Dymaxion Dymaxion x 4 + 3 = 38:33

[Roomtone; 2001]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: retro-future soundtrack, lo-fi, experimental
Others: Pram, Stereolab, RJD2

Um, helLOOOOO?? Where was everybody on this one? Why did it take a fleeting mention of Dymaxion on Amazon for me to find out about them? Why does their name garner nothing but blank stares? How have their praises not been sung loudly for years? When does Dymaxion get their turn? If earlier this decade they had been given the attention they so deserved, we might be breathlessly anticipating a sophomore or...uh, junior full-length. Instead, we haven't heard from them in four years, and are left with little more than this, a seemingly posthumous collection of EP’s, Dymaxion × 4 + 3 = 38:33. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

How did this happen? It's pretty baffling. It wouldn't be, if they had simply been dismissed by critics as ‘too gimmicky’ (a complaint certain to have been issued), leaving behind them a continually debated legitimacy and some cult followers. But they don't seem to have been received in any way at all. Truly surprising, once you hear their music, that people could have just plain ignored them. Yet this is the case.

Dymaxion are primarily sample-based, a fact given away as much by the crackling vinyl as by the looping snare beats and oscilloscope bleeps. It's often said what they do are '60s spy/sci-fi soundtracks, but this is a limiting description. True, when Dymaxion are at their most vivid, you picture a caricatured, dreamlike world of men in trench coats, fedoras and sunglasses exchanging briefcases, eye-patched villains racing along Californian bluffs in black, gizmo-laden Aston Martins, and disheveled mad scientists throwing large switches and animating limbs. This is no doubt intentional, and impressive when you consider that, contrary to what you might expect, they achieve this without the use of movie dialog.

But rather than merely recreating soundtracks, Dymaxion use this imagery as a medium for their damaged, mathy, two-minute experiments. Take the highly abstract “Mme Commander,” for example: a single, muted guitar note keeps tempo while a humming distortion swells in the background and a confused Shaggs snare beats away, interrupted every two measures by a duplicated tone. Things get noisier and eventually give way to three surf-rock chords and some similarly monotonous cello strokes, only to return to the main theme again. This experimentation is the real essence of Dymaxion, purely incarnated by the more complex “Sm Head, Lg Torso; Crushing Grip” and “Why? Why Do I Bum Around?”, but lurking in every corner of the tracks.

In truth, this may have been the perfect fate for Dymaxion. My earlier mention of two or three LP's is actually a little unthinkable. Though exciting, Dymaxion’s efforts are precisely focused, and probably couldn’t sustain more than these EP's; Intonarumori, their final EP (not included here), feels a bit excessive. Even this collection begins to get tiresome. But it is essential to remember that Dymaxion were not intended to be taken in such large doses, and these facts in no way diminish the importance of the material presented here. It submerges us in a uniquely anachronistic landscape, and the world of music is a little more complete for it.

1. Aha, Sissy Arsonist
2. Ant'lrd Ally
3. Gebrauchmusik
4. Cognitive Dissonance Penitentiary
5. The Critic's Darling
6. Mme Commander
7. ???
8. I-Man Transport
9. Verfremdungseffekt
10. Sm Head, Lg Torso; Crushing Grip
11. Incidental
12. Use Once and Destroy
13. Mice in Drain
14. Why? Why Do I Bum Around?
15. Constant Idle System
16. Chase Scene w/Transistor Radio
17. The Haunted Radio
18. U.S. 80s, 90s