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Single Frame
Body/End/Basement
Volcom Entertainment
www.singleframe.net


So, I wonder what my impression of Body/End/Basement would be had I not listened intensively to Wetheads Come Running and Burn Radio Airtest, Single Frame's two previous efforts. The bar had been set pretty high with regard to the artistic level exhibited, but I had also come to expect that their music "feel" a certain way.

For the most part, the new music doesn't "feel" the way it used to. Before, their music had this vibe that seemed to suggest that the universe was largely indifferent to us. Body/End/Basement, on the other hand, seems to have more sinister designs. I guess this really is what results from watching a horror movie every day for a month before recording an album. Much has been made of SF's non-musical influences, but this raises the question of: "When do influences become distractions?" This may be such an instance.

Missing is the loneliness of WCH and BRA, but the newer, grimmer tones are not unwelcome. What is unwelcome is the veil of incoherence that enshrouds the album. I'm not entirely certain what went wrong here, but I'd say it starts with "New Blank Document." It lacks a sense of drive or purpose and replaces it with lots of yelling. Now, there was plenty of yelling in previous SF releases, but there was a direction to those wild thrusts of anger. "Exact Copy of This in The Basement" is the marquee track that should serve as the focus, but the production is muted in ways that it shouldn't be. This song has more oomph than the recording suggests and what sounds like microphone saturation in several instances is something that should've been spotted and fixed. The familiar elements of this album should be a comfort to fans uncertain of the band's newer directions, but rather than being fresh takes on their old ways of writing music (ala BRA), the impression is one of derivative filler. Had "New Blank Document" and "Second Handshake" been left off of this album, I expect my impression of it would be somewhat improved. The terror-noising of "People Are Germs", while notably ill-at-ease, is not terribly pleasant to listen to. It's effectively scary and grotesque, but its unpalatability renders me indifferent to it.

The album does succeed in the areas where they appear to just be messing around. Discordant riffs created by dynamic de-tuning effects and dramatic stops in "I'll Lose Your Balance" are well worth the listen. The monotonous drone of "Lost Pines" is a pretty inspired method for cleansing the musical palate.

Bold experimenters are bound to fail, and while not surprised by this one, I am disappointed nonetheless. "Culture Medium" is one of the better tracks on the album, and it contains many of the technical affectations I associate with Single Frame, but it showcases the most lacking aspect of this album overall: an absence of pretentious showmanship. Many artists are vilified for their pretentiousness, but in this band's case they seem to excel in the realm of dramatic and ostentatious presentation. I want arrogance; I want the sleight of hand, the media manipulation, the shell game, the con. I want to hear something that says: "Everybody listen, we're making fucking art here!" Ten years from now I want to read that SF were a bunch of talentless hacks that'd tricked us all into believing they were much more than they really were. Now THAT would make Harry* proud.

My disappointment however is tempered by the certainty of future successes. SF's previous releases were unforgettable, and as such, my expectations were sky high for B/E/B. Nothing contained herein really resonated with me and I find it rather forgettable when compared to its precursors --the sounds of which still echo in my brain.

-JD

*(read the Single Frame interview to find out which Harry I'm talking about)

Track Listing:
1. Stuffed Animal Wall
2. I'll Lose Your Balance
3. New Blank Document
4. Culture Medium
5. Lost Pines (Dream & Body)
6. Exact Copy of This in The Basement
7. The Flying Circus
8. Through The Wires
9. People Are Germs
10. Digital Witness
11. Underground @ Noon
12. Slum Pioneer
13. Second Handshake
14. Field Recorder One
15. Facts About Doors
16. Tiny Whispers
17. Make Yourself


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Mike Doughty



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