Local Tracks on the Web
By David Pence
You know this song — the one about the wounded young fellow so smitten with the beauty of the unattainable girl that he’s obliged to “crawl into a poorly lit corner and die.” You want to relax into the track’s tossed-off charm, but the wink in the music is a shade too pronounced to allow that kind of comfort. Elf Princess has a nice feel for melody and an early-Beatles soundscape (drums and driving acoustic guitars; fuzzy, low electric notes; vocals warm and wooly). Smartly, they stay with the straight-ahead structure and let the song gather a sense of nagging anxiety as it unfolds.
Well, it starts like a song. Then Adam Cogswell taps a tiny drum fill on a rim, and the band runs out of fuel — but no, here’s a theremin or something! A new tempo! A new style! And off they go into a frothy, whirling ecstasy like hired musical guns at a Greek or Russian wedding reception… So we realize (with relief) that it’s not a song at all – it’s a film score or an overture. Like A.D.D. princes, the boys of Confusatron don’t light long on any riff or tone. Instead, they swerve or dart around musical stanchions that most mortals can’t see. Like Zappa or early Camper Van Beethoven, these dudes can play ideas, and here they’ve made a track that’s witty, showy, and (at nearly six minutes) sort of amusing. [Editor's note: Due to technical issues, the shortened version of "Non Ha Occhi" reviewed here has been replaced by the full version from Operation Livy.]
Here is a brainy, poetic mini-masterpiece. At first you may hear overtones of Yes, particularly in Jason Ingalls’ snappy, nearly ostentatious drumming, and in Todd Hutchisen’s earnest falsetto vocal. But after the super-moody Baltic Sea has established a tone of elegiac majesty — about half way into this long number — they heat up, adding harsher, almost ferocious sounds to the lush, pastoral textures, and things get thrilling: you want to get cut, or walloped. Then, suddenly, the ferocity is gone, and the group is offering a lyrical coda, notes of treated piano, a droning hum, a serving of backwards guitar, and the light tapping of a typewriter.
A few bars of found Dixieland, supplanted by 60 strums of foggy guitar, stopped by a disturbing buzz. Figuratively, this hum is the sound of the mad collagist (Mr. K.) throwing the switch and starting a massive machine that integrates sounds in an awesome haze of dirt and noise and rolling rhythm. There are vocals (and a tune), and you can hear guitars and drums and other instruments, but Graeme K. puts his faith in textures and mechanical repetition. Nearly a drone, the track runs on two chords and is propelled by a single three-note riff that sounds over and over. Interruption of the single-minded momentum and worry about the distinctness of individual elements are not allowed. “And Rattle!!!” is a stirring mixture of beauty and brutality.
David Pence is the host of Radio Junk Drawer, heard Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on community radio station WMPG (90.9 and 104.1 FM; wmpg.org).