ARTIST: Mutant Death League
If the manatee and lightning bolts on the front cover weren't enough of an indicator, let it be said that this album from Mutant Death League (the title is another indicator) is rather noisy and eccentric. Given project founder Dan Siepmann's prior leanings and the fact that this project started out as a crust punk band, it's also a lot more pleasant than you might expect. Though there's little tying these songs together besides an inordinate fondness for back-masked instruments, it's all pleasantly experimental, creating a sense of relaxed but playful improvisation rather than a deliberate attempt to be weird or jarring. Besides the backwards effects, which range from guitars on "Repair Stains" to speech on "Asunder," Siepmann also employs a great deal of pianos, drenched in lots of reverb and sustain for an effect somewhere between ambient music and honky-tonk. "The Light Fugue" is especially fascinating as it slowly alternates between harmony and dissonance, and "Three Concrete Layers" rests the plunking keys in layers of reversed drone effects. Less restful is the ominous "Giants," with its marching beats, extended siren tones and ominous muttering. While the focus on weirdness does lend itself to occasional ramblings, as on the psychedelic but directionless "Submersible," Siepmann does achieve the occasional moment of unintentional sophistication. Closing track "Adagio for Circuits," in particular, is an unexpected moment of subtle grandiosity, hollow ambient tones giving way to ascending classical strings and choir effects. Mutant Death League is a far cry from the more intellectual approach taken by some ambient purists or electronic composers, but Siepmann's determination to avoid conventional music structures provides plenty of intriguing sounds as well as the odd moment of real brilliance.
Check out Mutant Death League on MySpace at www.myspace.com/mutantdeathleague.
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