For some reason the slowed-down, reverbed-out, protracted-length dirge genre is getting big these days in The Indie Rock Circles. Maybe that’s why these songs, recorded way back in 1996, have finally been released. The climate seems right to float the kind of balloon Suspende Animation would be… were it, uh, to be a balloon. A balloon that’s filled not with air, nay, (no ordinary balloon, this) but with songs between seven and 10 minutes in length that use nearly excessive amounts of time to establish a semi-ambient groove or sequence of grooves before climaxing amidst varying degrees (depending on the song) of feedback squalls and guitar abuse, only to subside gracefully back into the nothingness gas from which they originally emerged.
Indeed, though I can’t help but clench my teeth as I find myself writing variation after variation of this in review after review, this record is all about atmosphere. Specifically, it’s about the aforementioned reverb-drenched guitars, maybe some hints of keyboard, lightly-struck drums, with duel male/female vocals that are predominantly subdued, which mostly suggest outlines of melodies rather than carry melodies themselves. The cynic in me says this particular vocal trend is more a pragmatic decision borne out of the vocal abilities—or perhaps more correctly, limitations—of the performers than a wholly artistic choice; but the cynic in me loses more often than not, so I’m willing to call that one a draw.
To continue the nitpick parade: I can’t figure out if Suspende Animation is supposed to be an EP or a full-length album.
Why it could be an EP: It’s only got 4 songs.
Why it could be a full-length: It’s 34 minutes long.
Why it could be an EP: It’s only got 4 songs!
I guess ultimately it doesn’t really matter, but somewhere deep down I know that kind of thing affects my feelings. I mean, if this is an EP, kind of an abbreviated statement, perhaps an interim “progress report” of sorts between albums, I tend to be more forgiving of missteps. You know how it is. A subpar EP might be characterized as “leaving room for further improvement” or “containing a lot of potential.” With a full length, though, you expect it to have been slaved over and concentrated on more, to be a more official Statement of Purpose for an artist, and as such you’re free to be more critical of it (positively OR negatively). Therefore, Suspende Animation kind of leaves me in a weird limbo-like state, so you’ll have to excuse all the muddling about here.
If you put aside the multitudinous pretensions of the packaging for this EP/album/whatever (we’re talking about dated-looking surrealist artwork that is trying to mean a lot more than it actually does), and the nagging question over why they bothered to print some of the lyrics out even though they’re mostly unintelligibly low in the mix anyway, you’re left with 4 fairly long songs (by pop music standards, anyway) that manage to rise above all my tedious, trivial gripes and give you a pretty good listen. “Indie Rock” is quickly managing to become a misnomer it seems, but I’m pretty OK with the results lately.