Splits are tough on the reviewer, especially good ones you want to just keep flipping back and forth. And of course they're also a really fun challenge. In this case especially, Old Gold found two distinct pieces of music that seem to sense the listener between them. If it is something that actively draws your listening brain across laterally, cycling back around for instant-repeats like this one does, you can count me in for sure, but fuck, it's hard to figure out how to zone-in on each contributor individually (and do so adequately, as is the reviewer's wont). I'm gonna give it a shot and attack each of these guys individually for a moment, let's see how it goes:
The sensory-scrambling sounds on the A-side come from what I can only tell is a rock and roll genius hiding within our midst. Never heard of the name Ben Lawless before, but after scanning the cover (yeah, THAT COVER. Look at it.) at closer range and spying the name Jib Kidder hidden there among the jumbled fonts (he apparently helped design the art), then reading elsewhere that the man played in Prefuse 73's live band, the puzzle pieces of this mindfuck psych-rock start to fit a little better. Or, it's like finding the corners, or something.
What you can expect here, if you didn't already guess, is what we like to refer to in the biz as "the unexpected." A rock record that feels both stitched together (in same way a sampler like Shadow used to, or, more appropriately, Jib Kidder's style on the mind-bendingly great Steal Guitars), while also like a live ensemble playing with the tightened, heightened and honed flair of Zappa and his band. Rock's mainframe is being heavily twisted here, or maybe beaten up, it's ass thoroughly kicked into a new, more pliable form of psychedelia. Since it's just one guy putting all of this insanity together, obviously we have a heavily-edited work for the end product. But Lawless took the opportunity to do real surgery on these takes, pasting up a cool collage structure in the process. Time-signature loops, whiz-bang changes and bent-shaped noises and clangs stab the mix like daggers. A 70 mph track could come to a screeching halt mid-measure -- you just never know. Thus, Lawless' grasp on a major key to enjoying music at a very basic level is here: Never under-estimate the power of the element of surprise.
Quick reminder: Lawless played every note of music on this himself. It should be pointed out that that means gnarly guitar shredding, hip-grinding bass lines, scatter-brained synthesizers. Oh, and the drums? He's an in-the-pocket maniac. So not only did this guy edit his way into an interesting listen, but the bulky meat of each individual track is also to be listened to for those basic musical elements and especially his raw talent for the instruments. Hitting it all just-so like he does makes it not only easier to identify and understand the complexities of the music's composition, but it makes it easier to enjoy the music on a gut-level as well - one minute you're in lounge-town with slinky 70s-porn soundtrack swagger, and the next you're heart is bouncing off a chunky guitar riff at triple the tempo like it's a trampoline -- perfect time for a sky-ripping solo, wouldn't you say there, Ben? Yeah, totally. And it works so well because you can trust that he's really going to nail it every time. The whole thing is a manic-panic, head-banging bash, and to top it all off, we end in a locked groove. A locked groove? If you were already starting to feel a little insane after those last 12-inches of wax, that last twist should finish the job nicely.
OK, satisfied with that one now, so let's get to flipping here and this sparkplug of a thing called Squinchy, which is also (again, impressively) music done by one and one only, a guy named Dave Abel. It's another side of music with a pulse, which is something I appreciate right away. Squinchy's footing feels a bit left-of-center when compared to the tight snap of Lawless' breakneck blasts, though, and that's a good thing. We're easing back on our heels a little with the groove this time, which for sure has benefits; since we're dealt with more of a slithery-snakey-sneaky rock sound, it makes sense that the tracks would be executed with an intentonal sort of leisure, something that Squinchy's got down-pat. Keep in mind that we're not talking about "slow" here (and, hence, "boring") -- Squincy takes that feel by the hair and gives it a solid tug so that there's an attack to each song. And those songs excrete and ooze a certain confidence, almost something you can smell, dominance dripping down Squinchy's forehead like beads of sweat.
Although this is another overdub-heavy mix, Abel's more bent on disguise than embellishment compared to Lawless, setting up a quartet-configuration group sound, and doing it so it really feels like full takes of full songs in the studio. The drums are another ear-magnet, but in a different way than the spritely spitfire of the flip-side. Splashy, heavy ride cymbal hangs like an umbrella over tub-thumping toms, a burly backdrop for the beefy bass and swirly guitar solos. About 90% of the music is instrumental which works great for the record, tracks setting off on wonky journeys to nowhere, instruments clinging to each other for dear life at each turn-around. Not a whole lot else to say about this, other than the fact that I really, really like what I'm hearing -- kind of a middle-ground between garage punk, krautrock, and a more straight-psychedelia approach that hits the sweet spots I think bands like Wooden Shjips or Moon Duo can sometimes overshoot or unintentionally cheesify. The very live, in-the-moment, rickety, knocked-kneed jam of this record feels super real, uncalculated, uncontrived, and therefore way more fun than your run-of-the-mill psychster-hip buzz band.