Bulbs Light Ships

[Freedom to Spend; 2008]

Styles: experimental electronic, noise, casio-core
Others: Axolotl, Gert-Jan Prins, Kemialliset Ystävät, Otomo Yoshihide, Dan Friel

Bulbs is a new duo comprising former Axolotl drummer William Sabiston and guitarist Jon Almaraz. Released on ex-Yellow Swans member Pete Swanson's new label, Freedom to Spend, Light Ships traffics in a screechy, broken sort of electro-acoustic noise, flirting with song structure and formless improvisation. Theirs is an ugly, spackled sonic palette that weds keening shards of guitar, prepared piano, and glockenspiel sounds with furry drum machine grime. With this garish coupling, they veer tantalizingly close to pretty melodies and sensuous textures without fully capitulating to coherence.

Opener “Gold Ropes” is an angsty 10-minute manifesto that seems to announce the group as fiercely anarchic; later tracks evince a less dogmatic position vis-à-vis pop conventions. Granulated ditties like “The Green Flash” align them more closely with Dan Friel than Rune Grammofon. “Light Ships,” for example, sustains a relatively consistent, albeit disorienting meter and allows an abused little keyboard theme to drown in agreeable circumstances. Meanwhile, “Stickfadeins” is one of the most subdued pieces here. Its drum-circle-in-a-garbage-disposal vibe is reminiscent of Finnish group Kemialliset Ystävät or even Konono N°1.

After a cataclysmic departure, Light Ships bucks and vanishes through some terribly stormy patches and occasionally finds stiller waters that fool the listener into thinking its creators’ aim is entertainment. It’s as intriguing as it is unpolished, which is to say, quite.

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