Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rust belt stand up

I don't really write album reviews. I usually talk shit about football or banter on inside-baseball-like about R Kelly or late model foreign sedans. Album reviews are overwrought with contrived language that comes forth with such little lucidity that its intented originality obscures the ether it attempts to capture. See what I mean?

That's why it's hard for me to cast into words the complex and unexpected pastiche that is Relative Q's recent release Small Craft Exercise Caution. The task is rendered doubly difficult by the fact that I've known Paul Zyla for many years now, and my opinions of his music are hopelessly colored by a number of tasteless jokes about West Virginia and ugly jeans that sit on the tip of my tongue. But in an effort to give a fair and honest explanation as to why I think this album is glowing, to say the least, I'll do this Bol style- track by track, blow by blow (nullus?). All tracks are mp3s hosted by One Recordings out of Kentucky.

Track 1: Pittsburgh Winters Have Killed Better Men Than I

This track provides an appropriately ominous opening to the album- grainy monosynth tones and soaring, inhumane tones give way to blurry Rhodes-ish organ and distorted but organic drums. To say this is a shade of Mogwai would be a gross understatement.

Track 2: Sun Rises Over the Undeserved

Basically a more humane version of the first track- watery guitar in the foreground with the organ in support.

Track 3: Fairer Shores

Even though this track's title (like all others on the album) paints a pretty downbeat picture of dogshit cloudy winter and perhaps some good time West Virginia necromancing (there I go), this track brings the mood up subtly and unexpectedly, with double time drums bursting through with crisp clarity and a europop walking synth line. The parts come in slowly and build to a nice apex, just how I like. Best track so far.

Track 4: The Ghosts Came Quickly

This track reminds me of the Morning After series that came out in the 90s for when you were all cracked out after a late night of DnB. Not to mention that it takes on a certain UK-trance quality after a while.

Track 5: No Sympathy

Arpeggio is the key to electronic epics if you ask me. With the 808-ish hand claps coming out the cut on this one and the rolling glitches, I could see myself hunting a ninja or two in the middle of the night on a post-apocalyptic tip here. This track also lets you hear the craftsmanship in Paul's production- no fill is neglected, no parameter is left to sit un-twiddled as the track moves through it's phases.

Track 6: Farewells and Goodbyes

How are you gonna call the penultimate track "Farewells and Goodbyes?" I dunno. Anyways, this track mirrors Sun Rises Over the Undeserved closely in a number of ways.

Track 7: Man Your Battle Stations

Throw a sample or two into this one and it's a straight Ninja Tune track circa 2002. Jazzier drums than the rest and a rounder filter on the bass give this one a less angsty feel. Put some M.O.P. lyrics over this shit and then I'll fuckin man the battle station son!

This jawn has been in good rotation on the ol' musical box for a bit now. It makes me hearken back to the days when Mogwai, Bonobo and others were the soundtrack to my whole steez. We've previewed some of Paul's house tracks before, but he's far on his way to proving that he can make bangers for the opium den and the wile-out smut club.

You can read up some more on the release and grab the artwork at One Productions. More of Relative Q's work (and some goofy promo shots) can be found at Chill Productions.

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