A horrible hack

Graham Repulski

Into An Animal Together

Year Released: 2011
Format: CD
Label: Shorter Recordings
Reviewed by james pacanowski on May 14, 2011
Releases by this band are coming so frequently that you'd think it would be getting hard to find something new to say about them. But four full-length releases in and I think I am just about 'getting' what Graham Repulski are all about. At first I had them pegged as another albeit very good - lo-fi band riding the '90s indie-rock nostalgia train. Second time out, the touchstones started to become a little more specific, and the Guided By Voices inspiration really became more prevalent to my mind. Their last release sort of threw a curveball into the works as it was a collection of older songs, but nevertheless in my head I felt I was finally honing into their modus operandi, their raison d'etre or whatever you want to call it. So counting this release, something like 5 dozen songs later, I think now I 'get' it. So if you will excuse me if this review gets all Pseuds Corner; I'm rarely afforded the opportunity to geek out to this extent over an album as I tend to pick dumb twiddly music or pop-punk bands to review, I'm going to make the most of it while I can.

There's still no doubt to my mind that the Guided By Voices inspiration is one they lean on perhaps the heaviest, and I take that to mean all associated acts too (Circus Devils especially). But what's become clearer and perhaps more prevalent on this release is the psychedelic aspect and specifically where it sits in regard to the rest of psychedelic music. It's not psychedelia that can be easily put into comparative context; it does away with the twee folksy aspect and over-indulgence of older psychedelia like all the Paisley underground stuff but retains the same sort of melodies, particularly in the guitars; likewise, it borrows sounds and ideas from modern psychedelic music (there are frequent 30 second or so breaks that resemble something similar to drone) but unlike acts like Jandek the music isn't completely disassociative or tuneless. Nor, like the majority of other modern 'freak folk' or 'psyfolk' bands does it soften its sound through layers of reverb to where the music is a bright, foggy murk. There is reverb (on the vocals particulary), but the sounds are sharp and clashing, the drums frequently blown out to the point where the beats sometimes best exemplified on 'Dim Undertones' - sound like they've been fed through an industrial blender, chopped up and slammed through the mics as loud as possible; each guitar pluck is prominent and jagged rather than echoing and hazy. It's jarring, yet melodic enough to not be unlistenable. It rarely sticks with one idea for very long, but it also isn't meandering and just structured enough for there to be what can recognisably called a song.

On that note of structure, it is worth addressing what was my biggest bugbear with their last release, which was that there were really not enough 'songs'; given that the track length was so short on average, there were very few properly established ones. I was a little disappointed to see that this was the case here too: the 24 songs here average 1 minute and 20 seconds (I did the math for it and everything), and while that average is brought down a little by the presence of 8 of the aforementioned 30-to-50 second droning, feedback-laden intermissions, it's also rare that a song will top out over 2 minutes. But as I noted with that last release, I think part of the point is that no song stick around too long and certainly given the number of tracks here it would've been a slog if they attempted to spread out each idea into a more traditional 3-and-a-half minute track, nor would it have been as effective. Also, apart from on 'Paper World' which I felt they abandoned far too soon, the shorter tracks feel a little more satisfying here. I'm not sure if that is a personal revelation, or whether they simply learnt to manage their ideas better all I can say is that it didn't really seem all that noticeable.

Even discounting the 8 ambient tracks here, that still leaves 16 tracks too many to really pick out any highlights; I will say that of all the tracks here, 'Heavy Metal Ally' and 'Bulletproof Skull' are probably the two tracks that work best out of the album's context. But if you plan on exploring Graham Repulski's sounds any time soon, it really is best just diving straight in and hoping for the best. I'm not sure if this is the most approachable of their albums I leave that honour to the second album, 'Electric Worrier' (though 'My Dreams Have Arms/No Expectations' have probably the most single-friendly tracks) but it is easily the most interesting. It's red-eyed indie-rock, though at times it's hard to tell whether the red eyes are a result of illegal substances, late nights, tears or all of the above and it's a damn sight more exciting than the majority of indie-rock right now, even considering the rude health the genre and all its umbrella subsidiaries are experiencing currently.

It's worth noting this album won't be out 'til July 19th, but a preview will be up on the bands bandcamp on May 24th. Until then, I would suggest familiarising yourself with their back catalogue. You won't regret it.

Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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