Since the release of Cinnamon Aluminum’s 2010 debut album, Mad Monty in the 8th Dimension of Nine, the Buffalo trio have proved to be a music writer’s wet dream. Their unique and seemingly effortless re-configuration of all the right strands of experimental indie/rock into a throbbing acid-drenched soundtrack transports hard-to-please listeners to a place they’re always hoping to go, but can seldom find a ride to.
And while the group’s first album–and ensuing EP Holdin’ It Up–proved to be sufficient vehicles for taking listeners on that trip, their new album, We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit, marks the first time that the band provides first-class accommodation to all those ready to undertake the journey. What is the name of this dementedly humorous and scifi-infused virtual destination where psychedelic characters like Mad Monty and a tripping robot roam freely, you ask? Perhaps the name of their label, Level 4 Activated, is more than the name a simply a label . . .
Regardless, Cinnamon Aluminum doesn’t get by just because they have the right influences. In fact, they even manage to dip into the wells of lamer musical genres like trance and jam band—as on “Eighteen Four (End of the Robot’s Dream)”—without getting cornered by the inherent corniness of those sounds. Instead, it’s as if the trio is dropping into these worlds for a brief moment to show the musicians who never leave it how it is done before zooming along to the next world.
This should come as no surprise considering the collision of influences that occur across their three releases. When the band’s three multi-instrumentalist members–Zach Acard (aka Kid On Purpose), Chris Svoboda (aka Kristachuwan), and Mike Schroeder (aka Milk Soda)–put their heads together, their sound takes on shades of Devo, Zappa, Panda Bear/Animal Collective, Of Montreal, Atlas Sound, P-Funk, and Kraftwerk, to name a few of the more obvious.
The song “Swing Swar” is reminiscent of the saturated wall-of-sound that Canadian producer David Newfeld pioneered with Broken Social Scene on albums like You Forgot it In People; a swollen sound field punctuated by frantic, but subtle electronic whirring and buzzing at the edges that creates a sonic foundation that is felt, as opposed to simply heard. On top of this, Cinnamon Aluminum rests crisp, treble-heavy guitars, tightly wound and tense drum patterns, and chanting vocals that sound like they were recorded in the Grand Canyon.
Another highlight is “When I Was You,” which melds the grimy horn-fueled electro of Beck’s Odelay period with modulated disco synths, which then ends in a spectacular duel between Svoboda’s fluttering saxophone and a lone syncopated synth.
The highlight of the album, though, is no doubt its anthemic centerpiece “Forest of Leisure.” This densely layered electronic track is anchored by a funky groove that slowly morphs alongside shimmering melodic flourishes. This is also where the vocal-trading duties of Schroeder and Acard realize their full potential. The ‘he’s tripping/I’m tripping/we’re tripping‘ call-and-response between the two is musically as good as it gets and also perfectly captures the exhilaration of a collaborative hallucinogenic adventure.
Regardless of the sci-fi narrative or concept that underlies We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit, it seems that the entire album–and everything else that the three members of the group do under the banner of Level 4 Activated–is in the spirit of a collaborative hallucinogenic adventure. Fortunately, they record those adventures so that the rest of us can tag along.
NOTE: Cinnamon Aluminum will be in studio for this week’s episode of The Upstate Soundscape to play tracks off of We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit. Tune in at 10pm on Wednesday night (4/18) to 91.3 FM WBNY. Stream at WBNY.org.
Also, Cinnamon Aluminum will be having an album release party on 4/20 (of course) at the Vault. More info here.
