix, slowly fading them out with the rest of the track.

“Graves of the Great War” is unquestionably a closer. Timpani rolls in with piano (courtesy of Hickey) and guitar on a slow, steady beat, a kind of dirge, almost. The insistence and power of Klose and Stever is abandoned in vocal, “Aaaahs” chant-like in the background. “We floated your way/There’s not a soul to save/Our journey/Your place” they call out, momentarily re-ignited as if to make the depths of this more clear. And then holy dear lord that guitar. It brings to mind Eddie Hazel, just a bit, to touch on some truly hallowed ground, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome or take it too far. It just spirals out there, emotional fireworks, and then lets the song roll out on its own, strings sweeping in over the beat to find another solo that is just as perfectly controlled and restrained (excellent work, gentlemen!).

The most important takeaway I had from this album was its progression from the previous: Nostalgia in Stereo was Travis working out on his own, Our Machine saw the addition of Tyler to give the nascent band an even clearer identity, and now, with the addition of a selected rhythm section (instead of take-what-comes, get-what-you-can as before) really makes itself known. This is the sound of a qualified band this time around. In a year that’s seen the return of Aphex Twin after a decade away, and Braid after even longer, the still-lit spark of a band growing and finding itself, while still retaining enough of its own seeds to be recognizable as progression rather than overhaul shows its worth. Balanced and weighted properly, with care in production, construction, movement, and placement—that’s something not always seen in general, and even less so in this day and age.

I’ve sat here after solid, straight-through listening and then careful dissection (twice, in an even mix of misfortune and fortune—the latter coming from listening again) to find only more to appreciate. This is going to end up somewhere near the top this year, which is no small feat at this point. I would not be surprised if it finally settles into place before all the rest. The way that every instrument, from drum to bass to guitar to vocal serves its purpose and never becomes rote or mechanical, beyond the respects in which a section demands it acquiesce for the “greater good”—an invigorating and heartening thing to hear.

Give the thing a spin, then another, then buy it (I know how you modern audiences work!) and play it some more. I suspect it’s only going to get better—whether “it” is this album, or this band.

¹Apparently, knowing that one “New Post” link fails to trigger auto-saving for a year and a half doesn’t encourage anyone to do anything. Even just remove the bloody link. That will teach me to be used to Blogger’s fully-functional auto-saving…

²”Circle” meaning “Coheed and Cambria”, which is who I was there to see, on a fancy-pants ticket I pre-ordered before becoming unexpectedly unemployed. It turns out I coincidentally share initials with his son! Craziness.



Day Forty-Nine – Needle-Scratch: Dan Friel – Total Folkore

Thrill Jockey Records ■ THRILL 324

Released February 19, 2013
Recorded by Dan Friel

Side One: Side Two:
  1. Ulysses
  2. Windmills
  3. Valedictorian
  4. Intermission #1
  5. Velocipede
  1. Scavengers
  2. Intermission #2
  3. Thumper
  4. Landslide
  5. Intermission #3
  6. Swarm
  7. Badlands

My last blog was actually named for a song by the band Parts & Labor, about whom I eventually wrote there,  and this was partly in the interest of a title that implied the aim I had, and partly as a result of my overriding love of the band, particularly the album Mapmaker. After they released the follow-up to that one, though (Receivers) I actually caught them live with my friend (and former manager) Gerald who had introduced me to them with that lasting and evocative phrase, “Music to melt your brain”. At that show, I expanded my awareness of their work by picking up BJ Warshaw’s Shooting Spires album (by his side/solo project, Shooting Spires, of course) as well as Dan Friel’s then-exclusive release (barring an extremely limited EP I am FAR too late for), Sunburn. Sunburn was a quick little release, 7 tracks and less than 20 minutes, and released on what could’ve been a 3″ CD but was instead a neat little partially clear one. It was the noisiest, strangest, most experimental side of Parts & Labor distilled, devoid of vocals, yet still imbued with hooks.

