Music

Celebration: Albumin

The Baltimore psych-indie band, championed by TV on the Radio, have a new label and a new album that often is "out there" in a less-than-flattering way.


Celebration

Albumin

Label: Bella Union
US Release Date: 2014-08-19
UK Release Date: 2014-08-18
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Most musicians don't get as many chances as Celebration's Katrina Ford and Sean Antanaitis. The duo released goth-tinged albums under the names JAKS and Love Life, and failed to stick.

They changed their moniker yet again, to Celebration, and adopted a looser, more psychedelic sound. Despite being produced by Dave Sitek and released on 4AD, Celebrations' first two albums failed to find much of an audience. Third album Electric Tarot: Hello Paradise was self-released in 2010. Now Celebration has another lease on life from another label. Bella Union, headed by ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde, have picked the band up for Albumin. But the new lease on life has resulted in an album that at best struggles to be exceptional and at worst is nearly unlistenable.

There is a fine line between genuine eccentricity and calculated foolishness, between bold ambition and a fingers-crossed shot in the dark. In both cases, Albumin too often comes across as the latter option. Organs churn with sinister pretense, songs start down one path before inexplicably turning down another and then another, and Ford caterwauls confidently if not always on key. But what, exactly, is it all in service of? Albumin is the strangest of failures, a concept album in search of a concept.

Opener "Razor's Edge" is actually pretty good when it slides into its big, apocalyptic chorus, with Ford exhorting the universe to "bring it on down". With its near-tribal drumbeat and general sense of doom, it recalls a more camp Siouxsie and the Banshees, which is not a horrible proposition. To get to that point, though, you have to get through an introductory synth-swell that sounds like the THX sound processing theme, and then overlook a throbbing ooh-aah-ooh-aah effect that strongly recalls Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer".

It's not exactly light work, and that's one of the better songs. Also not bad are the two-stepping, reggae-accented "Tomorrow's Here Today", an ode to a newborn baby, and the relatively nuanced, agreeable "7' Sensei". Both songs feature chugging staccato guitar rhythms and simple keyboard stabs that, when combined with Ford's husky delivery, sound like New Wave, but more in the vein of Martha Davis' Motels than Debbie Harry's Blondie.

Then there are a couple moody, "alternative"-type numbers. "Solstice Rite" is the kind of song title that really should have been put on the shelf for good when Windam Hill-type New Age music went out of style in the mid-'90s. The song itself is built on whispy, twinkling electric piano and is reminiscent of Radiohead or maybe My Morning Jacket, as is the kalliope-flavored "Don't Stop Dreaming".

No, those song titles don’t get any more subtle or less clichéd, and the songs don't get any better. "Blood Is the Brine" is the nadir, four-plus minutes of overblown ring modulation that is every bit as distasteful as you might think. But other tracks are not far behind. Just as Albumin doesn't know what it wants to be, some of these songs can't find their way, either. For example, the seven-minute "I Got Sol" goes from roadhouse blues to Memphis soul-with-an-"L" to full-on noodly prog to gentle, smoky balladry. Not in a Can or Gong way, either, but more in a Heart-meets-Queen-in-a-bad-ideas-seminar way.

If there is any kind of meaning at all to be gleaned from Albumin, it's that Celebration do not really sound like much of anything else around at the moment. While a lot of current indie music has gone soft and fuzzy, this is unrepentant and in-your-face. With another respected, hip label like Bella Union behind it, maybe Albumin will be the breakthrough the Ford and Antanaitis have been seeking for over a decade now. Probably not, though.

4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.