Icy Demons Tears of a Clone

[Eastern Developments; 2006]

Styles: a mélange of influences
Others: Bablicon, Man Man, Need New Body, Frank Zappa

The Chicago/Philly duo Icy Demons, comprised of producer and Bablicon member Griffin Rodriguez and former Need New Body and current Man Man drummer Chris Powell, demonstrate an astounding ability to seamlessly blend a mélange of influences, ranging from jazz and electronic music to African rhythms and Zappa-isms, into some of the most affecting songs I've heard in many a year. These boys have, to put it bluntly, dropped a whopper of a record.

At any point in the record's tight half-hour running time, you might be confronted with anything from a goofy but oddly rocking theme song for some ill-conceived children's TV show ("Golden Coin"), to a white hot blast of musique-concrete mixed with the sounds of a disintegrating aerobics workout tape ("Vibes, Sweat, What's That?"), to quirky electro-pop spilt from the womb of a Commodore 64 ("This Is It!"), to some spacey, spy-themed pop ("The Jumpoff," "Mr. Squeezy," "As It Comes"). While the duo's sonic vocabulary is nothing short of staggering, it's what they do with their unique language that's so impressive.

A diverse array of instruments (vibraphone, woodwind, strings, melodica, classical guitars, and exotic percussion all make appearances) collides with Rodriguez's distinctive, phlegm-riddled voice and Powell's jazz-informed drum chops to forge a thoroughly unique style. With opener "The Jumpoff" (not a cover of the Lil' Kim of the same name, much to my dismay), Tears of a Clone packs a wallop from the outset. Offering electro-noise, blazing Rhodes piano work, jazz-inflected rhythms, and a vibraphone-propelled melody that manages to be both sexy and surreal, "The Jumpoff" is the kind of song you want to take a bite out of. Later on, with its delicately blown clarinet that performs the song's principal melody and the downright lovely strings that lace the chorus, "Bunny's" is achingly beautiful.

Hard as it may be for me to choose, my personal favorite Icy Demons jam might be "Mr. Squeezy." With its lush arrangement and winding melodies, the song was the perfect accompaniment to my getting lost in Chicago's O'Hare Airport the other week. The song's gorgeous melodies carry some tremendously cryptic lyrics ("In this cave/ I live with my dear friend/ And it's a snake") that could be interpreted as anything from a psychosexual drama ("She sees a snake/ And begins to cry") to a harrowing tale of one man's inability to cope with intimacy. But perhaps I'm reading too far into a song about a pet.

Your older brother might have called this post-rock (think Tortoise and Trans Am, not Godspeed or Mogwai), but I'd call Tears of a Clone one of the best records of the year.

1. The Jumpoff
2. Mr. Squeezy
3. This Is It!
4. Bunny's
5. Golden Coin
6. Trial By Lasers
7. Vibes, Sweat, What's That?
8. The Only
9. As It Comes
10. The Flea Garden

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