Our album of the week (10th July 2009)
Open Power is the latest 12 offering from Lucky Dragons. 5 songs, 700 pressed. It is, without a doubt, their most cohesive, beautiful and excellent effort to date. You often hear Lucky Dragons, the Los Angeles-based duo of Luke Fischbeck and Sara Rara, discussed in the context of Animal Collective. There are some connections: Both groups are fond of looped hand percussion, day-glo melodies, and spirited improvisation. And recently, both camps released albums that hung on techno-conceptual conceitsin 2007, Animal Collectives Avey Tare issued backwards-running Pullhair Rubeye, which magically turned into folk music when reversed. Lucky Dragons had Widows in 2006, an album of speedy glitch tracks that transformed into something very much like Animal Collective songs when slowed and pitched down about 50% (download Audacity and see for yourself). Widows was great; Rubeye was not, and this gets at why comparing the two groups is off-target. In short, Animal Collectives project is fundamentally musical. Lucky Dragons project is fundamentally conceptual, rooted in the broader context of the art world. Their work is better suited to galleries than nightclubs and was, in fact, included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial exhibition. To Lucky Dragons, process seems at least as important as results, and their process is heavily indebted to Pauline Oliveros methods of turning spectators into actors. Lucky Dragons music is inextricably bound to their other pursuits, so the album format presents obvious challenges and even seems to contradict the essentially participatory nature of their projects. Segregated from their interdisciplinary practice and audience interactions, on record their music inevitably sounds dislocated; only a fraction of the musics contextual scope is perceptible. Dream Island Laughing Language therefore sounds more like a sketchbook than an album, but its quite rewarding if you meet it on its own terms. Lucky Dragons throw a lot of stuff at the wall here; its remarkable how much of it sticks. The short interludes are clever and seductivethe 36 seconds of numinous peals on Clipped Gongs, the mini-madrigal Oh I Understand, the minute or so of whiplash interference on Wheres Adam. A whole album of this might have been frustrating, although theres more than initially meets the ear-- there are secret melodies stashed in precise tangles of pitched percussion on tracks like Morning Ritual, Typical Hippies, and Desert Rose. Mysterious as they are, the set pieces work great as mortar between more realized, intelligible bricks. There are sleek beats folded in, like the vigorous ostinato on the Crystal Castles-esque I Keep Waiting for Earthquakes. Free Guys by the Sea, with its clattery percussion and sprightly flutes, is just a few vocal affectations away from bhangra. Electro-acoustic spasms full of cut-up singing, such as Wooden Cave Loop and Givers, evoke the cartoon glitch-world of Dan Deacon. The overall impression is that, almost 10 years into their career, Lucky Dragons still havent chosen a certain kind of cultural product to be. That redounds to their credit on Dream Island Laughing Language, where each track seems to document the groups rebirth as (to borrow from their manifesto) new and temporary creatures.
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