Grime-synth soul meets puppetry in the weird world of Quintron & Miss Pussycat.
Quintron is not one to kowtow to the fads of contemporary pop music. Any semblance of fashion in his music seems either coincidental or ahead of its time. That's not say his music doesn't sometimes seem hip or adversative. But in contrast to the modern music scene, it does seem like Quintron is constructing this stuff in a vacuum. It's a weird and mad vacuum, but on his latest album it doesn't sound like it's weird just for the sake of being contrary.
Swamp Tech is a joyous affair of grime dance minimalism. Along with his muse Miss Pussycat, Quintron churns out kick-ass grooves that are something like the crunk of the underground rock 'n' soul scene. Natives of the Big Easy at the time of the album's recording (like thousands of others, they're now homeless), they really succeed at transposing the raw, enchanting feeling of the southeastern United States. It's alternately gaudy and sinister, and entirely infectious. Quintron, the baddest one-man band in America, is sure to move your ass and make you laugh.
Songs about Madison Squirrel Gardens, a cover of KISS's "God of Thunder", and titles like "Fly Like a Rat" and "Love Is Like a Blob", converge to make this boogie-down production consistently entertaining. But wait, have I mentioned that the music is accompanied by a Miss Pussycat puppet show, featuring Lolly Crawfish and Cinnamon the Alligator? And somehow, in the hands of Quintron and Miss Pussycat, all this psychedelic eccentricity doesn't come off forced.
Self-styled "weird" music is often prone to an air of contrivance or overcompensation. Like with a couple who starts playing dominatrix in the bedroom after 20 years of marriage, one has to wonder, are they doing it because they love it or are they just bored? It doesn't mean the sex can't be enjoyable, but the disposable conceit of fads can often leave a bitter taste. In Quintron's case this is his ninth album; he instigated the Chicago noise scene in the '90s and now he's composing grime dance puppet show soundtracks. Miraculously, Swamp Tech comes off more like madcap enthusiasm than restless experimentation.
This allegory of sincerity versus restlessness stretches to the receptor too. Music fans are just as guilty as the artists of binge and purge. Punk got boring at 16, Krautrock lost its sheen after college, and now that I'm 30, well, I only listen to Mongolian thrash house. From Playboy to hardcore midget porn, what constitutes maturation is easily confused with touristy fetishism. In other words, did I love Liars' They Were Wrong, So We Drowned because the creepy witchtronica really got to me, or have I just listened to enough post-punk to drown Carlos D? Well hopefully we're not too jaded to sincerely enjoy a good ol' fashion puppet gospel-bop show. Swamp Tech is a nifty little album, and despite the high concept accoutrements it thrives thanks to low-tech simplicity. It was recorded live in a single session, through a two-track mixing board. Quintron plays a custom-built organ and simultaneously operates a drum machine and his Drum Buddy invention (a kind of light bulb-charged synth crossed with a DJ turntable). Meanwhile, Miss Pussycat sings and plays maracas. This unrefined approach is fertile ground for the songs to burrow into your soul. Reminiscent of another strange duo's stripped-down means, Quintron and Miss Pussycat trim off the fat and turn in an oddly compelling dance record.
(Note: The DVD portion of this release, "Electric Swamp", was not made available on date of article publication. Clips of the incredible dream sequence are now streaming at their web site.)