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.
Review by Taylor Waite
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.