1) Lucky Dragons, “Exsisters,” Exsisters
2) Lesley Flanigan, “Sleepy”
3) Digital Dog Party, “Your Heart Gave Fuzz”
4) The Cubes, “Pacifique Live Improvisation”
5) Spurgeasaurus, “Working Title (Active Ingredient)”
6) Cloud Becomes Your Hand, “Rootabega Pigeons,” S/T 7) Beef Terminal, “Empty Beach,” Humidex
8) Ghost Father, “Shrift”
9) Cinnamon Aluminum, “Forest of Leisure,” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
10) Tristan Perich, “Interface,” string quartet, 4-channel 1-bit electronic
11) Kirk Starkey, “Hidden I Nocturne,” Little Gidding
12) Matthew Ship, “Alternative Aspects,” Elastic Aspects
13) TJ Borden, “Contractions”
14) Salem:1976, “Everything is Going to Be OK”
15) Totem Pole, “Improvisatoin # 2,” Live at the Vault March 14, 2012
16) Jookla Duo and Bill Nace, “Scratch Here,” Scratch
Cinnamon Aluminum, 'Holdin' It Up' (Level 4 Activated)
Oscillating between a bourbon-drenched bar crawl to a psychedelic confection, the songs on Cinnamon Aluminum’s EP Holdin’ It Up–the follow-up to 2010’s crazy-as-hell Mad Monty in the 8th Dimension of Nine–are delivered in a relaxed manner that belies the complexity behind their composition.
The complexity is easy to account for considering that the members of the band, all multi-instrumentalists, are also involved in active solo pursuits. Zach Acard mans the psycho-electronic Kid on Purpose, while Chris Svoboda chases similar sounds as Kristachuwan, and frontman Mike Schroeder does his thing under the Milk Soda guise. All three projects, along with their joint Cinnamon Aluminum venture, are under the banner of Buffalo’s Level 4 Activated label.
Holdin’ It Up begins with the title track, a refreshing, energetic David Essex-sounding anthem that even includes some unexpected neighborhood boasting with Schoreder growling, “This is where I come from.” The second track, “Who Told You You Could Do Dat?” finds the guys venturing into Tom Waits territory with Schroeder doing a fairly convincing impression of the iconic singer.
The versatility of these musicians, however, is perhaps best demonstrated with “Upon My Horsh.” The song begins with a stuttering digital intro that then breaks down brilliantly into an Asian-influenced string rhythm, followed by a subtle chant that builds up to a shimmery electro-pop hook. In general, guitars and synth-pads play to different emotional tones on the EP, at times wistful, and at other times defiant and bold, all the while bringing in layers of what sound like mechanical whirrs and cosmic-themed samples. On top of it all is Schroeder’s woozy and raw lead vocals that often contrast with the rich, velvety vibe of horn-accented tracks.
Cinnamon Aluminum’s claim that this EP was designed to hold us over until their next LP, We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit, comes out in 2012. Fair to say it does that and more.
Chris, Mike, and Zach are still working on their next full-length album, We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit, but they’ve put out this little nugget to hold us over in the meantime.
As usual, the Level 4 Activated boys are all over the place stylistically. “Upon My Horshe” sounds like Japaneses shinto, while “Who Told You You Could Do Dat?” is a fairly convincing foray into Tom Waits territory.
As per usual with this Buffalo trio, its pretty cool shit.
Cinnamon Aluminum’s new full length album We Ate The Wrong Crab Spirit is slated for a early 2012 release.
1) Ay Fast, “Chirped Off That,” Always Crying (Schematic)
2) He Can Jog, “Burn (Hey Exit Remix),” Norwood, Wisconsin (Nomadic Kids Republic)
3) Sculpture, “Glome Organ,” Toad Blinker (Dekorder)
4) Astral Social Club, “Breaker,” Generator Breaker (Dekorder)
5) Jeff Repeater, “Seventh Sense Final Decision”
6) Bob Ohrum, “Last Breath Before,” All Around Me (Relaxed Machinery)
7) Chris Carter, “Moonlight (Oneohtrix Point Never Version)” (Optimo Music)
8) Le Berger, “Under the Bridge (Not Downtown),” On Silence (Feedback Loop Label)
9) Jasper TX, “Weight of Days,” The Black Sun Transmissions (Fang Bomb)
10) Steve Hauschildt, “Polyhymnia,” Tragedy & Geometry (Kranky)
11) Hunting Rituals, “Brooding Forest,” Brooding Forest (Ecstatic Peace)
12) Century Plants, “Electrics,” Live in Buffalo @ Soundlab, 11/11/07 (House of Alchemy)
13) Output:NOISE “Pica,” A Soundtrack to the DSM-IV (Ouput:NOISE)
14) Mandala Channel, “Untitled”
15) Cinnamon, Aluminum, “Ready for Gerald,” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
16 Russian Circles, “Praise Be Man,” Empros (Sargent House)