Biscuits, Triscuits…

City Center – “City Center”
July 27, 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Fred Thomas, previously of Detroit’s Saturday Looks Good to Me, seemingly took a hiatus from this band, moved to New York and began writing music with Ryan Howard. The two have put together this experimental group called City Center which I find to be absolutely amazing. I love reading their blog because they put up really fun summer mixes and thoughtful commentary. Needless to say I am extremely interested in what is to come of City Center.

City Center

City Center

This duo does something in their self-titled debut that is hard to do. They fit into a style that is very specific but they also spread wide their instrumental branches and begin to reach in many different directions without being offensive or obnoxious. There’s been speak of this album being a Brooklyn album but what’s the point? It’s a good album. The songs are poignant, creative, experimental and swimming in sound. Why call it anything other than what it is. I also think this is more accessible than a lot of music that is dubbed “Brooklyn” music. I could see being influenced and interested in a lot of the sounds going on in the neighborhood but this album isn’t just a combination of that. It’s very open and fluid; taking the ambient electronic, white-noise and collaborating with guitar and drums and giving it a real soul, which I feel like a lot of that style music doesn’t have, it just sounds good. I think saying this is Fred Thomas’ Brooklyn album is a cop-out for appreciating every strand of instrumentation that graces the record. It just leaves me wanting to hear it again, whereas some “Brooklyn” music leaves me wishing I’d hear something original for once.

These songs give me goose bumps with their chilling echoed vocals and wide-open watery combinations of guitar and electronics. . “Open/House” blows my mind with the gentle mellow vocals that enter through weird syncopated snare hits and blazing noises. Heavy breakdowns feel as if glass is shattering into white noise, sweet harmonies and rickety bone humming electronic parts blast heart beat drums. There’s a Grizzly Bear-esque quality in the warmth that emanates from their experimental sounds but then these squiggly lines get crossed with accelerating xylophones and wailing female vocal samples. And the wire-y quality of these bleeps and blurs blending into each other combined with the ambient noise and soothing vocals feels new and fresh with each song.

They all exit in a completely different way than it enters. “Bleed Blood” is six and a half minutes of multi-layered stages of sound from quick-paced vocals and hand drums to wailing female vocals and high-pitched wind instruments. There is a compassion and energy that flows from these songs like waves and clouds; rolling and fading in a way that is so natural and gentle that it’s almost like it barely hit you at all, which is why you continue to ask for more. While there is so much to focus on and listen to, the lyrics do strike a chord. They are simplistic and almost like models to live by: How do you feel when you aren’t yourself?/ You’re trying to catch up with a feeling/And then you are bleeding blood again. There’s nothing that throws you for too much of a loop lyrically, but it’s just the perfect amount of thoughtfulness that blends beautifully with the music.

“Young Diamond” throws in warming harmonies alongside shaking cymbals and banging bass drums. The song goes from clobbering and clanging to circular and harmonious with a buzzing fuzz in the background. It’s only five minutes but each piece fits together so nicely and beautifully, coming full-circle to the off-kilter chorus and chopping, plinking guitar.

City Center’s music lifts you up for a second. It all comes together, clanging and smattering, dissonant but enveloping you in this un-ending, bleeding together warmth. I know it’s not for everyone, perhaps those who need a steady beat or something to hold onto. These songs dance so poetically and rhythmically throughout the album, throwing out pieces of sounds and styles that we rarely put together. I want to feel the way this music sounds forever, it encapsulates the feeling between floating and drowning; you’re completely calm, totally alive but feeling something different then you’ve felt before. Or at least that’s what I’d imagine it to be.

-Lauren Piper


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[…] I wrote about this album closer to when it came out in July, and I still think that it is a solidly beautiful album. Each song is distinctly strange and quirky with odd beats and distortion. That style of music has been in a boom, especially in the winter of 2009, but I feel like this album trumps all of them with it’s diversity and the clear emotional input that can be taken from listening to it. Read full review here. […]

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