[27 November 2012]
A former Haunted Graffiti member, Gary War (aka Greg Dalton) often gets shortsighted alongside his peers, Ariel Pink and John Maus. Arguably, the most experimental of that crowd, War tends to resist the nostalgic impulse in Pink’s music and precludes the pop chops of Maus. If Pink and Maus take simple pop and problematize it, War starts out difficult and finds the residue embers of harmonic tones underneath, molding the formats of his contemporaries into abstruse shapes. On Jared’s Lot, this sensibility is accentuated even further than in the past. Here, he hides razor-sharp angularity under a fog of reverb and contorts a melody’s crooked gait into an impenetrable Fibonacci sequence of retro-futurist arpeggio bedlam.
War, Robocop helmet in tow on his album art, has tried to throw journalists off the scent on Jared’s Lot, citing it as his “Massachusetts” record (the title refers to a site in Dalton’s hometown of Gloucester). Unlike the open tranquility of New England, Jared’s Lot is an intensely claustrophobic affair, practically choking its listeners with the music’s lack of breathing space. The scorched earth apocalypticism of “World After” and “Pleading for Annihilation”, the latter a Sega Genesis raindance for total destruction complete with primal shrieks, suggest a world deformed by technology, nary an autumnal leaf to be found. War’s voice is perverted with dysmorphic choral pitch bends and endless filters throughout. The encroaching robotics of “Advancements in Disgust” threaten to take over the song at any point, conflicting the music against the music maker in its jerky progressions. “Thousand Yard Stare” before it has its own platonic ideal, a War soar that involves a twinkling arpeggio and veers dangerously close to Laserdance style Italo-Disco cheese, but the music’s trajectory is full of enough transmutations to never let this sensation settle into an auditory zone of comfort. Jared’s Lot is sure to have its detractors and its champions, but I’d venture a guess that each side is bluffing a bit. This is a record too weird to live and too rare to die, a darkly hued kaleidoscopic prism that’s fascinating and dizzy, yet too far up War’s own ass for anybody but him to truly know.