Picture if you will: New York City at approximately 1:30 a.m. the day before Halloween. You've got your black trench coat with the collar folded up, your bag swung over your shoulder, your disc-man in one of your many pockets. You pull your hat down low over your eyes and adjust your headphones. Stepping off the stoop of your apartment, you head downtown to investigate who's already celebrating the Day of the Dead (You're a little too nervous to actually participate the day of.). You hit Play and face the wind, ducking your head, and walking to the beat of the music in your ears. Woven's debut full length 8 Bit Monk should be that music. All the components are there for that semi-creepy, half-scary trek through the heart of the city: a steady drum 'n' bassy beat to stride and nod your head to, the odd instrumental accompaniment of a sitar, and of course a plethora of blips and hiccups from various synthesizers and samples. Add the strained and haunting vocals of singer/guitarist/programmer Ory Hodis, and a few crunchy guitar riffs, and not only do you have a unique pop-electronica combo, but you've also got the perfect late night companion for your walk.
Upon leaving your apartment, you're bombarded by track one, "Pillage" -- a raucous and crooked introduction, courtesy of a sitar sample and some fancy rhythms. On this first track and, in fact, throughout the rest of the album Woven's rhythm section composes seriously dark and dirty beats to go along with Hodis' Perry Ferrell-esque howl.
You walk beneath flickering street lights and porn shop signs during "I Want You Yesterday", thinking about that girl/guy you've seen at the bar a few nights in a row. "I can't stop thinkin' all the time / I want you yesterday / Take it away / I won't bite you". Creepy? Yes. Sexy creepy? Most definitely. The riff in this song possesses the same slick swagger of a few tracks off U2's Achtung Baby.
"I Want You Yesterday" runs right into the next track "Astral Low", during which the vocals go from barely contained angst to uninhibited ferocity. Between verses, a static-ridden voice screams, "I can't stand it!" Better hope you're in a well lit part of town for this one. The herky-jerky rhythms and desperate vocals easily conjure up shadowy stalkers and reasons to look over your shoulder.
After such a powerful, high-speed start, the album doesn't seem to have anywhere else to go but down. The first half is so fast-paced and forward moving that track six, "Soul Fossa", is a necessary cool down. Maybe now you're sitting in a bar, watching people go by, safely behind glass. Unfortunately this brief respite turns into a longer stay. The album begins to drag at this point, coming down off its original kinetic high. The beats and lyrics dissolve into slower, sloppier versions of the first few tracks on the album.
As you're nearing the end of your jaunt through the city, track 10, "Trepanation," keeps you company with the reassurance, "I still have my skin". The docile beat and guitar riff let you know you've weathered all the scary-scaries that New York has to offer, and have made it with all parts intact. And the last track basically sees you straight to bed, with dreamy guitars and vocals. "Flickering lights / It was worth the time".
8 Bit Monk is definitely worth several listens. Combining electronic rhythms, rock guitars, and artfully poppy vocals, Woven create a unique mix of Massive Attack, Jane's Addiction, and Pink Floyd. Naturally, the band's not as celebrated as any of their influences; however, those influences are honored with skill. Woven have a long way to go. I'm looking forward to the development of this sound.