Music

bEEdEEgEE: SUM/ONE

SUM/ONE has enough excellently trippy dance tracks to overlook a few sub-par songs.


bEEdEEgEE

SUM/ONE

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2013-12-03
UK Release Date: 2013-12-03
Amazon
iTunes

“To begin with I would recommend closing your eyes.”

It’s a great recommendation and introduction to SUM/ONE, the debut album from Gang Gang Dance member Brian DeGraw. On albums like Gang Gang Dance’s breakthrough Eye Contact, DeGraw helped produce twitching music that landed somewhere between experimental, pop, and dance. Under the moniker bEEdEEgEE, DeGraw has decided to wade into even stranger waters, with a more dance oriented album that, despite a few lackluster tracks, is often as enjoyable as it is unhinged.

The opening track with the aforementioned wonderful piece of advice is called “Helium Anchor”. For the first minute or so it’s SUM/ONE at its most whimsical. But once it drops airy synths and the monologue on how to best enjoy the album, it rolls into darker and dancier territory. SUM/ONE isn’t just filled with head-bobbing moments; the duality of “Helium Anchor” is present on a good portion of these tracks. DeGraw has an ear for pleasant melodies, but often contrasts them with strange backgrounds. The track after “Helium Anchor” is “Like Rain Man”, and its pulsing synths are a bit reminiscent of Disclosure hooks, but cascading keyboard lines and morphed vocals take the song to a weirder plane. Even at its most accessible SUM/ONE doesn’t shy away from experimentation. The fantastically catchy “Overlook” relies on smooth vocals, but the bridge is built off of a disconcerting synth line that is liable to blindside unaware listeners.

The constantly shifting quality inherent to these songs is both SUM/ONE’s best trait but also causes flawed moments, as not every song is graceful in transitional periods. “(F.U.T.D) Time of Waste” starts promisingly with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor laying down his fluttering vocals, and the second half of the seven minute long song is one of SUM/ONE’s most danceable moments. But the two sides of the song never congeal, and the track ends up feeling disjointed. “Flowers” suffers from a similar problem. The rather airy and meandering front half unfortunately makes a long wait for the much stronger second half. It almost feels like DeGraw has too many ideas buzzing around in his head to get them all cohesively down on tape. The track “Bricks”, sandwiched between “F.U.T.D” and “Flowers”, has small sections of excellence overridden seconds later by the sudden appearance of musical motifs that feel forced.

Still, DeGraw shows that, when focused, he’s a hell of a producer. The cloudy beat on “Quantum poet Riddim” is giddy fun and a few of DeGraw’s best moments combine bangers with melodies inspired by video games. SUM/ONE’s best track is “Empty Vases”, where Animal Collective, Gang Gang’s most accessible moments, and a good helping of vaporwave get blended together. The track begins with a calm meditative phase before delicate guitars and a smooth beat kick in. The track also employs L.A. based singer Douglas Armour to great effect. Armour gives a fantastic and uplifting performance as DeGraw builds the track to its spaced out finale. A bit of streamlining and editing would help DeGraw on future releases, but with songs like "Empty Vases" DeGraw proves that he’s a solo artist to watch.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image