Review: Genre-spanning dissonance and electronic mayhem captured in 2016 record

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photo by ashton, taken on May 2nd, 2016, some rights reserved, (license link) http://bit.ly/1mhaR6e, (original link to work)https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4394403413/in/photolist-7Gjt36-7GjrBP-7FmPor-7FmLBP-7FmR3F-7Gjirr-7Gj4Ap-7GjwZe-7GocXC-7Go6mm-7Gjfnr-7GjoK8-7Gj7AM-66KqEm-dcx8vT-CMMyUp-qrc4jL-bsXW9f-66Fa8k-66FaRV-66FaJx-66KrZq-66Faoi-66Kseq-7FmTmt-5xvRHM-96Yvgt-66FaMH-bCDAo2-c636Wm-oa81Me-orwp2h-GdXaTR-jd1bTU-oa6Smw-r4UW2n-mSYDiZ-orgAxT-f92sSu-fwyF1q-AzAFQy-a9cRV-mqQFep-jym8t7-6G3qAf-e1v2aR-D9BtuM-EKgAgr-BXuu4k-kEnZ7B

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When people say genre-spanning I feel like they rarely mean it with sincerity. I’ve listened to far too many folk musicians that claim that they transcend genre, while most are pretty indistinguishable and, at their most inventive, are merely punk imitators. Alternative rock, a genre that is supposed to be characterized as having alternative music, is now simply a catch-all for every type of rock music that imitates classic rock or punk to any degree. Its homogenous all the same. So, when I find a record that truly does forgo genre and exist as a piece of art that successfully melds it’s influences together it’s a nice treat. Radiohead’s Kid A is probably one of the best examples of this, and it’s what I kept thinking about when I listened to the Drones’ new album, Feelin Kinda Free.

I would best describe this record as noise rock. The opening chords on the wailing stage show piece, “Private Execution”, are dissonant from the get-go. Their disjointed nature makes their intentions clear, and this doesn’t end. One can listen to this first track and get a pretty clear idea on whether or not this record is for them, despite the fact that it expands into so much more later on: tonality does exist, but when it does it hardly relevant. Electronic backdrops exist as the foundation of almost every track, allowing other instrumentals to be layered and layered relentlessly on top of them. The result is tracks that feel as dense and confusing as they are interesting.

The length and lyrical content isn’t anything new for the Drones. Their previous release, I See Seaweed, certainly focused on lengthy excursions and experimentation, but not to the same degree. Or in the same vein, even. What struck me, especially on tracks like “Then They Came For Me” and “Boredom” is the beat-focused, almost rapping vocals. It certainly isn’t rap-rock. It’s noise, rap, electronica, choral pop – all wrapped up into one package.

Feelin Kinda Free is no Kid A, but it does leave a similar impression on how it was invented. I imagine the Drones spent hours in front of a computer putting this thing through the wringer over and over, reinventing and rerecording, conjoining various fragments until tracks like the raucous, incredible closer, “Shut Down SETI”, become verifiable Frankenstein’s monsters. Having listened to it probably five times, it certainly won’t be something that I listen to forever. It’s messy, and sometimes seems like the focus isn’t always there. One or two of the tracks have apparently left no impact on my memory, even, but the catchy jingle “Taman Shud” and the choral explosion “To Think That I Once Loved You”, as well as the finale, are songs that I can see myself returning to a long time to come. In the end, the first song is certainly worth a listen. It may be a surprise.