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Auditory Crash Course
hej music

Amateur recordings, in the positive sense of the word, tend to capture a moment of energy and inspiration so purely as to render all artifice in the music void. Of course home-made or low budget recordings vary, and a lo-fi effort often integrates some hi-fi techniques; but often the songs laid down in these sessions remain primitive enough to carry a sense of transparency and immediacy. This does not necessarily reflect in the quality of the songs or the recordings themselves for better or worse. Instead, this transparency allows the listener to look as if into the garage or basement that generated the music itself. Certainly an element of a punk DIY ethos creeps in here, and rough edges abound. But the quality comes down to a band that has spent enough late nights goofing on ideas and cover songs to have a basic knowledge of what sounds good without enough time spent outside of the basement to hear their music in terms of a larger musical culture. This process results in music unselfconsciously and unreflectively present, songs that sound appropriate in a familiar world of rock but that only make sense in terms of their own universe. For Denverís DeNunzio, this process resulted in Auditory Crash Course.

Fittingly, the mood of the album covers a wide range over the course of seven songs. For a band thematically concerned with a certain aspect of the world around them, it makes sense for the atmosphere to remain constant or at least show variations on a theme. An album like OK Computer might range from playful to introspective to morose to heavenly, but all of these moods are measured in terms of a world remote and darkly comic in its cultural story of technology and progress. DeNunzio covers a similar range, but a common theme does not shape the songs as much as a common attitude amongst the musicians. This attitude centers on the joyful pursuit of wherever the songs might lead, the belief that whether the music ends up dark or light, meaningful or silly, it is ultimately an expression of nothing more than the bandís desire to make noise.

Auditory Crash Course begins on a cutely somber song sounding quite a bit like Sebadoh. Lacking Lou Barlowís rich voice, "I Wonder" centers on Hans Buenningís terse, almost spoken vocals and jangling guitar with a cello to add some depth. In the process of Looking for some truth I wonder / Has it gone away? Somehow the musicians do not seem to be taking themselves too seriously, and the obvious lyrics become an aspect of the bandís basement adventure rather than a failed attempt at weight. Jason Jonesí drums and Eliot Zizicís bass provide a snap that seems to puncture the narratorís desire to float in a world of abstract truth. The effect undercuts the darkness of the song and allows the trio to peer through with smiles on their faces. "Cellophane" continues with the cute but throws in some grunge with Jones taking lead vocals. Again the band comes off excited and self-humored, as it will throughout the album. The command to See me smile again / Punching off of my face / Cause itís a charade / Clear as cellophane seems to encompass the bandís attitude towards songwriting: a game of role-playing all in good fun yet warped as if looking through plastic.

"Barely There" offers the first attempt at straightforward playfulness in a raucous, poppy maneuvering through bright chords and wild piano fills. Despite the hint of detachment in the title, this song seems to be the high point of the creative ventures on the album and consequently the most present and vivid. This pun again seems to be of the bandís construction, a play on their ability to be so far removed from the rest of the world and yet so involved in a world of their own device. "Hadadigm" comes as Zizicís only vocal offering, and Jones and Buenning manage to humorously rip apart his smoothness with definitively indie backing vocals Ė half-spoken, half-shouted, nothing really sung. Buenning throws an organ into the melee on "So You Know;" producer Mike Jourgensen adds some guitar wankery to "The Invitation." These instruments add an element of whim that was otherwise only present in the writing. As the dedication to the night weekly spent in the basement, "The Sounds Of Tuesday" ends the album with a nostalgic tone. And so another journey into the creepy, crawly, and ticklish underbelly of nervous-energy noise comes to an end.

DeNunzio succeeds with Auditory Crash Course by tapping into what should be the source of all musical explorations: a fascination with and dedication to the immense possibilities of noise to express our deepest hopes of communicating musically. Theyíre not always pretty, and theyíre not always good, but DeNunzio are always a fun ride.

-Matt King

Track Listing:

  1. I Wonder
  2. Cellophane
  3. Barely There
  4. Hadadigm
  5. So You Know
  6. The Invitation
  7. The Sounds Of Tuesday

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