Thee More Shallows Book of Bad Breaks

[Anticon; 2007]

Styles: orchestral post-pop
Others: Why?, Odd Nosdam, Restiform Bodies

Some people are just meant to be together. Fate twists in simple and labyrinthine ways. Two children living less than a mile apart, unknown to each other, eventually collide in a static cloud of sparks and kindling romance. So goes the story of Thee More Shallows and Anticon, Californian experimenters who took destiny’s sweet time to converge.

Follow me now: Leftfield indie music being an ellipsis on the sunshiny coast; Thee More Shallows, a band planted originally in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District and coming from a varied instrument-based background, are a line connecting vertices; Anticon, a collective based around Oakland and the Bay Area with decidedly rap-centric origins, are a line connecting co-vertices; witness as these two lines cross at the (0,0) center on the graph, the musical landscape, the saturated amphitheater pooling all underground tributaries. Thee More Shallows seem as though they were always intended to flood through Anticon’s roster — a rising of Lake Merritt.

Looking out the window on the BART, one sees a dry cleaning establishment. Bar soap smudged on the window reads: “ALTERATIONS AND REPAIRS.” Thee More Shallows fit like a dexterous hand in a one-size-fits-all glove: snug. No alterations are needed in this equation — no simplifying, no hems, no buttons to stitch, no strings hanging free, no stretched and over-starched collars. The two outfits are a match made in heaven, and heaven is cleanliness.

With a motto such as “Young, dumb, and full of come,” we realize credos are of the same mindset. Corrugated and galvanized drum breaks remind us of Nosdam; awkward and quirky singing is reminiscent of Yoni Wolf. The sounds are murky, and then intensify. Post-apocalyptic muck and digital drivel, outer space splattering of dark matter, Mattel and Fisher Price toy instrument sets: it’s all here, and it’s all in accordance with Anticon’s aesthetic. (Not to say Anticon hazed Thee More Shallows into conforming. As I have stated repeatedly, this was a fortuitous collision.)

It becomes apparent after listening to this album a few times that the Book of Bad Breaks is actually a lost scripture, where a seldom string or horn will emerge at the end of a song, clear, clarified, and un-manipulated. Thee More Shallows throw their tones and notes through the grinder, smack them with fallen girders, and subject them to girls screeching as if they’re being gored. They work within limits, succinct in their style. They don’t overdo experiments. Bunsen burners don’t burst. They’ve arrived at where they are naturally, through a series of well-handled accidents. The same could be said for how they ended up on the Anticon commune. God-bless.

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