Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Ex Cops - True Hallucinations


Eddie's review of Iceage's latest offering last week proved there was life still, in the short[er] albums. I say that with a slight tint of apologetic realization as - something I've brought up in parts in previous album reviews - to my admittance, I'm not the biggest fan when it comes to the barely-brushing-past-the-thirty-minute mark album; it's a matter that opens up one of the many can of worms that is my musical philosophy on artistry investment in a record and the time put into it. To some that may be a trivial matter to concern one's self over, but considering this medium is still sold well over £10 (that's about $17 at the very least, across the pond) a copy, you'd like to think your money or time - as many have decided against the concept of paying for music we haven't heard/experienced yet - listening to an album is worth investment. Ex Cops, another addition to the male-female two-piece in Brooklyn's noisy, blurry citadel of musical ideology, come to the forefront with an album that similarly barely breaks the 30 minute mark...so already, has its work cut out in its attempt to appeal to us, as much as it evidently extrudes itself from out said obstructions. And considering the duo's sound is one of a low fidelity of noisy, dream pop-directed shoegaze narrative, the challenge of convincing us feels ever-the-more grander in scale.

It's a challenge the band meet with guns blurring, than blazing, and the sounds quickly emanating from opening track S&HSXX are a rightful and frivolous demonstration of the band's intended audible geographic. Rattled percussion is met with its throbbing counterparts, distortion quickly leaping up from the surface and smothering the intro in a cloud of dusty, powdered smog. And by the time the bellow of horn-like guitar riffs comes in, the music automatically reaches a welcome scrutiny of its own melody and tone. The shoegaze drowning of harmonic chants in follower Ken, creates a lush and warming clash with the rougher, integral strike of guitars that accompany it. And even when the track descends into this synthesizer-led graveled texture thereafter, the way the duo manage to shift from extremity to secludedness, and vice versa - in such drastically emotive patterns - creates an attractive mix of blurred sounds that, together, come off in such a wonderfully optimistic manner. James too sees vocalist Brian Harding's somewhat feminine, but still overly passionate, flutter of lyrics that soak and melt their way into the call of guitar riffs and chord strums. And yet, given how much of a momentum and how similar the rhythm maintains itself in this track, the swing in and out of the track's fog of production, or lack of, definitely feels as if there's passion in this track.

Passion is something that, evidently, comes up trumps on this record. It's perhaps not something that could be put down to energy or a need for expressing a particular theme, but with Ex Cops, their strength lies in their undying willingness to reach for the right tones and specific aligning of instrumentation in their music. The track You Are Lion, I Am A Lamb has such a quirky contemporary pop spring in its step, and yet the guitar work, in all its distant sprawl of strum patterns - alongside the drastic climbing and falling of drum work - makes the fairly optimistic care-free attitude in this track, plausibly viable. And it's primarily down to Harding's nail-on-the-head precision with where his elevation in vocals are placed. Despite the lo-fi, bedroom-dwelling geographic of these sounds, Harding's voice is anything but house-dwelling. There's something of a natural and nurtured texture to his voice, and even though the production has left in a state of blurred translucency amid the fog of instrumentation, the way it breaks through in all its rich emotion, gives the music that similar vacating from out the four walls of such a secluded environment. The way Spring Break (Birthday Song) projects its open marching of rhythm still feels like it belongs on a shelf of a record collection, or by a computer workstation in its deliberate dropping down of clarity. And yet the confidence and forwarding attitude the duo put on the music gives the sounds that innocent-but-mature mentality that they're not afraid, but boldly confident instead, of the open demographic they still feel they have a lot to learn from.

Ideally, the band do go for different directions other than that of a humble, rhythmic fog of sound, as is the case with the track Jazz & Information. While I do find interest in the band's more 90's alternate palette of guitar patterns and strumming style, I do feel there's less of a passion, or perhaps a need for expressing such passion, in the sound's rougher, more toned-down appearance, which here, definitely suggests the duo's interest in a profoundly more honest and sheltered offering of emotion. But their strength however, lies in their ability to showcase the intimacy of their melodies through production that allows the conflict of such emotions to bleed through to the listener. The Millionaire, even when it approaches Harding's less-bold more-lonely realization in a fairly minimal krautrock-esque enlisting of guitar strings and percussion, it maintains success through its matching of Harding's slower lyrical deliverance. And even when the fidelity of the piece gives way to the band's familiar glaze of reverb and distorted synths, there's nothing lost in the track's mellowing - almost wallowing - state of mind.

For the most part, the messages and themes coming through on this record are one of a positive implication, and especially with tracks like Billy Pressly, that deliberate portraying of satisfaction and, to put it bluntly, outright delight is clear to see and hear. Harding's vocals return to their former attractive glow of joyous emotion and swung nestlings between the stray harmonics and rolling percussion that gives the track a fairly upbeat and sandy texture, as if the music was imagined, designed, composed and recorded on the very same beach it's intending to visualize. But the band's most accomplished and well-worked effort of variance on this album - and more surprising given it's the shortest track of the eleven present - is the rocky, downhill rolling of Nico Beast, which sees percussion take on a much more hefty and repetitive build, but more importantly, crafts the track in as if it were some anxious conjuring of something far more rupturing and torn through its rhythm. It's that unstable-like mannerism that works to the throbbing buzz of electric guitars and Harding's whispered hush of vocals that jitter and jutter amid the background. With the album's closer, Broken Chinese Chairz, that same repetitious flow and loop of vocals is more upbeat and guitar work comes across a lot livelier and intricately nestled amid the 60s-essent off-shoot of percussion hits and recordings of what sounds like a typical Brooklyn snapshot at dusk, the warming psychadelia-like textures conjuring a distant but longing scenery in the music.

Given that this release comes so scarcely close to the uplifting nerdgasm of a spectacle that is/was a certain shoegaze-orientated band's latest offering, it's more than pleasing to find that the new, current generation have found the right shape and architectural muster to deliver this similarly low fidelity sound, and still hold enough of an integral pattern of rhythm and emotion in their music, to sustain some form of human character. Ex Cops are, like Beach House in much respect, one of the few opposite-sex pairings that have worked to the strengths of their humble mentality in music composition, and make sure the same strong and effective musical vocation, is felt by the listener in its textures. The very simplicity of their deliverance only brings testimony to the band's cause for celebration, because of it. True Hallucinations is a wonderful starting point for a band that merits quality far above quantity. And even in its quantic formulaic structure and short span of just over thirty minutes, the Brooklyn two-piece do more than what's needed to lace us in a sound that's overwhelmingly authoritative in direction, yet remains thoroughly enjoyable because of it. It longs to express respect for its piers, and just as equally as a result, is deserved of it from its listeners.
~Jordan

8.4

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