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Friday, June 6, 2014

Microwaves – Regurgitant Phenomena (New Atlantis, 2014) ***½

By Julian Eidenberger

In the case of noise-rock power trio Microwaves, the choice of subject matter is not completely arbitrary vis-à-vis their music. In other words, the band’s obsession with retro-futurism is reflected in the music itself, and not just something that provides the band with a more readily distinguishable “image.” For one thing, Microwaves make extensive use of a synthesizer, and there’s probably no other instrument today that is so closely and readily associated with the idea of an “outdated future.” Beyond that, the trio plays a style of music that could be called retro-futurist, as well – a style that was cutting-edge in bygone times. This remark, however, is not meant as disparagement; Rather, it is meant to call attention to the fact that the band’s main influences – 90’s noise-rock, 80’s hardcore-punk, late-70’s no wave and post-punk – are, in a way, timeless styles of music, styles that haven’t lost their edge and are therefore still futurist, albeit in a “retro-” kind of way. Those styles – or rather their best exponents – continue to be relevant, probably because “their future” – their potential – wasn’t fully realized in the past.

Regurgitant Phenomena is, then, a time capsule of sorts that brings back to life old, but still relevant sounds and ideas; As such, it shouldn’t be accused of regurgitating (pun intended) past styles. Most tracks here fly by in hardly over two minutes: They rely mostly on fast, punkish tempos, but frequently inject proggy time changes, too. Yet while tracks such as Drug Damage – which definitely bears a strong resemblance to cult favorites Dazzling Killmen – or Goonraker, which sports an angular guitar-synth hook, are certainly not without charms, the two longer tracks Dead Hand and Clone Parade, both of which last over six minutes, are probably the high points of the album, since they expand on the spacious, synth-heavy side of the band’s sound.

In sum, Regurgitant Phenomena is a rock-solid album that – while not particularly “jazzy” in the usual sense of the word – could and should appeal not only to adventurous rock fans, but to listeners accustomed to the more experimental side of jazz, as well. Don’t let this time capsule remain unopened.

Listen and buy from the label.


AGM said...

A rather gag-inducing title, unless you happen to be a bird.