Atlanta

REVIEW: Clebs - I'm Here

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Phillipe Roberts

At core of Clebs’ debut EP is the question looping through every recording since the first wax cylinder: what here is human? Recording is an exercise in artifice, a selection and compression of real-time events into an endlessly repeatable fantasy. With their first foray into the art of sonic distillation, vocalist Emilie Weibel and drummer/producer Jason Nazary go for the jugular with a particularly violent approach; I’m Here quite literally feels like a mutilation of their personalities into a unitary, Frankensteined sound-beast, flexing its reconstructed muscle in an exploration of these newfound capabilities. Though some moments gesture towards sunnier pastures, the most surprising element of I’m Here is how firm its footing feels in the long stretches of abstracted body horror, slicing apart familiar rhythms, melodies, and sampled sound into something that feels truly alive, twitching with a dangerous curiosity.

From start to finish, the organic, pulsating fusion that is I’m Here manages to sound painstakingly labored over without overworking the ear. Every second is brimming with immaculately designed easter eggs and microscopic detail. Pitched-down voices buried under fuzz on closer “Light Spectrum” combine with bubbling, randomized arpeggiations to eerie effect; as a whole—and this is meant as the sincerest of compliments—it comes off as the soundtrack to a late-night infomercial from another dimension, a peek behind the static curtain into a mundane glimpse of the beyond.

Truly, Clebs’ finest gift may well be in creating trancelike environments that feel as if you’re observing them from a distance, or from a bubble of relative safety. “Bass Chrysalis” (WHAT A TITLE) is a shining example. The glitched-out voice breakdown in its latter half, where thumps of bass pound against the sharply pitched gliding melody, doesn’t so much consume you as linger, tantalizingly, just out of reach. Clebs are masters of the experimental tease.

When the duo branch into immersive, pop-like territory, they never quite let themselves run wild or become too consumed by rampant emotionality, preferring instead to constantly tweak and tune their creations like a pair of obsessive technicians. Though it emerges chopped and crushed, leaking a trail of vocal teardrops from Weibel, opener “Homemade Bread” is the record's most out-and-out danceable excerpt. Its central beat flails and flops with a drunken urgency. Nazary weaves a staggering polyrhythmic collage, populating it with buzzing snippets of Weibel’s voice placed deep into the mix. The track leers with a frightening intensity, threatening to break out into some form of “drop,” some kind of sustainable, emotive four-on-the-floor chug, but never does.

Even the title track, whose looped, bumping beat comes the closest to providing the sturdy bedrock necessary for a pop song, can’t help but inject blasts of howling noise, roaring in at jarring volume to keep you awake and aware through the haunted nursery rhyme chanting of “If the bomb explodes, then you come back home.” I’m Here is not for the faint of heart, nor for the faint of head. But if you’re looking for a brief detour into stranger waters or a peek into the grizzly unknown, look no further.

REVIEW: Omni - Multi-task

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Phillipe Roberts

Multi-task is an odd title for this sophomore release from Omni. Rather than attempting to juggle any new sonic weight, the Atlanta trio trim down their already lean and lively sound into something more streamlined and economical. Only a year out from Deluxe, their debut, Omni move up a weight class, taking their scrappy yet explosive production to a bigger soundstage. With more room to breathe, and the band churning out frighteningly efficient melodies with clockwork ease, the blows hit noticeably harder but don’t quite land the knockout.

Despite a recent lineup switch that brought Warehouse’s Doug Bleichner on board to translate their sophisticated post-punk swing to a live environment, core duo Philip Frobos and Frankie Broyles play every instrument on Multi-task. Since the days of Deluxe, their sixth-sense connection has only sharpened, and it shows on the enhanced clarity in the trademark siamese riffing that left us spellbound last time around. These songs are tightly wound, nimbly darting between pitch-perfect nuggets of nervous fretwork with tremendous focus. The interplay between drums, bass, and guitar feels conversational, a series of chemical reactions where every stab of rhythm from one sets off unexpected, exciting, and tastefully dissonant transformations in the others. Cymbals splash into fluorescent needles of guitar and back again on “Southbound Station,” cool ripples of bass evaporate into steamy staccato funk chording as “Calling Direct” builds to a strutting climax. This is calculated chaos, and Omni do their homework.

