Uneasy but Addictive.
Dischord mainstay Justin Moyer has always been master of odd, hard-to-categorize projects like the jittery El Guapo, weirdly danceable Supersystem, and drag-wearing, over-the-top Edie Sedgwick. You get the sense, reading the reviews, that no one knows exactly what do to with him. He’s not what they expect. He doesn’t fit any of the boxes. And yet, there’s an eccentric, serious intelligence at work across all of these projects, one that binds random elements like electro-dance, post-hardcore, and indie rock into unexpectedly compelling mixtures. Now with his first full-length as Antelope, Moyer’s back with his unclassifiable staccato grooves that somehow bridge Prince and Delta 5, Nintendo-core and indie singer-songwriter.
The 11 cuts on Reflector are terse, sentiment-free manifestos, built on ping-ponging repetitive guitar and bass riffs and ornamented with abstractly passionate verbiage. There’s a stern Dischord-esque discipline at work, but also a post-disco hedonism. “Gotta get control / Gotta get contained”, intones Moyer, over and over, on the addictively sing-song-y “Contraction”. It’s a song about minimalism that you can shake your butt to.
Moyer references Picasso’s Guernica on standout cut “Dead Eye”, using the famous painting as a reference point for violence and art. Still, you could make all kinds of other connections—the artist’s sophisticated use of primitive forms, his abstract rendering of organic bodies into geometric forms—for the way that Moyer dips into and transforms sensual music forms into post-punk angularity.
Repetition transforms seemingly haphazard combinations into mandala-ish patterns, and short bits of silence are lodged everywhere—between verses, in the spaces where voice and guitar don’t quite meet. You feel that everything has been pared down to essentials, spare parts stricken away ruthlessly to reveal the hard core. Late album highlight “The Demon” rides a head-snapping, compulsive guitar riff over bizarre landscapes inhabited with ghost riders and supernatural beings. “Flower”, the most fluid and lyrical of these songs, matches easier, more sustained guitar motifs with more personal lyrics, but it’s an island of relative calm. Moyer comes right back with “Justin Jesus”, with a spiky, clamped-down funk-ska groove that might remind you of the English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom”.
In the end, it’s what’s so odd about Reflector that makes it so addictive. Its short, sharp phrases and seemingly random combinations of notes lodge hard in your corners and come up unexpectedly when you’re washing the dishes or walking the dog. They sound like nothing else, and yet work by their own peculiar logic, and once they’re in, it’s like they’ve always been there, pinging around your head.
// Notes from the Road
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