Bulbs Color Attic

[Shelter Press; 2016]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: psych, drone, impressionist pop, mellow/nervous
Others: Dome, early Sun Araw, Peaking Lights, Black Dice, Wolf Eyes, Excepter, Spencer Clark

What’s the occasion for Bulbs? It’s been eight years since they treated us with the solid plate of mustily luxuriant mush that was Light Ships on Pete Swanson’s Freedom to Spend label. We called it messy and engaging in equal measure, and we gave it a solid rating. Often the points that separate a solid LP from a great one plainly spring from whether or not there is a big finish. It’s discouraging when non-linear art not only fails to leave an impression, but nearly causes one to forget about the great impressions it had made earlier in the presentation. The last couple tracks on Light Ships may be texturally rich noodlers, but they also feel like pieces of something else stretched out to be a whole, like intriguing interludes rather than the idiosyncratic overtures needed to make us clamor for whatever might be next down the road.

Noise geniuses going pop should be exciting, not deflating. Lethargy and drift may be the dominant flavor William Sabiston and Jon Almaraz are slinging in 2016, but even hungover psych lope needs some intrigue. Almost a decade later, the smoke has cleared on Bulbs, and they now read as more couch than human. Even if one sees those decorative buttons and pretends that they’re piercing eyes locking you in a gaze, it’s still just a couch: easy to sit on, easy to sleep on. Color Attic’s four tracks amble around with nowhere to go and nothing to express. It almost plays like a rickety analog Loscil EP, particularly on formal closer “Yoke.” One can (and by all means should) just zone out and enjoy these dank, viscous spaces, but people are doing much more intriguing things with similar aesthetic ingredients.

While a welcome minimal psych diversion, this material doesn’t quite make up for the hiatus. They merely extend what kept the previous album from giving them some crucial momentum. But there is nonetheless an occasion for Color Attic. It’s too squelchy for bedtime, too twitchy for meditation, and too flat for inside-looking-out headphone commute music. It’s really a 20-minute soundtrack to a certain kind of grey early morning:

You don’t wanna be cheered. You don’t wanna feel sad. You aren’t that interested in feeling anything. You push down your toast, dump your beans in the grinder, and stare out the window in a rudimentary stupor. You read the news without retention. You eat without appetite. You feel the caffeine’s effect, but you are a stranger to focus. You numbly envision yourself as a malfunctioning utilitarian entity. You feel something like relief, but that could just be your digestive system kicking into gear. This recognition makes you stare at the bit of you reflected in the window with suspicion.

This occasion doesn’t last long, and it is barely worth recounting, but it nonetheless is. In this vein, Bulbs have fashioned four sound tracks to mild entropy — that faint chamber where the unassuming turns disengaging. While a counterintuitive approach to releasing music can make for a surprising listening, I’m still hoping the duo adds some scald to this lukewarm science and makes good on the anti-sedentary, arrhythmic slashing promise of their debut.

Links: Shelter Press

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