While Exhaust’s debut was a mixed affair, their follow up really showed some great improvement. The band feels more unified, there aren’t any single songs that were remixed (which stand out in a bad way), rather the remixing was done throughout the songs. And, best of all there’s a lot more of that spooky bass clarinet.
The album feels more organic, “Gauss” opens with waves of music setting a mood until about a minute into track 2 “Behind The Water Tower” when the drums kick in the atmospherics gains urgency. “Voiceboxed” has a feeling of contemporary Portsihead which is neat from an album that came out almost a decade earlier. This one has some samples of commercials , but they’re a little low in the mix so its hard to make them out. Although the spoken word part that swirls around your head is very cool and a little startling. (Headphones are a must for this album). There’s also a funny standup routine (yes, in the middle of the song)—wonder who it is.
“Ice Storm” opens with a sampled piano & a lot of static. It morphs into a lengthy play/commercial/PSA by Heathrow Wimbledon and is called “The Maternal Habitat.” I can’t find anything else about it online. It’s rather fun to listen to, although when the skit is done, the music becomes strangely slow and the last two minutes (of 9) go on too long. It bleeds into “Dither” which is mostly sampled voices and more commercials. I love this Negativland kind of pastiche
“Behind the Paint Factory” mirrors “Water Tower” in that the drums kick in after 2 minutes and the song sounds great. “My Country is Winter” is mostly tape manipulations including a screaming guitar solo that runs around your head. “Silence Sur la Plateau” returns to that sort of ominous Portishead vibe with the sound of loud crinkling plastic as its main “music.” There’ also a lengthy silence in the track which seems rather pointless to me. The album ends much like it began with “Degauss” which is mostly clarinet solo and atmospheric sounds
It’s much better than their debut but still feels like they could have made a tighter album if they’d gotten rid of some (but not all) of the nonsense.
[READ: December 1, 2012] “The There There”
I have enjoyed Nelson’s stories in the past, and I feel like it’s time to find a collection of hers (and I see she has a lot, too).
What I especially enjoyed about this one was the way the title was used in the story and also the way it encompassed the main character in a way that was unrelated to the way it was used in the story. In the first instance, the family is on vacation and they overhear some tourists asking “Where the hell are we?” while standing in front of the Colosseum. The son explains that’s “like not seeing the Grand Canyon until you fell in it, like it’s the there there.”
The story is about a family–a mother, a father, and two sons. It opens with the sons and the mother discussing the perfect murder. The husband disapproves of the discussion but only indicates this with a cleared throat. We see that Caroline, the mother, was imagining her husband when she was describing her murder.
While the story is basically about the mother (although told in third person), it flits back and forth to the other family members and how their behavior affects her. First we see that their oldest son, having gone off to college, has fallen in love with his landlady–a woman with children older than him. Caroline is appalled at this especially when Drew reveals that she’s not all that pretty, that he would have chosen one of those daughters.
Soon after this, Caroline’s husband leaves her for another woman–she is flabbergasted that he’s the one who left.
Drew did not go away to college. Rather, he stayed local. In part for his mother but also because of Crystal, his local girlfriend. Crystal was not smart and she had no plans for college, but they had all known her forever, since she and Drew first dated in ninth grade. But this time it was different and Crystal acted somewhat above her station, even though Caroline had wiped her bottom when she was little.
But then Drew met Elizabeth (and I love the way Nelson is able to condense our ideas of Elizabeth into just a few sentences–wonderfully tight storytelling) and moved to New York. Crystal was devastated.
The end of the story shows the development of the relationship between Crystal and Caroline. (Crystal’s own mother has moved away and left Crystal the beautiful house). Crystal is terrible to Caroline, showing up drunk and pining for Drew and then waking up sober and being very mean to her. But she is in this endless cycle of drinking, hooking up and then crying for Drew. And Caroline doesn’t even like her but acts more like a mother than Crystal’s own mother.
There is a reunion of the family of sorts when Drew gets married in New York. Everyone goes except for Crystal. Caroline has opinions about her older son’s wife, and about her younger son’s life and even about her husband, who of course is there as well. But it is made clear that she is more or less alone in the family–even her daughters-in-law don’t respect her. One of the sons sends the blistering statement: “You’re so cold.”
The story ends with everyone in her life moving on, and she has to decide what she can do about it.
Even though the story is rather sad, it is not written in sad way, there’s lots of humor and a lot of very funny sequences. But at its heart is a cold sadness. It was a very good story.