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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Still Inertia - "Invested"

Artist: Still Inertia
Album: Invested
Year: 2012
Label: Self Released
Genre: electro/acoustic/psy/ambient/???
Website:  www.stillintertia.com




Invested is the debut full length from Still Inertia. To be honest, I'm not sure why this was sent to Wounds, as it is seemingly unrelated to the genres we review, but the guy took the time to write us a really long email and to send us a disc, so I'll give it a go. This album is very difficult to describe, as it quite schizophrenically mashes up a ton of styles, and the listener will move through quite a bit of territory on their journey through this. This is a fucking weird album which is challenging (not sure if in a good way) and unpredictable, so let me get into some of the tracks:
The album opens with "Bad Human" which is somewhere betwixt a jam band and 70s improv industrial. Then we go into "Help Me" which is a strange, rhythmic downtempo track with spoken word vocals. The music sounds quite similar to the recent Saltillo album with the plucked violin and clunky acoustic drums. Then we shift gears completely with "Hostalgia" which is sort of an electro/acoustic psybient track which some chopped up vocal samples, overall in a vein similar to Shpongle/Younger Brother. After this, the album leans towards that spectrum, and there are several more psybient tracks in the vein of Solar Fields/Asura, such as "Closer To Me", "Home", and "Eileen" with soothing downtempo rhythms and melodies complimented by piano and/or guitar that bring to mind images of a euphoric, futuristic beach or jungle. Yet there are still some bizarre avant-garde/experimental pieces like "Invested" and "Jesus Walking" which sound like a bunch of random recordings (telephone, people talking, what sounds like playing pool, etc) thrown together over a steady beat and some analog synth noodling (sorta, very vaguely in the ballpark of skinny puppy?). You've even got "Dopamine" which sounds like Jack Johnson or some similar hippie singer/songwriter strumming a guitar.

Good stuff:
+ Some really beautiful melodic sections and emotive pads. The more psybient-ish tracks feel very spacious and deep, quite easily sucking the listener in to another world. Fans of that style will definitely dig these.
+ The instrumentation (piano, guitar) is catchy and sounds well recorded. I'm not big on guitar in my music, but I think fans of Asura, Shpongle, and the like could get into this.
+ The production is generally tight. Good balance of elements.
+ Lots of variety show that this guy has a lot of creative ideas and an interest in making something unique and different.
+The packaging is nice. You get a big booklet with all the lyrics and info on the guest musicians (there are a lot).

Bad stuff:
- The vocals are almost uniformly terrible. They seem to be done by several different people, but in almost every instance they are flat, lifeless spoken word. Now, I do occasionally like spoken word or slam poetry type stuff (it-clings or enduser - "your drawing" for example) so long as the voice conveys emotion and is recited in a captivating manner that fits with the music. The vocals here sound bored & droll, and clash comically with whatever direction the music is going in. Removing the vocals entirely would've made this a much more enjoyable listen. If vocals must be used on future work, I recommend getting someone who can sing, and a softer, female voice would suit this style much more (see Planet Boelex & Lisa's Antenna - Little World).
- This album is way schizo. I'm not even sure what to call this, or who the target audience is. The fact that it is really difficult to explain this album to someone is going to make it a hard sell. I imagine the majority of people are going to find a group of songs here that they enjoy and then an equal amount that they dislike or skip.

Invested is certainly a different album, and one that doesn't sound like anything else. Or, more accurately, it sounds more like a compilation of several different bands that are only mildly similar. There are a lot of good ideas here, but I think it would help greatly if he figured out what path he wants to take with this project - is it psybient? is it avant-garde experimental with hints of industrial? There are just too many clashing elements present here that don't mix together and the result is an album with a stifled flow that feels unfocused and off-putting. Even on the tracks that are predominately fantastic (ex. "Eileen") there is always one or two major elements (ex. the vocals) that is/are unnecessary and detract from an otherwise well crafted piece. I know there are people who are really into this idea of "genreless" music, but the fact is that throwing every sound and influence together can easily sound...well, bad. Definitely interested to see what this guy can come up with in the future, especially if he focuses the spectrum of the music somewhat.

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