Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds
ven as an integral member of the long-lamented schizoid-synth-punk pioneers Brainiac, John Schmersal has always been a manic shape-shifter. As the leader of Enon he’s been responsible for the junk-box beats and mournful ambience of Believo!, the prismatic slacker pop of High Society, and when we last saw him he was knee-deep in the dystopian dance-punk of Hocus Pocus. He’s been a softie, a nerdy recluse, a modest technocrat, a poor man’s Beck, but never the typical rock star, never having to live up to the stylistic and theatrical expectations of his former band. All of which makes Grass Geysers…Carbon Clouds sound like he has come full circle, arriving just in time to avenge a legacy with or without the ramshackle quirks that have defined his current outfit.
Enon’s fourth album is liberating. For Schmersal that means a raw and unhinged guitar record. The dissonance and blown-out fuzz blasts that dominate “Peace of Mind” and “Mr. Ratatatatat” recall his time clocked on Bonsai Superstar more than any of Enon’s previous efforts. This chatter about Brainiac is unfair though, because Enon is not a lesser group. They’ve evolved into a tightly wound and grotesquely attuned power trio; and nowhere is that more evident than on the hyper-bpms of Grass Geysers.
Toko Yasuda has fulfilled her role as neon chanteuse or grounded femme foil to Schmersal’s marble-mouthed idealist, but on tracks such as “Collette” and the doomsday march of “Pigeneration” she becomes a formidable sparring partner—playing along in the cathartic celebration. Not as kooky as Satomi of Deerhoof or wistfully dire as Kazu from Blonde Redhead, Yasuda’s tone is one of urgent calm and within Enon’s blitzkrieg of tangled chords and drummer Matt Schultz’s organic dance beats she’s warning the future with breathy indifference. The bass-driven sashay of “Sabina” particularly highlights the maturation of her vocals, as they constantly flirt/fight with Schmersal’s reverb-gilded alarm call, or “For Those That Don’t Blink,” a quick hardcore duet that still manages to fit in a handful of squelching moogs—she has equal opportunity in shaping the vision of the band.
The album’s only misstep comes in sacrificing melody for noisy shards of immediacy, a balance Enon’s always managed to achieve in the past. The final third does finally chill out, “Paperweights,” “Labyrinth,” and “Ashish,” finish as a suite of hypnotic dream pop, perhaps a harbinger of the trio’s next progression. But in many ways their latest (coming four years after Hocus Pocus) pits them as an underdog and the shift towards riff-heavy, primal screaming is granted. It’s easy to wonder if Dan Deacon or even Lightning Bolt would exist today without an unassuming band from Dayton who spoke Devo and Pere Ubu through broken Atari’s and fantastic aggression. Schmersal has the ordained right to shake things up a bit.