Sunday, January 22, 2012
Primary Structures - Self Titled on Gold Robot Records
Hunter over at Gold Robot has again gotten more into the full length arena, making that huge leap onto the bigger 12” vinyl and sent this one in from Primary Structures.
The four piece has evolved out of a couple of San Francisco/Oakland bands; Lady Genius and Volunteer Pioneer, after having met in art school of course, named after an exhibition in 1966 of minimal artists like Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt. I wonder how many spring out of performance art pieces and kill two birds with one stone.
Kyle Williams then, put down the paintbrush and for Primary Structures is on vocals and synth. I have a hard time figuring out how these bouncy indie pop tracks were composed with nothing but his background underpinnings of subtle melody, but then again it mostly comes from his strong vocal direction, which sound like a more balanced Alec Ounsworth from Clap your Hands or a classically trained Jens Lekman...in other words, a real class act. He’s got a slight vibratto to everything, reaching high falsetto notes without the straining work.
The first track on the A-Side, “Jet Set” sets a synth heavy tone that gives way to shiny guitar pop, with an inspired bassline from Brian Caraway that carries this one solidly beyond just being clever and into a real inspired groove. As nervous and claustrophobic sounding the vocals might be when getting into David Byrne paranoia, he stays far more loose and melodic. The kind of pop album that isn’t coming off as too serious, it doesn’t sound like they have an agenda or master plan, it’s just based around poppy sounds at the heart of those summer days in San Francisco.
“The Farm” shows off more of the complex back and forth between Brian and Jason Byers on guitar. Off kilter rhythms working together, but staying completely separate. Brian really knows exactly where to inject bass, it’s never timid and they thankfully let him go nuts with this two note break that steals the track. Matt Stromberg on drums has been playing particularly polyrhythmic patterns and on “Balsa Tree” things get to sounding like the Dodo’s... that nontraditional rock beat of a rim shot stick pattern opposite a complex kick. It doesn’t wear out it’s welcome though, eventually going epic and Kyle takes this one into a sad place which is out of step for this record which most of the time sounds like some kind of celebration.
The last one on this side, “Cannibals”, has Kyle back into that jittery place, going straight for the super pop, only the catchy moments...the way that Dog Day or Ski Lodge aren’t saddled with a massive wave of hype but more concerned with melodies that are going to keep delivering long after this side is over. Clever transcriptions of this melody take it higher up the scale, which Kyle manages to keep up with in his high power vocal. It could almost become one of those old Smiths records to pull out on a Friday night and sing along to.
The more I hear this, the more it starts to slowly sound like Entertainment!’s simple, disarming melodies, with Kyle really selling his vocal instead of the post-modern can’t-be-bothered. I can respect someone who takes their entertaining seriously.
The B-Side with “Land of Terror” is literally bringing a Morrissey vocal to mind. Where does someone get the idea to deliver a vocal like this...to be so emotionally invested, it’s a little bit more naked than something like Johnny Ill Band’s jokes. There’s no tongue in cheek, meta joke here, just solid, straightforward songwriting.
“Bad Krevznacht” is the standout track on this side, a little more rowdy and unpredictable. Kyle’s vocal works differently when paired with this angular rock, he’s got to work a little harder to be heard.
Just like that lens flare on the cover, Primary Structures have managed to capture that right moment, straddling that line of serious, attention to detail, pop while managing to sound like they’re having a good time doing it.
Get this one from Gold Robot Records, a great release...after that whole thing posted by Mike over at Captured Tracks...I know Gold Robot is coming from the same place. It's gone beyond just the format being enough to be outside the taint of commercialism. You need to dig deep into the core philosophy of a label.