Women Women

[Flemish Eye; 2008]

Styles: lo-fi, noise pop, tape hiss savant
Others: Chad VanGaalen, The Velvet Underground, Animal Collective

In a world where indie pop has become akin to mainstream rap in its reused production techniques and niche band-imaging, Calgary’s Women sound even more ahead of the game. Finally a band that doesn’t feed you any bullshit about “seamlessly integrating genres” or have a press photo of themselves pissing on an amp in their plaid hunting caps. By sticking to lo-fidelity production while still carefully calculating every triple-layered guitar line and noise hiss, Women’s debut album is a much needed refocusing of indie-pop.

When the bloggers went nuts a few months ago about the single “Black Rice,” little did they know this was only a small piece in an already small puzzle. Women is less than 30 minutes long and is laden with enough noise interludes to cut the actual song count down even further. But this brevity is one of the album's primary strengths; the tape freakouts and guitar breaks offer an intriguing juxtaposition next to the pop structures, as one precise section after another flies into focus, never repeating itself. Like a Fiery Furnaces Blueberry Boat-era track, each piece surfaces slowly from the mucky noise before it. In the past, an “experimental” rock band might record an album and then throw on a 25-minute drone at the end; Women instead pay as much attention to the noisier elements as the more conventional songwriting moments.

The same subversion of past practice goes for the “lo-fi” aspect of the production. After hearing Guided By Voices in 1994, every mediocre band rushed out to record a pastiche on a tape player they found in the basement. Sure, Women found their tape players in Chad VanGaalen’s basement, but the use of the medium’s quality is near-inseparable from the songs themselves. This recording quality might be woefully amiss from the live performance, but luckily there are enough flourishes on this debut to even keep music snobs happy. If you’re the type who needs thirty-second notes to keep you content, pop on “Shaking Hand.” If (like me) you get hard from Terry Riley drones, absorb “Woodbine,” a perfect palate-cleanser.

Every track on Women serves a purpose to the overall stereo image, resulting in a debut that sets the bar very high. It would be crushing if Women’s follow up will be just a slicked-out update or a repetition of this album's strengths, but that’s something to think about later. In the meantime, the band should be content on sitting back and soaking in everyone’s praise of this album. And with Jagjaguwar having recently signed Women to re-release this album again in October, the praise should be coming steadily throughout the year. Indeed, very rarely does an album glow so brightly at its seams.

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