Switzerland

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.

Interview: Peter Kernel

Sarah Tembeckjian

Mixing bluntly punk vocals with experimental instrumentation, Swiss-Canadian duo Peter Kernel have come up with a refreshingly unique and energetic brand of art-pop that very nearly defies classification. Their most recent LP, Thrill Addict, certainly lives up to its name by frantically bouncing around between aggressive, playful, and contemplative atmospheres, and manages to do so without a single track feeling out of place.

We recently caught up with Aris Bassetti, one half of the group (absent Barbara Lehnhoff), via email. He filled us in on Peter Kernel's roots, their take on the creative process, and the perils of writing music with a significant other.

ThrdCoast: What are your respective musical backgrounds?

Aris Bassetti: Musically we grew up very differently. I hated music until 1991. Till then i only listened to dialect comedies on the national radio and when the music started I turned off the radio. Then I discovered the song “Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters, and I thought that maybe music wasn’t so bad after all. Luckily just a few days later I discovered Nirvana, and I took off and perhaps I even went a bit too far - by the age of 19 I only listened to experimental noise projects like Merzbow, KK Null, Ruins, Masonna… and considered other music null. Barbara grew up in the middle of nothing in Canada, and on the local radio station they didn’t play any electronic or dance or techno music, only rock and roll. It was natural for her to become a "punk rocker" teenager. Then throughout the years she discovered other alternative rock bands. When we met I was still listening to a lot of noise stuff and she really enjoyed it. When we started playing together we evolved our listenings and now we love a lot of different kinds of music. Lately we listen to a lot of meditation and classical music.

TC: What’s it like working together? What’s your process from start to finish?

AB: Working together with your partner is the best and the worst thing ever. By “working” I mean spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week doing the same things together all the time. It’s great when everything goes well and we’re happy and motivated, but it gets really hard and dangerous when things start going badly because there’s no one waiting at home to reassure you - we’re sad and angry and the same time. And often we have to fight for everything we do, decide, and create - but this is our power, because after these fights we’re left with something we both love and we’re both ready to defend.

TC: Your music is quite theatrical and attention-grabbing. Is this something you strive for during the writing and recording process?

AB: I think that it’s something coming from our Italian roots mixed with our cinematic skills. We love when music narrates something, even without the voices. And at the same time it’s something unconscious. We write the music we write first off to exorcise our fears, anxiety, or anything that disturbs our existence, and probably a lot of people live the same emotional states. That’s why our music receives attention. Maybe it’s liberating.

TC: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?

AB: I would say that it’s passionate but simple music done by two people that are working hard to live an exciting life. Taking risks and making mistakes.

TC: What are some of your major influences, together and separately?

AB: It’s impossible to separate what we are since we’re together all the time. Really, all the time. The influences are many, but mostly don’t come from music. We’re very influenced by our lives, our relationship, our friends and families, things we saw, we tried… all those things that touched us in one way or another. We’re like sponges.

TC: What do you want audiences to take away from your most recent album? What should we be listening out for?

AB: We would love to know that our music can be part of people’s important moments. Imagine how great it is to know that your music is the soundtrack to a kiss, a victory, a night out, a vacation, a workout or a dance.