Rollercoasterwater - Umami Sounding Fireball
- Review by Noël Duplaa
Info: California duo Rollercoasterwater caused quite a stir online with their previous Animal Collective referencing single, 'Avey Tare Said', reaching the heady heights of Consequence of Sound along with this very site. Singer / samplist Chuckie Behring and percussionist Robin Levy are already an album and 3 EPs deep into their recording career, and current EP, Umami Sounding Fireball sees them refine their sound, while managing to retain the love of playful psychedelic experimentalism that sets them apart.
Straight off the bat, the title of the album gives a real insight into its aspirations - blending taste, sound and vision across its three words, it highlights how the ideas, songwriting and production on this album are a considered attempt to evoke synesthesia, the overlapping of senses that allows some people to see sound, and so forth. In fact, their previously championed Avey Tare is a famous synesthete along with a wide range of others from musicians like Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Stevie Wonder and Aphex Twin, composers such as Leonard Bernstein and Franz Liszt, to geniuses such as Nikola Tesla and Friedrich Nietzsche. And while you can’t discount their nous for a melodic lead line, Rollercoasterwater’s textural experimentation is at the centre of everything they do, marrying the sounds on display with a palpable feel that can push at the limits of the designated senses, seeming to spill over into the remaining four.
The EP opens with 'Foam in My Midi Controller', as a seemingly simple two note guitar line distorts and delays, perfectly mirroring their love of subverting simplicity through experimental sounds. Despite being quite deliberate and slowly paced, the song carries and builds an epic feel, like gradually driving towards the foot of a mountain, and watching it slowly fill out the windscreen. The song eventually eats itself like an OK Computer track, delays surging off themselves. A ringing bell leads into the single, 'Avey Tare Said', which remains a sweet pop gem under layers of reverbed harmonies and textural shifts.
The undoubted centrepiece of the EP, 'Trying to Maze,', is a perfect vehicle to display percussionist Robin Levy’s skills, as his jazzy drumming manages to hold a direct centre line in the song, while adding just enough character and personality to never feel fully moored to it - and that’s before its EQ-ing makes the drums go for a quick walk outside the room. The guitars and voice remain glimmering and stoned, as the drums grow more frantic - the synthetic and acoustic elements directly competing with each other, creating a thrilling standoff.
The album’s closing track, ‘Strobe Froth,’ acts more as a deliberate wind down from the three challenging pop freak outs that have come before it. Indecipherably delayed vocals and a wandering bass-line play off the tense clicking of a spinning bicycle wheel (or not), muted drums and a floating synth. Behrin has mentioned that the EP was "an experiment with more organic sounds using acoustic elements and a more traditional recording process, clashing with synthetic textures…", and in this they have been utterly successful. But the balance that they are beginning to achieve between this experimentalism and their own deeply ingrained sense of a well crafted pop song is where Rollercoasterwater have really started to gain ground, and where they look capable of creating a lasting impact.
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