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by Justin Farrar

March 15, 2014

From the Depths: Experimental Hijinks

by Justin Farrar  |  March 15, 2014

Welcome to From the Depths, a recurring feature that spotlights deep underground sounds lurking within the Rhapsody catalog.

The Two Benji's, Form a Log's new full-length for New York-based Decoherence Records, possesses the very thing that's sorely lacking in modern DIY electronics: fun. Don't get me wrong, the movement certainly is as healthy and robust as ever. Yet it's also true that its dominant expressions -- technoise, minimal wave, 21st-century industrial and Kosmische Musik-inspired drone -- are resolutely straight-faced affairs dominated by artists concerned far more with existential gloom, clenched-teeth intensity or even metaphysics than they are making music that is rooted in the silly and zany. Form a Log, on the flip side, are a breath of fresh air in how they transform tape-derived collages and effects into freakbeat mayhem that bops and stomps, splatters and shimmies. We're talking maniacal noise-funk shenanigans for those who prefer nitrous balloons and reruns of Land of the Lost over DMT and art-house screenings of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain.

Consisting of three well-established musicians, Ren Schofield (Container), Noah Anthony (Profligate, Social Junk) and Rick Weaver (Dinner Music), Form a Log possess an acute understanding of what I like to call "experimental hijinks," that unique intersection of cutting-edge pop experimentation and cartoonish wackiness as pioneered by the likes of The Residents, Spike Jones, DEVO, Frank Zappa, Raymond Scott and of course the great Dr. Demento. I wouldn't go so far as to say experimental hijinks is a movement per se. Rather, it's more of a screwball state of mind, one that possesses the uncanny ability to leap from genre to genre, era to era. You can hear it in sounds as diverse as 1966's Jan and Dean Meet Batman album (a masterpiece of non sequitur camp), the misfit New Orleans R&B of Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Parliament's funk absurdum, Boredoms and their spazzoid psychedelia and Duotron's Romper Room belligerence, to name just a few additional examples.

By including selections from The Two Benji's, as well as most of the artists already mentioned, my playlist attempts to make explicit the myriad connections between Form a Log and the masters of experimental hijinks. For example, the one-two punch of the trio's "Landline" and Spike Jones' irreverent takedown of Rossini's "William Tell Overture" shows how both artists mix the sounds of traditional and non-traditional instrumentation to similarly comical effect. This same sense of shared instincts also is detectable in the pairing of Form a Log's "Chain Valet" and The Resident's "Breath and Length," both of which vacillate between fuzzy surrealism and static-infused ferocity. Furthermore, my playlist also spotlights the work of several of Form a Log's peers, including Giant Claw, Euglossine and Cream Juice, all of whom specialize in a brand of experimental hijinks filtered through vintage video game soundtracks. Needless to say, be prepared for one weird trip. Best to dust off the tin foil hat for this one!

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