7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Welcome to the deep end
, October 20, 2011
This review is from: Gauntlet Hair (Audio CD)
There's definitely a Willy Wonka quality to "Gauntlet Hair": Submerged in reverb and distorted bass, the album feels woozy, like a drunk stumbling in the dark -- or as the chocolate genius would say, "Two steps forward, one step back."
Nowhere is this Oompa-Loompa connection more apparent than on the irregularly revolving "That's Your Call." Heavy bouts of bass that never settle into a consistent beat mingle with swirling funhouse keyboards, hand claps and tambourine. Echoey guitar shifts in and out of focus as singer Andy Rauworth's voice is swallowed up in the hubbub. The song is a jaw-dropper, fusing industrial drum 'n' bass with '60s soul.
"Gauntlet Hair," the debut from this Denver-based duo (named after a store owner's description of blues guitarist Johnny Winter's hairdo), is difficult listening, but it is by no means dissonant. This is electro-psych in the vein of Animal Collective and Yeasayer, but where those East Coast bands tend to weave boisterous, disco-fever soundscapes, Gauntlet Hair takes a hazy, introspective approach -- more nuance than bombast.
Take "Lights Out," with its oddly paired goth and disco textures: Vibrato chirps and yowls bounce off brooding Robert Smith guitar and a throwback drum machine, and what sounds like a sandpaper bow run across a double bass. Each listen seems to peel back new layers. "My Christ" sounds as if cut from the same cloth as Love & Rockets' "Express," a psych and glam stew simmering in an echo chamber. It's best to remember to bring your headphones to the Gauntlet Hair listening party.
The only gripe is that Rauworth's vocals often get buried in the effects-heavy mix, sometimes ending up unintelligible. It's possible that Gauntlet Hair -- like early R.E.M. -- doesn't have anything to say beyond the music, but the apparent mumbling at times distracts from the rest of the proceedings.
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