Palm-muted percussion lining the walls of a sonic dreamscape. Guitars that hum and sting our ears with feedback, never feeling the pressure to attack one note over another. Drums that impatiently press against a bassline, hoping that their robotic repetition will somehow yield a brighter tone than their hollow capabilities would ever allow for. These fractured instruments collide with an ethereal beauty in Protovulcan’s brand new Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball EP in songs like “Snake Legend” and “Purple Sky,” but moreover they convey emotion in its rawest form through the fearsome power of music as we’ve never heard it before.
Everything is out of control in Odd Nosdam’s remix of “Purple Sky,” but it doesn’t stand at much of a contrast to the original heard several tracks earlier. You see, every element of Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball is a hurricane of violence and crude melodicism married by a bristling percussive beat that seems to materialize when we’re least expecting it, like in the climax of “Soma Sutra” or the opening stumble of “Pine for You.” Contextually, the fact that everything is drunkenly slipping and sliding all over the place makes the deliberate lack of solidity an attribute instead of a thorn in this record’s side, and the music is allowed to live out the full scope of its immense experimentalism as a result.
My favorite song from the first part of this extended play is “The Force Remains the Same,” which has a jazz quality to it but goes out of its way to avoid the soft transitions that would tie it to one genre above all others. Surfy guitars spliced in with stony fuzzboxes and over-processed vocals shape the nerve system of the track, while black and white drums push us along the path, and inevitably, off the plank and into an ocean of buzzing bass and treble-skewed reverb.
Oscillator Bug puts some magic on the record-closing remix of “Celestial Slingshot,” a song that right from the moment I first heard it crossed me as a wonderful template that could be manipulated and played with over and over both in the studio and in a live setting as well. The remix is arguably a little more surreal than the original version and puts the grooves at the forefront of the mix rather than burying them beneath the weight of the forceful melody. It’s not as harsh as its counterpart, but then again, most everything that Life is Twigs/Psychic Pinball has to offer is a lot less scathing than the grating sonic materials it breaks down would suggest it to be on paper.
There’s so much more that I would like to see and hear out of Protovulcan that my only real complaint with this EP is that it’s too short. They touch on a lot of ground in these eight songs that most bands would turn tail and run from, usually out of plain old incompetency if you ask me. The bar has been set so high for this Chicago threesome moving forward, but something tells me that they haven’t even started to dig into their full skillsets as a group yet. There’s a lot more to come from these guys, and I plan on keeping a close eye as their collective odyssey unfolds.