April 18, 2013

CD Review: An Anderson's 'Parts' greater than the sum of them

This is not background music; nor is it a soundtrack for introspection and meditation.

By RICK JOHNSON

An Anderson is a four-piece band out of Portland. Guitarist Dan Smith and drummer Elijah True also play in the noise-rock band CUSS, but the two projects couldn't be more different.

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HOW IT RATES

AN ANDERSON: "PARTS"

***

Self-produced

For one thing, An Anderson has no vocalist. Its new album, "Parts," is completely instrumental. And, while the songs are percussive and still a bit noisy at times, there's an oh-so-subtle pop sensibility at work here that is miles away from CUSS's wall of aggression.

A squeal of feedback and a distorted hum are the first sounds one hears on "Parts," but the opening track, "Women," soon evolves into a complex math-rock workout.

A repetitive guitar riff over galloping drums creates a tight, insistent groove that builds in intensity, until the song briefly dissolves into a cacophonous jumble. Then a new and quieter riff emerges from the morass, and the song is off and running once again.

On "Rain X," multiple time changes keep the listener on edge as the track swings from proggy start-stop guitar interplay to a mellow, almost Pink Floyd-like psychedelic section toward the end of the song, which comes as a sort of relief after the previous breakneck sonic workout.

Feedback makes a return in "Survivalism," while pretty guitar melodies courtesy of Smith and Ron Harrity provide a nice counterpoint to True and bassist Stefan Hanson's full-on, Rush-like rhythm workout on "Parts Mountain."

"Kisk Flip" is the most intriguing track on the album, running through multiple moods and time changes all within the space of four short minutes.

The album closer, "Karen Is My Middle Name," deftly blends the New York art noise of Sonic Youth with indie rock and free jazz to form a new kind of sound stew that is uniquely An Anderson.

Unlike most instrumental music, "Parts" demands attention.

This is not background music; nor is it a soundtrack for introspection and meditation.

However, it's not all squall and feedback either. Lurking within each track are very subtle hooks, sometimes only lasting for a few fleeting seconds. But within those few fleeting seconds, you just might find your toe involuntarily tapping along.

To call these moments "pop" may be a bit of a stretch, but they certainly are catchy.

And while it may be tempting for some listeners to wonder what these songs would sound like with vocals, a singer is not necessary. An Anderson builds enough tension, drama, excitement and arresting melodies on its own; singing would be superfluous.

On "Parts," the music stands on its own.

Stream the album for free and download it for $4 at ananderson.bandcamp.com.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at:

rjohnson.rock@gmail.com

 

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