1) Ducktails, “On the Boardwalk,” Landscapes (Olde English Spelling Bee)
2) (technical difficulties)
3) ProEf, “Slow Motion Through My Window,” All Eye Know (Outnorot)
4) Skeleton Zoo, “Devil’s Lettuce,” The Busride EP 5) Ay Fast, “Little Big Parent,” Always Crying (Schematic)
6) Oneohtrix Point Never, “Sleep Dealer,” Replica (Mexican Summer)
7) Sculpture, “Bonus Level,” Toad Blinker (Dekorder)
8) Cinnamon Aluminum, “New Couch,” (Level 4 Activated)
9) Cinnamon Aluminum, “Ma Cyberface,” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activate)
10) Cinnamon Aluminum, “Forest of Leisure,” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
11) Cinnamon Aluminum, “Porn,” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
12)Cinnamon Aluminum, “Poppin Squirrels,” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
13)Cinnamon Aluminum, “When I Was You,”We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
14) Cinnamon Aluminum, “Eighteen-Four (The Ending of a Robot’s Dream),” We Ate the Wrong Crab Spirit (Level 4 Activated)
15) Cinnamon Aluminum and Mike ‘Yes-Yes’ Ersing, “Is You Me (Holy)”
16) Gang Gang Dance, “Glass Jar,” Eye Contact (4AD)
17) Kid on Purpose, “The Jungis”
18) Toro y Moi, “Freakin Out,” Freaking Out EP 19) LCD Soundsystem, “Home,” This is Happening (DFA)
20) David Byrne and Brian Eno, “Jezebel Spirit” My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Sire)
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.
Tonight at The Vault Level 4 Activated will be hosting an art show. On display will be a new DVD from Kristachuwan called Pterodactyl Fish, a collaborative mural by Chris Svoboda and Mike Schroeder and a preview of upcoming releases by Cinnamon Aluminum and Kid on Purpose.
Before hearing the new stuff by Kid on Purpose, why not check out his first album from 2009, Polyamory.
Malaria Control will also be on hand tonight for a performance featuring Jeff Repeater.
1) Velvet Elvis, “Where’s Your Marlboro Man Now?” No Rules in the Wasteland (cae-sur-a)
2) SlowPitch, “Teary-Eyed Bird Watcher”
3) Orphx, “Signal to Noise,” Circuitbreaking (Hymen)
4) Katastrophic, “Refigure (Mark Kloud Remix)”
5) Kristachuwan, “Rurricane Helics”
6) Kid on Purpose, “Saul Solemnly Searching his Soul on the Surface of the Sun,” Diffusion Tensor (Level 4 Activated)
7) Skeleton Zoo, “Broken Sky Welder”
8) Sink/Sink, “Astronavt,” The Darkest Dark Goes (Feedback Loop Label)
9) Occult Modem Setting, “Submit (Directly to Chef),” Compression Artifacts
10) Todd Peck, “Daze Away” Adirondack Ocean
11) Kevin Hume, “Love is a Feeling,” Out of Nowhere – Electro-Acoustic Music from the Upstate Fringe 12) University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio, “Inferno” Electronic Music 13) Bent Spoon Duo, “B,” Price of Darkness (House of Alchemy)
14) KG Price with T. Andrew Trump, “Pulmonary Import”
15) Off the International Radar, “Critical Mass,” OTIR 003
16) Women, “Eye Sore,” Public Strain (Jagjaguwar)
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.