BoxTar AGGRESSOR

[Self-Released; 2019]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: acoustic, electronic, lo-fi
Others: big T-shirt, Strumming Music

This missive begins in medias res. Phrases coalesce barely, portamenti suspended overhead like jealous gnats. A few isolated chords appear, and then a meandering tide of conflicting rhythms. For AGGRESSOR, BoxTar’s latest, it’s an uneven outset, an imprecise science compounded by a seemingly fractured creativity.

And so we are introduced at a lower, mellower point in what initially feels like a standard musical narrative. But AGGRESSOR is hardly standard. Reflecting a musical interest pregnant with ideas, rapid-fire digressions elevate BoxTar’s instrumental formula beyond mere navel-gaze, ultimately lending weight to whisper-shouted mysteries.

Discursive in nature, the record alternates jarringly between dissonant chamber-folk and a more brazen, nosier, crazier brand of experimental electronicism. Consider the break from “Leaf Blower1 (I’m Apathy)” to “A Good Time to Be In the Womb,” the former a pig-on-the-wing to the latter’s tonic-clonic explosiveness; mute strums become burgeoning drums, as the sequence and change-up reflects a jump from swish insula to break beat-heavy street-turf.

And so “A Good Time” and its introductory statement together make for the record’s standout moment. It’s AGGRESSOR at its most considered, and no other sketch here quite lives up to its promise or example. So I can’t help but wish there were more experiments in this vein, even if at the expense of the record’s brevity.

The remainder of the sketches are more muted. “Torn Stump,” for example, with its gentle arpeggi, recapitulates and foreshadows strums to come. The “Leaf Blower” series seem to be different takes of a similar idea. And while all these are interesting by way of their seemingly improvised and freewheeling nature, they best exist as a necessary contrast to the tighter, more fully-explored electronic expositions.

There are a number of good ideas here, and the sketches all play nice together. There’s enough variety to keep things exciting. Despite this, there’s little element of surprise. There are moments that feel too safe or, alternately, aimless. AGGRESSOR may either be a collection of demos or something more complete. Intentional or not, it’s sometimes difficult to tell.

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