Panda Bear / Hot Chip / Tender Trap / The Advisory Circle / Kukkiva Poliisi / Terracid
The Rubber Room column is a weekly look at recent and notable releases that don’t fall into the rubric of traditional reviews or reviewed material—namely 7”’s, 12”’s, 3” CDs, EPs, cassette-only, DVDs and MP3-only releases.
I’m Not/Comfy in Nautica
As a digit on the Animal Collective’s mighty paw, fair-haired Panda Bear could drool these two four-minute chorales onto his pillow during a good dream. And what’s more impenetrably cool than somnambulism? I mean, didn’t Kevin Shields spend a few years and sackloads of British currency trying to get sonics to sleepwalk? These tracks twiddle around somewhere brighter than the carpets n’ beer trance of Jane but less forthright and loopier than his own solo acoustic work. “I’m Not” is P. Banda all atremble, callin’ through the brush for his lost buddies. He finds them, and during “Comfy in Nautica,” they sail a Beach Boys hymn through syrup at their commencement from Cherub Tech; nobody wakes up, because nobody really feels like it anymore. Pretty, if inessential, but worth a look for hopeless completists (like me).
Over and Over b/w Just Like We (Breakdown) (DFA Remix)
I'm trying hard to maintain my dislike of Hot Chip (based entirely on one poor concert and arguably my own stubbornness), but "Over and Over" makes it difficult. The line "like a monkey with a miniature cymbal" alone is worth some loving, even if the standstill-proof music wasn't (and it is). "The joy of repetition is in me," too, guys, so I'm going to spin this one again, and take in those '80s arcade sound effects. Before that listen-over, though, comes the double-parenthetical b-side, with its steady bass and bit-too-much production. It wavers somewhere between the headphones and the club (maybe the backseat?). Competent, but not good enough to keep me from hitting the back button.
Language Lessons EP
The Tender Trap core has been through more incarnations than Shirley Maclaine, yet they remain far more appealing. Amelia Fletcher's understated vocals, often multi-tracked, flow on the perfect delivery for the trio's jangle pop. The EP's third track, "Friendster" mocks a recent manifestation of online relationship-building and its underlying foundation of acquisitiveness while inducing a slow side-to-side head loll. Like that number, "¿Como Te Llamas?" was previously released on a Spanish single. Unlike the rest of the disc's tracks, it's a bilingual number, probably not capable of giving you a language lesson, but enjoyable nonetheless. The other two tracks on the EP have less noteworthy content, but match their successors in quality, just letting good old guitar pop take care of itself.
The Advisory Circle
Mind How You Go
Ghost Box are the new masters of that sorely under appreciated format, the 3” CD, the small size and short storage time of which perfectly complements the label’s design aesthetic and the emotional shorthand of their tracks. These audio warnings issued by The Advisory Circle are as disquieting as the seventies British informational films that they draw inspiration from. Subtly wavering synthesiser tones playing one-finger melodies gauzily obscure the sounds of children playing on abandoned railway sidings. Analogue sequenced bass pokes holes through the hiss of VHS cassettes previously long forgotten in a dusty corner under the stairs. Even the phased barbiturate guitar and vocoded vocals of the ostensibly upbeat “Get in the Swim” could soundtrack the infamously creepy 1972 public information film Lonely Water which used the figure of death to scare children away from swimming in unsafe water.
[Audiobot Limited, 2005]
Tagged by Audibot as their gentlest release yet, Kukkiva Poliisi’s Ilola testifies to the label’s extreme output. Calm and acoustic, Ilola nonetheless frightens with its eerie silence, jangly guitars, and backwoods-at-night vibe. Led by Johanna Lonka—whose releases as Kuupuu are a safer bet for those looking for soothing fare—this all-female quintet strips their music of all excess, leaving only stark lines for the listener to follow. A thin trail of blood snaking to a closed closet, a chunk of old bone jutting from the soil—minimal reminders of grisly scenes.
The twelve-minute closer “Pahasuo” occupies over a quarter of the half-an-hour-and-change of Ilola, and in it, one can hear the hallmarks of Kukkiva Poliisi. Opening with lost, out-of-tune strumming and a creaky clock chime, the track builds into timid, terrified guitar squeaks and insistent, human-sacrifice hand drums. With human howls and the Pied Piper’s very own death-flute, “Pahasuo” reaches a climax that abruptly ends. No resolution, no denouement. The players simply vanish into the fog of their haunted atmosphere.
The remaining tracks are brief sketches, in which threatening rhythms and spiderweb guitars coax a singular sound—horror-movie violins, whirling synthesizer squiggles, ungodly chants—to a quiet death. Lasting long enough to evoke and exhaust a fragile, gloomy mood, these tracks are potent enough that their ending is both lamented and longed for.
[267 Lattajjaa, 2005]
One fact I often overlook: Australia is huge. Terracid’s Michael Donnelly appreciates his country’s size, and he tries to invoke it on Alltounia. Donnelly has breathed the outback’s open, heady air and exhaled it into this recording. His every instrumental gesture points to the space beyond the music—a wide, wobbly region dwarfing the noise from its center. But this is no ambient piece. Though apparently a solo project, Alltounia contains enough rattle, hiss, and hum to cast doubt on that claim.
Donnelly’s searching fiddle occupies the foreground of much of this recording. It acts as an anchor, an emotive human pivot in an unsteady world of lurking unknowns. Percussion figures heavily in the music as well, but rhythm does not. The assorted bells, hand drums, and cymbals ricocheting through Alltounia do not support the music. Instead, by disappearing into dark corners, rolling over wavy hills, and scuttling like creatures over cracked earth, they delineate the space of the record.
Not a word is uttered over the forty minutes. Donnelly opens his mouth, but his language is pulled from within, twisted into moans and howls evaporating into the wind. It’s as if the sound space invades him, coercing the individual into a reluctant submission to his environment. A powerful recording from a rising force in psychedelic music.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-12-08