Monday, November 7, 2011
Iji - Bird-Man Movement Team EP on Offtempo Records
Got this single in the other day from Off Tempo Records, who say they're documenting underground music of the Pacific Northwest. I think I have to start a google earth plug in with all the labels like this, broken down by geographic region...Fort Lowell, Electric Cowbell, Super Secret Records, Nashville's Dead? I guess it would depend on if the label described themselves that way, not on where the bands were actually from....it's what singles do best, humbly document the micro movements of a local scene, better than anything.
The band on this clear green 7" is Iji, a music project of Zack Burba, who's collaborating of course, with a bunch of people on this recording and packaging. Friends hand stamped the center labels, spraypainted the inner white sleeve and probably stuffed all these in one drunken night. Songs were written about them, while they provide backup vocals and even played instruments...he's just one guy after all.
The first track, "Viber" gets into a pop tropical lounge feel, a little bit Ducktails and Tennis....the jangly brisk rhythm guitar, a slight reggae bass line, that early Crowded House sound of enjoying the experiment of these genre's that seem out of reach. The handmade touches don't stop with the packaging, the handclaps, a really alive sounding sax, all the way down to a flute breakdown. "Toony Loom" has a real Daniel Johnston feel to the raw live recording, Zack's warbly high register vocals against this rehearsal room slightly out of tune piano. All the things that make this recording sincere and unmanufactured...a precious commodity. There's no faking the warm sound of a livingroom, and people playing together instead of isolation booths...Zack's yelp when a chorus of friends join in, that's a real moment of excitement. Zack might have put this scene together, but it's still surprising to even him in the end....and clearly they were enjoying themselves. It's all coming through loud and clear on this.
It's mixed pretty quiet, so you'll want to turn this up, but that's what happens when you get the best take with a couple of room mics straight into the mixer. I wouldn't call it lo-fi, just DIY... that's a genre right? The sort of handmade record in every possible way where it's just a bonus it happens to be filled with honest, sunny pop songs.
The B-Side, "Wavy One", takes me back to Calvin Johnson's anti-pop sound, that rejecting the usual trappings of pop, not necessarily flying in the face of it or complete rejection, but deliberately not caring to follow the formula, the tired expectations. It doesn't follow a verse/chorus structure, Zack instead tends to stay loose and free form. In the liner notes he mentions a lot of this record is based around bass rhythms and that puts a lot of these pieces together, all the permutations of bass directions ending up driving these 4 tracks. "Whatever" rounds up the two week residency at the Funny Button in Seattle, this one throwing in all the kitchen sinks in a rolling carnival ride. It gets pretty epic and probably wraps up the experience, a little sad to leave, but a blow out while it lasted.
Get this one from Offtempo Records.