Review by Richard Barnes of SeaOfTranquility.org 4 (of 5) Stars
This is the second album this week that I've reviewed using a capital letter in the middle of their name – perHaps it's a new trEnd? The packaging alone with its tongue in cheek 'science' stories immediately calls to mind Sleepytime Gorilla Museum so it was no surprise to find out that Dan Rathburn mixed the album. Once in the CD player the connections are stronger still although it perhaps lacks some of the subtlety that the aforementioned people portray. Opening with a bombastic 'advert' for the Vehicle, we get a parody of marketing with the claims for its benefits growing ever more ridiculous. This leads us into the first short track, a frenzied mix of squealing horns, heavy bass thumps and an RIO styled rhythm and chord progressions. "Banana" is acoustically led with a kind of Mexican motif but the overall feel is of something from England's Garden Shed, a connection repeated later in "Honey Key Jamboree".
Vocal contributions are intermittent. This is an album whose strengths lie in the incredibly challenging arrangements and the powerful blend of avant-garde jazz, RIO mechanics, and quirky little melodies, a la Cartoon with the odd blast of thrash metal thrown in to remind you they aren't a bunch of classical cowboys on a day trip.
The variations within the compositions are so many that trying to describe each track would make this article more like a book than a review. The music throughout is intense, sometimes dark and heavy, sometimes playful but always adventurous. Sax, clarinet and woodwind are prominent features throughout taking the lead more frequently than the carefully controlled guitars of Rob Pumpelly (whose baby this is) and Wally Scharold. There are many highlights including the biting and edgy interplay between sax and back line in Kharms Way and Zhagunk which also features a remarkable piece of work with human and cat vocalisations (you really have to hear it).
"Daddylonglegs" is an intricate work featuring some superb counterpoint between clarinet, sax and bass and outstanding guitar work. Some of the wilder moments appear in "Coven of Coyotes" and "Trishna". I'm not going to type the title of track 10 again – they must have nicked that off Mars Volta but its worth a mention for the sheer movement around the scales like a pack of hamsters on a wheel. The last two tracks see the band expand their ideas further still with the most Sleepytime like "Black Fruit", which includes more spoof marketing, and the wonderfully named 9 minute tail ender "Camelopardalis".
Like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, this band is not for the faint-hearted but its well worth the investment of your time to try to get into it. For a band with only a debut e.p. behind them its also a very sophisticated and ambitious first outing.