Label: Humble Soul Release date: 11/10/10 Link: Official Site Before I go into my review of Denis Jones’ new LP, Red + Yellow =, I will provide a “too long; didn’t read” summation: I did not like this album. Now you can go and slag me off all you wish. If I am able to resist my urges to go into the vitriolic spewage normally associated with my negative reviews, I imagine I might actually get some real feedback other than ‘You’re an asshole who hates everything and know nothing about music boohoo my asshole hurts.’ No, I won’t give in to my normal pitfalls of writing, such as eschewing “formal” or “collegiate” tone for a more casual tone and lessened vocabulary…I’ll do a real analysis yet of something I hoped would be truly enjoyable but instead turned out to be something that broke every promise laid forth, not so much a collection of songs as a test of the will of the listener to endure these “compositions.” If you thought that Uffie and Wavves were to be the best of my long form reviews, you were damn wrong. On paper this album should work fantastically well. Jones’ pedigree as a live improviser a la so many impressive YouTube videos of street musicians with loop stations combined with his oft mentioned ferocity when confronting the frets of a guitar screams of promise and skill, honed by years of performance geared around keeping a live audience interested. The natural trap here is a single loop or cell repeating for too long, bogging the tune it is in down or (even worse) becoming a chore to endure for its continued length. Sadly, that is exactly where Jones fails. His understanding of song crafting has been tainted and mutilated by his own lack of self-editing. I speak as a musician and engineer here when I say that the process of cutting out tracks and self-editing never gets easier, especially when the act of recording can be cathartic or relieving when songs brought in to the studio finally see professional quality. That fine honing of the ability to edit oneself is what distinguishes musicians from those who fritter and waste time with endless masses of uselessness. While the beauty of having four tracks repeat cannot be understated (Eno’s ambient work, Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, Stag Hare’s awesome psych loops), the choice of what is committed to those tracks far outweighs the sleekness of loop-based music. If artists like Dosh and Owen Pallett show what live looping can do, then Jones reveals the true limitations of the process, often resorting to banal repetition in place of movement and build. For years now Andrew Bird has pushed the limits of a solo performer’s ability to manipulate a whole sonic field, playing against himself to create tension against a full band and stand out against the noise. To that degree the opening beat box and percussion of ‘Clap Hands’ should be promising, loops pulling against each other until it is obvious that the lyrics will never change. Sure it’s a jump rope rhyme (“Wine, wine/the goose drank wine/the monkey chewed tobacco/in the street car line”), and the use of repeating themes can again be done very well. The issue here is the backing itself. It just isn’t enough to listen to until the end when piano finally comes in and saves the mundane tune. The music is a major weak point in far too many songs, often containing some element that is impossible to enjoy when repeated ad nauseum. ‘Sometimes’ has a burst of cell-phone interference at the most random beat three sixteenths into the bars it appears in, originally jarring and providing a change from the simplistic backing of acoustic guitar and possible mouth percussion. But after it happens every iteration of the loop, it transcends mere element and instead becomes an unwelcome noise as it originally was. Maybe the stigma of hearing that static does it in, reminding one of countless errors in electronic placement that led to drones of clicky static, obscuring and ruining music that was once full of dulcet tones. Maybe it is Jones’ own inability to loop the static on beat, instead using it as an arrhythmic attempt at syncopation or hemiola (it’s impossible to tell with his songwriting). ‘New Note’ features a piercing click that forms the basis for the faux glitch backing and almost never lets up for all 8’21” of the song. It’s obviously sourced from the noise a 1/4” cable makes when you plug it into an amplifier on one end then place your thumb on the other end, completing the circuit. It’s an unwelcome sound on par with rumble and hiss, often used to the advantage of the song as a way to open an album (check ‘2+2=5’), here it instead drills into the skull, a task to listen to in headphones and just plain painful on any speaker with a high end bias (EG laptop speakers, shitty iPod docks, etc). Also worth noting here in the songwriting and production is the overuse of inappropriate effects, such as phaser and flanger, often on the guitar or voice, placed in such a way that it disorients or taints the sound to the point of cliché, as it does on the vocals of ‘Bastion of Blood,’ a song that sounds like a bad attempt at Spike era Costello ‘Stalin Malone’ or ‘Let Him Dangle’ type death songs. The true lack of chordal arrangement in the horns doesn’t help either, often resorting to octaves in place of voice leading. O the lyrics…where to begin…When not just singing rhymes on the opener, the lyrics range from appallingly awful explorations of the career and influence of The King (the aptly titled ‘Elvis’ has a chorus that states “If I want to be the same/Better watch what I eat”) to mantras that apparently deserve to be repeated as backing elements but fail to modify the song since, well, more boring repetitions come in and create a bad attempt at vocal interplay and fugue (‘Blengin’). Sometimes the songs here are so unimaginative lyrically (‘Rage’) that it doesn’t matter what’s being said, all you want is for it to end. I’ve no issue with repeating lines over and over, hell M. Pyres and Gary Wilson do it all the time to great effect, but it matters if you have a good melody and better lyric to repeat as much as the emotion in that delivery. I can stand Matthew Sage repeating, “You are being a child/There’s nothing meek or mild/About/How you/Carry/Yourself/Now,” a dozen times because he sounds angry. I cannot take the forced rage and mumbling of ‘Rage’ over a typical industrial tinged “dark” beat. It’s honestly not worth putting in the same analysis here as there is little to be gleaned, the words often just stating typical messages in typical ways. Everything in me wants to like this album, but at the end of the day only two tracks qualify as worth listening to here. ‘Conception, Consumption, And Radia’ is a halfway decent trumpet improv until more annoying as fuck static elements come in and never end as well as random bleeps that sound sourced from a number station. ‘Sometimes’ is also not a terrible song, able to sometimes make me forget about the terrible loop choices and focus on the Elverum-esque interplay between multiple acoustic tracks. But now I have done my job, going over the major issues here and analyzing them in relation to actual good albums as well as from a backing well versed in production, theory, performance, and programming. Now when the rating is revealed underneath this paragraph you’ll understand why it got this a little more, hopefully, than normal. Excuse me, but I want to go cleanse my ears with Black Hippies or James Blake now to think of good noise and electronic repetition now. Photobucket