I intended to pick up the followup, Ghost Town, but things got a little maddening around that time, and it slipped by me. I did actually pick it up eventually, and it continued the aesthetic of Sunburn pretty openly, but with the increased fidelity that had begun to show up on Parts & Labor records around the same time. The tones and sounds Friel chose were indicative of the kind he was working into those records, though the solo nature of the project lends a different fele to them.

The magic of social media was the method by which I was informed that more solo material was forthcoming–a 12″ here (“Valedictorian/Exoskeleton”), a digital single there (“Thumper”)–and so when the record itself was announced, I was finally pushed over the edge by the fact that I’d started this blog, and it would mean an opportunity to talk about Friel’s solo work here. Perhaps that’s an odd reason–something like the reverse of a label sending me a promotional copy, but it was the final reason (coloured vinyl was icing on the cake, of course). I actually ordered it directly from Thrill Jockey, who were kind enough to notify me before shipping it that they were now bundling the LP with his previous 12″ (the “Valedictorian/Exoskeleton” one), and, since I had ordered both already at the same time, I was going to be getting the bundle price. I don’t know if a bunch of people did this, if it was a systematic decision, or if some kind soul just saw what I’d ordered and decided to cut me a break. Kudos to the label in any case, and you can grab the same bundle from the same link above (which I’ll go ahead and admit I recommend now).

I’ve had the record for about a week, and have been resisting listening to it because I do write here, and it seems like I shouldn’t break things in before their time here. However, I’m currently backlogged by two days in my normally more alphabetical progression, and was already planning on multiple entries for my day off anyway, so after waking up this morning, I decided I’d just go all-in with the idea, break the pattern and do so for the fact that I, for once, have a new release in advance (I’m still waiting on my copies of Eels’ Wonderful, Glorious and the deluxe vinyl for Coheed and Cambria‘s The Afterman, as well as a stack of stuff from Bill Baird, including his new album). I haven’t got much reach, but a “zero day” review for an artist I appreciate seems like the right thing to do–so I’m doing it. I’ll return to our regularly scheduled alphabet following this–hence the sub-title “needle-scratch”: this is an abrupt and sudden inclusion, and one that may mark a new, intermittent trend.

When you begin Total Folkore, “Ulysses” may throw you off a bit, depending on what you are expecting. A tone that grates in the sense that alarms do drops and holds for a moment, before a murky, distorted electronic beat begins at a very deliberate pace. Friel largely works in analogue sound manipulation, usually a keyboard with a stack of pedals all over it to modify the sounds being produced (live, at least–but I can’t imagine the studio is hugely different). This rumbling stomp is enhanced by revving squeals that all come together into one higher pitch, which gives way to the melody of the song, a catchy and appealing one that obscures the impression of purely abrasive atonal noise that the unfamiliar might be left with at first glance. It doesn’t speed the tempo of the song up much, though it is a bit faster than the underlying beat. It periodically frays into that same, unified note of noise that introduced it in the first place. Even in the space of a song almost thirteen minutes long (to call this a record for his solo work is an understatement: he hit half of that on a single song, and even that one was a good minute longer than the next longest) it’s hard to describe the feeling of Dan’s style. The melody does mutate and change over the course of the track, finding points of increased atonality and other moments of sweeter clarity. About a third of the way through, the melody circles upward like it was shot there, and some atonal pitches give way to a sort of pause: the beat dissolves into a series of foot-step like stomps, accented by fanning buzzes that rise up and disappear, shift in pitch and length. A pillar of sound that seems to shoot off distortion and pitches like crackling bolts and the seemingly acoustic rhythm of metal on glass appear and manage to return the song to its origins, enhanced by the “soloing” of that central tone’s modulations, throwing off sparks and flames as it runs forward, even doing so without the beat for a moment. It’s reminiscent of the layering of digital electronic music, strains added and removed as the song progressed, but with all the messy semi-unpredictable elements that come with analogue equipment.

