John Vanderslice - eeeeeeep! EP Music Album Reviews

The analog master’s first all-digital release is a compelling document of a veteran artist learning new tricks.

Someday, there will be books and graduate dissertations examining the distinctly 2020 phenomenon of the quarantine album. The term already invokes a web of clichés: a stripped-down album exuding authenticity and Nebraska aesthetics, borne of isolation and quiet reflection. And John Vanderslice, the stalwart indie-rock songwriter and producer, has made absolutely nothing of the sort.

As a legendary analog disciple—he’s the founder of a studio where rooms are packed with vintage tape spools and “ProTools” is said to be a dirty word—Vanderslice has amassed enough purist cred for one lifetime. Now, in quarantine, he’s trading audiophile aesthetics for Ableton. His new EP, Eeeeeeep!, is billed as “the first songs I have ever recorded on a computer,” as well as an attempt to “blur my vocals and lyrics into some weirder shit.”

So, if you’re expecting one of Vanderslice’s more abrasive releases, you won’t be disappointed: The EP opens with a supremely discordant stew of scraping beats and mangled vocals. But overall, Eeeeeeep! is less a full departure from the compellingly skewed indie-pop Vanderslice has spent 20 years exploring and more an expansion of the squiggly synths and sputtering drum machines that have always lived on the margins of his songs.

There are plenty of familiar reference points for fans. “Lure Mice Condemn Erase” puts a glitchy spin on the distorted acoustic sound of 2007’s Emerald City. Its lyrics imagine Vanderslice as a zealous cult leader, an example of his knack for building emotionally resonant songs around outlandish plots. “Just give in, just collapse/Follow our total relapse,” he exhorts his followers. “Team Stammer/Savior Machine” provides a subtle callback to 2001’s “Keep the Dream Alive” with its counting-based rhyme scheme, except now the melody jostles against knotty drum programming. It’s a solid example of Vanderslice using digital software to make his music stranger rather than streamlining it.

These experiments may have emerged from quarantine tinkering, but they’re also reflective of other changes in Vanderslice’s life. In 2019, the artist left San Francisco, his longtime home base, and decamped for Los Angeles, setting up a small studio in his backyard. That year, he released The Cedars, his first album after a six-year retirement, jumpstarting a creative rebirth that fed right into 2020’s Dollar Hits—a companion album spun from mutated tracks from The Cedars—and now Eeeeeeep! When he was interviewed about his recent influences, Vanderslice cited experimental hip-hop eccentrics like JPEGMAFIA and Tierra Whack: hardly common touchstones for established indie-rock dudes over 50, but you can hear such influences bleeding into the fractured textures and abrupt edits of this EP.

Eeeeeeep! is a compelling document of a veteran artist studying new tricks. But the EP is brief, and skittering, chaotic creations like “Xxxx” and “Song for Leopold” feel more like intriguing sketches than fully satisfying compositions. Anyone who’s seen Vanderslice live knows that, despite his modest fame, his songbook is capable of bringing audiences together in raucous singalongs. (There’s nothing quite like a crowd of strangers shouting the words “Bill Gates must die!”)

His recent output—particularly since 2013’s Kickstarter-fueled Dagger Beach—has veered away from discernible choruses and unifying gestures. This is by design, and feels like the start of a new creative phase borne out of both inspiration and necessity. But Vanderslice’s left turn into digital wizardry works best when it doesn’t ignore his considerable gift for old-fashioned songcraft.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
John Vanderslice - eeeeeeep! EP Music Album Reviews John Vanderslice - eeeeeeep! EP Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, September 01, 2020 Rating:

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