Last Sunday night, as the heat finally broke in Indy, the Mediumship bands—Crys, Learner Dancer, and Vacation Club—debuted their as-yet-unreleased albums to a few dozen interested rock fans who gathered at Brian Jones’ recording studio in Fountain Square. Not only was it a good excuse to get out of the house on a Sunday night, it was also a neat way to hear the music of all three bands and to understand the shared influence that has taken place among them.
Inside the studio, in the main exhibition area, a projector played a futuristic animated space scene on a floor-to-ceiling screen as the various members of each band, the audience, and one cat milled about drinking beer and waiting for the music to start (no, the cat was not drinking beer, too). When there seemed to be a quorum in the main room, Vacation Club’s Jeb Lambert put his band’s new EP on the CD player, and the ceremony had begun.
Given only one chance to listen to the albums all the way through, I’ve had to rely on first impressions alone, so here is a sort of pre-review of the three albums. (Editor's note: Full reviews will come closer to the records' release dates.)
The Vacation Club EP sounds a lot closer to what band sounds when you hear them live, which I think is a pretty positive achievement. With a lot of bands it’s difficult to really get them until you see them in person. What the EP does, in my opinion, is transmit their unhinged, fuzzed-out psych-pop sound better than anything they’ve recorded up to now. The song “Hold My Hand When I’m High,” is a personal favorite that in my mind typifies the eerie way they combine psychedelic lyrics and buzzing guitars with a sugary pop choruses (“I know it’s dark in the back of my mind/but you still seem to see right through”). In the balance, their sound seems to be spreading out a little bit as they take on some of the repetitive drive of the other two bands in Mediumship. The EP will be available through Alabama-based Happenin’ Records.
The Vacation Club album was followed up almost immediately by that of Learner Dancer. Learner Dancer’s sound is the most sprawling and psychedelic of the three bands, but the song “Dark Glow” sounds pop enough that Vacation Club could easily cover it without missing a beat. The key distinction is that “Dark Glow” never breaks into a chorus. The whole song relies on a charging, jangly, two-chord rhythm and bass guitar riff, overlain by a those distant vocals that sound almost like subliminal messages from a sunnier part of your mind. The effect of not having a chorus with this kind of far-out, repetitive music is that it actually draws you deeper and deeper into it like a sort of hypnosis as you wait for it to break to something new, meanwhile you are left hanging on to every riff and sound effect, every change in the soundscape.
The Crys LP was the last to be played. Having already had a pre-preview of this album after the Vulgar Boatmen show last month, I knew what to expect. Crys are heavily influenced by '70s krautrock, and it’s reflected in this album. But they also somehow manage to combine pop song structure and psych weirdness with songs like “Hanging Ten at the Dawn of Time." The Crys album develops slowly, unfolding and building at a pretty steady rate so that by the end it seems like a complete musical statement, like suites of the same song.
Both the Learner Dancer and Crys albums will be available on cassette via Bloomington-based Magnetic South later in the summer.
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