“Windmills” sounds like a crowded, urban environment played at about ten times its regular speed, overlaid with the crinkled, limited bloomp of 8-bit-esque drum machine kicks and a skittering curl of melodious repetition, though the “environment” sound somehow fuses into a single buzz that permeates all of it. It’s like a broken dance track, almost, the beat still strong but the melody’s downward stroke giving it a sudden halt at each repetition.

Being the track “truly” released as a single, “Valedictorian” has all the hallmarks of latter-era Parts & Labor Friel sounds: the rhythm is built on a noise that more resembles a guitar, chugging along on a single chord for eight rapid beats at a time, though a drum-style beat is added later to fill the bottom end. The melody is the scratchy distortion of a rounded kazoo sound, though it first appears in swirling, ethereal form, undistorted, at the very opening of the song, and continues to hide in the background. The focus is pretty clearly on the “kazoo” form, though, as the “rhythm guitar” and the shortly appearing drums work at a regular pace to draw the lines underneath it. It’s interesting the way Friel uses them: they’re like a combination of lead guitar and vocal lines in the way that the song is built around them, as they seem to both draw out the melody of the song and “sing” out a rhythm that is codified to the beat established by the song. It’s worthy of its single release, being one of the less abrasive and catchiest of the songs on the album, the melody a great hook in spite of its strange manifestation. Keep an ear out for the introduction of a sort of piano-esque layer to the “rhythm guitar”.

There are three “Intermission” tracks on the album, and the first sounds largely like tuning rapidly through radio stations to create a rhythm, though it crackles just a bit too much to actually be such a thing.

A big soft-bottomed synth-style sound controls the beat of “Velocipede”, which ends up weaving something more like a set of varying melodies into its whole sound than a melody and a rhythm. A falling melody that harmonizes into a slowly rising one is around the same place in the mix as the pitched-beat synth, and has hiding in it (if one listens carefully) the viola of Karen Waltuch, which adds little bits of connective tissue to that central sound. The song seems to expand as it goes, ending in the two primary parts alternating in isolation from each other.

The introduction to “Scavengers” implies a scattered and expansive kind of track, but as all the sound collapse into each other and then out of existence, the determined poundings of sixteenth (at least) notes in rubbery bass-style keys begin to nimbly dance away in the background, as the sweeping squeal of electronic noise that is the signature of careful turning of knobs to modulate sound wails over top, the brilliant introduction of a drum machine beat gives the song serious legs–about eight of them, even if it’s only adding five beats (1,2,3,4&). It’s like a melding of pretty noises and the harder end of acid house–something to that effect. An absolute standout on the album, for its sheer energy.

The second “Intermission” sounds like a busy street corner or a train station, with the mostly clear, tube-like snakes of noise seeming to echo out alone and unnoticed–I like to think it’s the sound of someone like Friel acting as a strange, electronic busker, the crowds treating this as no different from an acoustic one. Largely that unfortunately means ignoring, but there’s something pleasing to me about the idea that someone is out on a sidewalk or up against a tube station wall playing strange, slightly dissonant (slightly in this case, anyway) electronically blooped melodies and no one is angry or swearing at the “weird noises”, but taking it as just another example of solo musicianship.

“Thumper” was released to music websites as the “single” for the album, and it’s no wonder. While “Valedictorian” made sense as an isolated physical release last year, “Thumper” carries a more distinct distillation of this album’s sound and the variegated sound of Friel as a solo artist. Another rapid beat, this one a mess of fuzz and chattering, though a booming stomp lands at a steady pace with it. The melody is piercing, gaining speed as it develops, hinting an upward turn repeatedly before it turns back down. Then the melody curls back in on itself and a new yammering beat slides in on top of the rest, shifting pitch steadily, and eventually being joined by a rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place in the more frenetic works of Squarepusher. Echoing out over nothing but the booming thump (ahem) of the low end of the beat, the melody soars out like a lone and proud beacon, but it’s rejoined by the wild yammer that carries the song off to–a sudden swipe, as if the song were wiped away.