Guitarist Frankie Broyles remains Omni’s immovable axis, guiding and providing structure to the dense tangle of their post-punk attack. And while he still turns in plenty of Television-inspired noodling and pays welcome homage to Pylon and the B52s’ tick-tock catchiness, he picks up a few new tricks to round out the bunch. “After Dinner” finds him indulging in a bit of Velvet Underground blues sputtering, slashing white hot chords into the finale with abandon. When the dust starts to settle on “Tuxedo Blues,” it’s his slick, Strokes-esque call-and-response that brings the curtain down. His contributions ride high in the mix, as they should: there’s a clear leader to the pack and his skills are flexed more than ever here.

Those who were dazzled by their retro-rock antics from Deluxe will feel vindicated in every second of Multi-task. The ferocious touring behind that album has done little to blunt Frobos and Broyles’ enthusiasm for their particular kind of eighth-note gymnastics; the focus here is on mastering and refining it into purer product. On this count they succeed in spades. “Choke” spreads the versatility of Deluxe tracks like “Wire” even further, marrying a tense, stop-start groove in the chorus to a verse that crackles with tight, punchy snare rolls and crashes it all into a soft cushion of gentle piano for the climax. And paired with the DEVO style herky-jerk yelp of “You can’t afford it / You know you’re worth it,” the four-note synth melody in the final chorus of “Equestrian” feels pinched from some mythical unreleased New Order tape. But ultimately, Multi-task is a record for the crate-digging faithful. Omni takes a red pen to their established sound, crafting a more scenic route from A to B without redrawing the map.

REVIEW: Frankie Broyles - Slow Return EP

Kelly Kirwan

A crinkled line weaves itself throughout one of Frankie Broyles’ most recent melodies, as if the bellows of an accordion had taken on a bit of rust, producing a pitch that's somehow both nasally and digital. It snakes between a steady percussion and his docile croon, which has the slightest touch of haze in its far-off delivery. The song in question is "Shoulder Blade," a three-minute dip into a genre that’s hard to pin down, a unique flavor of indie pop with garage-rock influences and even a touch of psychedelia. It creates an interesting tension between the uncanny and nonchalant—one that persists throughout his latest EP, Slow Return.

The seven-song undertaking shows once again how Broyles thrives as an independent artist. You may have encountered his work in the past, though his stints with Balkans, Omni, or, of course, Deerhunter. But in his return to flying solo he’s shown (not that there had been much doubt) that he’s more than just a kick-ass guitarist. He’s an auteur of expansive harmonies that glimmer with a pop-sensible polish, whirring and wobbling like a brightly painted spinning top. The Atlanta-based musician has spoken in the past of finding inspiration for his solo material, and the bottom line seemed to be that he wasn’t afraid to let go. He has certain visions for his work, but in an interview with Seventh Hex he noted he “wasn’t afraid to miss the mark.” Luckily, these creative free falls never do.

The accompanying video for his track "Seward Park" is a reel of grainy footage, like a home movie from decades long past. As twangy guitars gleam across the melody, the footage switches between landscape shots, zooming into an array of bare, wintery tree branches, and then focusing on a green feline eye. Broyles’ voice is deep, but feels porous compared to the rich tones of the melody, as he sings, “I’ll say what is on your mind / Not right now” before the screen fades to pink. It’s a melody that bops along quickly, a mix of contemplative and upbeat moods. Which is unsurprising, as throughout the EP, Broyles never seems to limit himself to a single energy level. He meshes and blends, creating a multi-faceted piece of work that's wonderfully original and a joy to listen to.