Sunday, June 28, 2009

Albums I enjoy #44: In the Shadow of the Living Room by Reaching Quiet

44. In the Shadow of the Living Room by Reaching Quiet

Fish food is advertised. The beauty of symmetry is debated. Someone tries to save face after crashing in the
Atlantic ocean. A man adopts a fly as a pet. Stereotypes are discussed with the help of a Merry-Go-Round. A kid welcomes his older brother back home. Advice is given on the linguistics of robbing Wal-Mart. These, and dozens of other events, all occur randomly and without fanfare in the flickering box that leaves us in the shadow of the living room.

It's flipping channels. It's flipping channels and hitting commercials, infomercials, foreign shows, cartoons, and other things you can't follow. A few lines flit into your ears. Static. The credits of something. Stand up comedy. You view each thing with the same amount of interest: not enough to stop yourself from changing the channel, but enough that your mind grasps at straws later - what did it all mean?

There is very little music in here. There are even fewer "songs". There are thirty tracks, most barely hitting the two minute mark. Sometimes one can get weary of songs that keep going after they make their point. These songs are done well before they even hint at what their point might be. Even within songs, every beautiful sound they make or catchy chorus is quickly herded into your memory, replaced without fanfare by seal barks, cheesy 50s talk show hosts, fish food commercials? The best lyrics are washed out with static to the extent that you have to read along with them to even begin to hear what they are saying. I've heard a key to good writing is to find your most beautiful sentence and erase it. These guys find it and mutilate it.

If you had to shoehorn the album into a genre, it would be hip hop, I guess, but this is abstract beyond all point of recognition. It serves as the antithesis to my previous album, Escape From
Monsta Island!. There's rapping. There's beats. There's samples. The rapping is a super-fast, rarely rhyming, stream-of-consciousness rant on anything that comes to mind. The beats are minimalistic to an almost unnoticeable degree, but they do their job. The samples are so varied and obscure that it's hard to spot them. Field recording, 2-second loops of old TV shows and even stuff recorded by the band members themselves and then worked back in as samples litter each track.

My advice? Either listen to it for the lovely bits of dissonance they provide and the infectiously catchy melodies they play for about 5 seconds at a time, and like it a bit; or spend the time looking through lyrics, trying to sort out the significance of every little scrap of noise, and then find out there is none. But, by then, you will already be in love.

The lyrics, as I have already mentioned, are some of the most brilliant I have ever encountered. They toe the line between raving stoned nonsense and genuinely insightful, but manage to at least invoke a chuckle or a sigh at the great chaos that is the day to day life of many humans. The voice used for each verse is Academy Award perfect - not just for the accent or poise, but the word choice, too, paints a crystal clear image of the speaker. That is, if you can make out what they're saying.

The highlights of this album are more likely to be tiny bursts of sound or a single line delivered in a few seconds - like the bizarre female vocal sample in "Her Little Office Watch" and the frantic verse that follows, or the opening line and noise that follows it in "Pier 39", or the awesome rendition of the Nutcracker suite in "The Comfy Chair" -  rather than a whole song or even a whole section of a song. Nevertheless, a few song stand out as brilliant diamonds in a bag full of exquisite black sand (oh my what a luxurious and slightly girly analogy). "You Choke" is about as typical a rap song as you can find on the album, and the lyrics are absolute genius and halfway understandable. "Slow Polaroid" shows relatively large amounts of restraint and suspense for a song of its length. And "Broken Crow" ranks among my favourite songs on any album of any genre ever.

This might be the least accessible album on the list, but it's worth digging around in, like a dusty old crate at a record shop - which this album is practically constructed out of. Here's the lyrics to a lot of the songs that have them, if you need it:

No comments: