Ardath by Birth Day

By: Derek Spencer

Ardath is as elusive an album title as I have encountered. A smattering of google searches reveals a British tobacco company as the only catalogued namesake, implying that Ardath is an album named either for it’s destructive and addictive qualities, or otherwise as reference to something personal and decidedly unobtainable. The impalpable name suits the 5-track EP all the same, perhaps augmenting the conceit of mysterious dystopia that LA-based musician Birth Day seems intent on summoning. Deconstructed pop pairs with discordant ambient on Birth Day’s unsettling 2016 debut.

Opener “Link’d” best demonstrates Birth Day’s palette, consisting of icy dissonance, glitched-out synths, and phantasmal filtered-vocals. Tension builds as the voice of yesterday’s fallen popstar rises in classic zombie fashion. On “Bedroom Jester”, Birth Day continues to play with distance and depth, as a single alto melody gives way to the croons of dozens of fettered specters, each presumably a fractured bit of singer/producer Sonya Lanelle Chávez.

The percussive elements of Ardath leave enough propulsion for listeners to dance, but only in the way that dancing can be a mental exercise: a way of answering a question or exploring a thought. With tracks like “blind” and “Seashore”, each clocking in around one minute and devoid of distinct rhythmic features, it’s easier to think of Birth Day as walking us through a process or along a path, as opposed to imagining that Chávez’s vision lies in any one place for long.

Demonstrating a surprising command over dynamics and composition, Birth Day will hopefully have the opportunity to flesh out her work on longer, more immersive releases. For now, Ardath serves as a seductive taste-test, successfully tempting listeners toward some unknown end.


ALBUM REVIEW: Mutiny I by Pompeius

By: Derek Spencer

Pompeius, named after the… singular masculine form of the ancient Roman name Pompeia(?), indicates on his bandcamp that listeners ought to, “_Drift away with me on a voyage to nowhere_”.  His 2015 release is titled “Mutiny I”. The album description warns readers that they are in for, “four water-logged songs chronicling a mutiny” and is accompanied by album art depicting a nondescript bay filled with high middle age ships.  Forgetting, for a moment, the water noises interspersed throughout the first track and signalling the end of the fourth and final track, the music impresses no nautical themes upon the listener, instead relying primarily on a palette of sounds common to the downtempo & chill house genres.

Despite the aesthetic contradictions of his bandcamp page, Pompeius manages to pull off a clean, tightly produced collection of songs.  What the tracks lack in literary ingenuity, they account for in well-planned compartmentalized EQ and punchy low-end beats.  Synths and noise-stabs pop into existence and dissipate, punctuating rhythmically familiar compositions.  Forsaken Overgrown is clearly the standout track, reworking itself several times over throughout the near-8-minute run time.  The opener Doldrums should also not be overlooked, if only for it’s sly incorporation of string bass samples.

ALBUM REVIEW: We’ll Get There by Spider Mansion

By: Phil Skurski

[As a matter of tonal consistency, editor’s notes will be included in red]

Spider Mansion is not just a clever pun, but also the result of a science experiment where a child was raised listening only to Dashboard Confessional and that Vanessa Carlton song that’s in every single movie trailer from the 2000s. [word.] In fact, while listening to “We’ll Get There” I could see a young Josh Hartnet looking brooding and soulful while walking down the street—possibly kicking a can, or, like, a plastic bag could fly across his path or something—and then he starts to break into a run going through the entire town, his footfalls keeping time with the beat, crossing from his side of the tracks to hers. [you lost me] All of this being intercut with the girl—perhaps a nubile J. Love?—going through the motions of maybe a wedding or something with the Chump Next Door that her parents approve of because he doesn’t sell amphetamines hidden in ballpoint pens to Danny Masterson. [wait how do his (her?) parents know that he(?) does/does not sell amphetamines out of a ballpoint pen?  How does one sell amphetamines out of a ballpoint pen? This is all v confusing but idk my the readers will get it bc they’re smarter than me] Finally Josh—which is both the actor’s name and the character’s, total coincidence, they wanted Ryan Phillippe [who are these people and what do they have to do with dashboard confessional?] originally—makes it to the gazebo where he and J. Love went on their first date, had their first kiss (did it for the first time? Dunno, it’s PG-13), he stops—standing still and looking shocked. Is it a scene of wedded bliss he sees? No! It’s J. Love, sitting on the gazebo steps, head in her hands. And you know that scene ends with them kissing in that gazebo again. [I’ll assume this makes sense bc I don’t really get film idk]

Punk enough to scream when you can’t hit those high notes, Suburban enough not to tell your Mom you’d prefer guitar lessons over piano lessons. Spider Mansion is built on the ashes of many a discarded Ben Folds album. And as much as I’m poking fun, I kind of dig it [but do you? I don’t. Sry Spider House]. It sounds lush [u playin]. I like that the drums don’t fall back on tired beats with regularity, the basslines are often melodic. There isn’t much guitar to speak of because, you know, Piano [lol], but that’s not a bad thing—no forced harmonies that stick out awkwardly [tl;dr album isn’t awkward 9/10], or leads shoehorned in because your friend Artie wants to make sure he has a girlfriend for senior year (Author’s Note: I do not know whether or not the members of Spider Mansion are still in High School, nor am I aware whether or not they have a buddy named Artie that’s super lonely[editor’s note: I’m not sure why a ‘shoehorned lead’ would get Artie laid {Johnny Truant’s note: I had sex with a girl last night who was dating a guy named Artie.  All I hope for is a moment of rational thought and one shot at action before I’m lost to a great saddening madness, pithed at the hands of my own stumbling biology}]). The guitars take the fore on the last track, “Which Sucks Cause I Really Liked That Record”, they sound kind of like the intro song to an Anime might. There’s a progression to this release getting bitterer towards the end—where he sings out confidently—though not exactly a happy confidence—that our paths will cross again. Not too bad a fate, if you ask me, I’ve definitely got some friends that will probably really like Spider Mansion.

The band’s self description as “sad twinkle Wisconsin” is not only spot on, but also my favorite combination of words in a long time. [My favorite combination of words is ‘asspunks’ as made famous by previously reviewed band and avant-garde asspunkers Vacuum Horse]