The beat behind “Landslide” calls to mind a marching band, or at least the chest-mounted bass drum style of playing that goes along with one, though with a bit more soul than the most well-established pieces for such groups. A harmonized melody with little swirls of noise alongside it cruises in before holding, a new one developing underneath that seems to move along precociously in its simple changes in pitch. A chugging fills in behind it and fills the gaps that were left, but the piece suddenly drops all but the melody and a harsh buzzing beat in the midrange. The melody seems to almost lose pace briefly, but it’s actually an echo from another sound reproduction that’s just mirroring the melody slightly out of step. The buzzing beat, which is like a charging, riff-based guitar lead, takes over, but it’s chopped and re-arranged electronically, halting and turned up and down, the song becoming increasingly chaotic and tangled, with the melody its only rescue, played in isolation but for its companion swirls and squeals. And so it pounds off into the sunset.

The last “Intermission” has the sound of a train crossing, though interspersed with it are the tweets and bleeps of keys, a gentle and sustained, slow hum of a melody hiding deep in the background as the three beats of a sound I’m convinced is not (but is modeled after) the warnings of an approaching train insistently plays out.

“Swarm” has an introduction composed of the kind of stretched swells of electronic noise to no backing in its introduction that mark some of my favourite Parts & Labor songs, but the rhythms that follow are like an orchestra of power tools and industrial machinery, sampled and clanking to a defined beat. The melody is filled with nervous energy, trying to escape the boundaries set on it by the knobs that control its sound, attempting to work its way past each turn of them Friel gives, and seemingly succeeding partway through, a deep vibrating hum taking control of the song from below and centering its flares and tattered edges. The deep hum takes over like a rhythm guitar asserting its riff as the anchor of the song, but it all disappears in an industrial buzz.

The album closes with “Badlands”, matching a booming kick with snare follow to a melody that at first seems to just buzz and crackle, but soon resolves into a rollercoaster of melodic motion, riding up and down varying crests of electronic “bloops” that don’t seem to repeat themselves with much regularity, or even function as octave-changed repeats. There’s a kind of chorus where it disappears in favour of aggressive buzzing, making the track something like an industrial metal bit, but being betrayed by the appeal of a bright and cheerful melody.

The first thing that struck me about Friel’s solo work came from “Dead Batteries” on Sunburn, which I vaguely suspect is named because it either came from them, or because it does just sound like the limited output of a device’s dying batteries attempting to force regular work through. While the melodic style echoed the sounds he added to Parts & Labor, it was immediately apparent that nothing like the restrictions of vocal pop work were going to be applied to this music.

Total Folkore is not an exception to any of this: it’s abrasive, atonal, dissonant sounds sculpted into pretty, catchy little ditties, in complete defiance of the roars, squeaks, and theoretically grating aural palette they are built from. If you aren’t prepared for this, you might either find yourself plugging your ears too soon, or fainting dead away at the way that these two things are melded, completely without a sense of pretension or contrived experimentation. Like his prior two releases, Friel sounds like he’s making music from noises he appreciates himself, turning it into songs he likes the sound of, unconcerned with being specifically unique, or with being palatable to the point of homogenization or softening. The harsh elements, the aggressive, the speedy, the forceful–none of them really even seem like a direct and active contrast with the melodies or the catchy portions of songs, so much as part of an overall sound that just happens to be built from the two of them.  The new emphasis on rhythm, in contrast with the occasional absence and lighter focus on the last two is welcome and helps to bring a more complete and less skeletal feel to the work as a whole.

This isn’t an album that’s going to be ground-breaking in the sense of the kind you stick on a shelf and proudly look at, knowing you own a piece of history–if it breaks ground, if it holds a place it could easily deserve, it’s going to do so as it plays out of speakers, under needles, streams of binary data, under the light of lasers. It’s not going to be an album that you “have to” listen to, it will be one you want to listen to–maybe you will “have to” as well, but that will be secondary to desire, or will soon give way to it. It’s not the sort of thing you can readily expect if you haven’t heard this kind of music before, at the least in the form of bands that work it in with “normal” instrumentation, but if you keep your ears open and allow for the grating sounds to unexpectedly coalesce and become something enjoyable, you’ll find that’s exactly what they do.