Rhythm & Views 

The Velvet Teen

On this, The Velvet Teen's third full-length, the trio folds chaotic rhythms and impressionistic splashes of melody around some lovely, though thoroughly miserable, pop songs.

To frame his acerbic convulsions of heartache and eccentric observation, singing and songwriting visionary Judah Nagler--sounding for all the world like an art-school version of Jeff Buckley--seems just as comfortable building melody lines with electric piano, synthesizer or organ as with electric guitar. Casey Dietz drums with the hyperactive intensity of an over-caffeinated Keith Moon, while bassist Josh Staples pushes and pulls the rhythms like a nimble, jazz-fueled elephant.

The Velvet Teen's scattershot approach, best displayed on the feedback-laden "333" and the rambunctious "Rhodekill," veers between electronica, math rock and prog rock with a sense of undisciplined creativity. Think Portugal, The Man and Minus the Bear indulging together in a bit of some IDM.

There is a sense of calm at the center of this trio's storms, but nevertheless, one is tempted to wish that Nagler and company would limit their ideas to just a few per song.

Near the close of the album, the band explores almost-straightforward pop arrangements on the obsessive love song "Around the Roller Rink" and "Gyzmkid" (from the EP of the same name), on which Nagler plays extended dizzying guitar vortices that call to mind the spirit, if not the actual sound, of Neil Young's famous distortion on "Like a Hurricane."

More by Gene Armstrong


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