If Live from the Grove is of any indication, 3:33 will hit its artistic stride sooner rather than later.
Bohemian Grove, the campgrounds for the Bohemian Club in Monte Rio, California, is said to possess a mysterious power that allows multiple parallel realities to be projected into our own. In a press release that may or may not be a bunch of bull but is nonetheless intriguing, the experimental sound collage artist(s) 3:33 took some recording equipment to this legendary place in hopes to capture its hidden whispers from other dimensions. What actually comes from the field and what comes from the lab is unknown, as is the identity of 3:33 itself, but one can picture Alex Paterson or William Bevan getting into this kind of thing.
So unsurprisingly, 3:33's new album Live from the Grove is adorned in occult robes, both in terms of the sleeve's artwork and the sounds that bubble from within. Crows caw, grown men call out to gods of long dead languages, we are reminded not to talk to strangers, house resolution 333 is addressed in a sound bite (the attempted impeachment of Dick Cheney) and another one has Bill Clinton dissing a heckler. Strange brew indeed.
Made up of 11 untitled tracks, Live from the Grove has an interesting sample in the first selection where some sort of label rep brags that "we have attempted to create an album that appeals to every musical taste." This reminds me of Dave Soldier and Komar & Melamid's hilariously awful experiment The People's Choice Music. This sample concludes with the repeated line "into a new dimension of contemporary music." Of course, an album by 3:33 isn't going to appeal to everyone, far from it. But they are pushing things just beyond their limits. Into a new dimension? Not exactly, but they may have found a portal somewhere in the Grove.
A new sound is introduced with each new movement. The stage is set in the second track by obliterating the resonance of some stringed instrument. The third instalment plays the role of dark pop with a more varied, and consequently, aggressive drumbeat. The fifth track recalls the call and response noise loops from the "Pulk/Pull ..." era of Radiohead. A ragged, possessed voice takes over track six and track eight has noises more in common with bubbling cauldrons than anything heard in your typical dub experiments. Live from the Grove ends with a soaring musical passage worthy of the attention of anyone who ever gave a damn for ambient music or even synthpop, though it's courted by unusually distorted beats.
And this brings me to my primary complaint. I reviewed 3:33's EP-1 earlier this year, and I was less than thrilled with it primarily because I thought it didn't boast much substance. The beats were there, but what surrounded those beats was lacking. With Live from the Grove, it feels like the opposite case is now the problem. The samples, manipulations and musical interludes are much stronger this time but the monotony of the beats trivialize the power they would otherwise have. But I was right about one thing, 3:33 certainly saved the better material for the first full-length. And judging from the weight of the album The First Thousand Days available for free download, 3:33 will hit its artistic stride sooner rather than later.