Singer – Mindreading

January 01, 1970

(Drag City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

Three mainstays of Chicago’s
avant-garde offer another round of lavishly vocalized, synthetically
orchestrated almost-pop. Mindreading is considerably more lush and accessible than 2008’s Unhistories, though not exactly easy listening. Here listeners slip
down silky bolt-holes, sleek bits of melody slipping through fingers as they
seek some sort of grip on Singer’s intricacies.

 

Singer is down to three members, drone-ambient/noise artist
Robert A.A. Lowe, and Adam and Ben Vida. Todd Rittman (ex of US Maple), who
contributed to Unhistories, has
exited to pursue his D. Rider project, taking with him, perhaps, the noisier,
more unsettling elements of Singer’s sound. The remaining three musicians
muster a variety of synths, guitars, percussion and voices – the name is Singer, after all – to create cerebral,
faintly sensual landscapes that borrow from classic soul, prog, drone and pop. 

 

The three sing in falsetto much of the time, evoking the
spacier kinds of R&B, funk and disco. There are touches, elsewhere, of
folktronic simplicity (“Voices from the Tapes”)  and synth pop (“Imagined Spaces”)  even Afro-beat (“New Bad Teeth”)  Still, at their most tuneful, Singer’s melodies
fail to proceed as you expect, eschewing the obvious hook for serpentine,
half-stepping meanders that sound as much like 20th century
classical music as folk or soul. Synthesizers co-exist uneasily within these
tracks, straightforward boogie rhythms interlocking with brainy interpositions.
Untangle the multiple synthesizer ideas snarled and tangled into “Wi(s)tsches”
and you should win some sort of prize, 
the cut’s steady beat jacked by careening space noises, hiss, scratch
and luminous tonal washes.  Add to this a
chopped up, stop-start approach to percussion, not so much a beat as a running
commentary, and you start to get to the disorienting elements, even in this
smoother, more pop-oriented iteration of Singer. Lyrics, too, evoke rather than
narrate, strings of words hanging disembodied, discontinuous, over polyrhythmic
beats.

 

Mindreading is a
puzzlebox of an album, its rhythms and riffs interlaced like Escher staircases.
Yet its smoothness, its luxury, its abundance of sensual rhythms and engaging
musical elements, often obscures the difficulty. It’s all too easy to skate
over the complexities, sliding effortlessly over glossy landscapes. Unhistories‘ harsher moments stopped you
cold and forced you to re-think your whole listening experience. Mindreading does less of this. If you
want to get to the bottom of it, you’ll have to scratch your way through its
surfaces.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Imagined
Spaces” “New Bad Teeth” JENNIFER
KELLY

 

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