I have this compulsion that started back in elementary school when I played the trumpet: I have to identify the time signature of every song that I listen to. Usually it’s pretty easy to do, but sometimes I get thrown off. Any well-masked measure of three will transform me, one of those too-hip-for-your-face type college students, into a little boy who’s just discovered a lollipop in a sandbox. This phenomenon makes listening to DD/MM/YYYY’s (Wiki) latest record, Black Square, like finding a whole candy shop in the endless sandbox of Time. Skimming through the album, there are at least two songs in 5/4 (!!!), one that might be 7/8 time, and many many more rhythmic gems.
Good readers of Aural States, I’m a sucker for irregular time signatures. Every single time. It so happens that the effective use of an abnormal signature is a pretty reliable signal that the musicians at hand know what they’re doing. This probably applies to these choice experimental-rockers. As far as I can tell, they’ve all got chops. DD/MM/YYYY are what appears to be 7 Canadians who, if I may borrow a phrase from Zack Turowski (on Abe Vigoda), “find a happy middle ground between knowing how to play their instruments and performing songs that don’t demand to be played at medium-low volume in your bedroom with the blinds drawn and the door shut tight.”
Much like the reasons behind my love for 5/4 time, Black Square’s track listing seems more arbitrary than anything else. In other words, you’re probably going to get the same experience listening to this on shuffle as you are from cover to cover. That being said, they couldn’t have chosen a more imperfect manner in which to open the album. “Bronzage,” the no-nonsense introduction to Black Square, is a solid slice off the experimental pie, its only downside being that it starts too abruptly for even the most prepared of listeners. You’ll put the disc in your player and press play simultaneously, knowing all too well that your stereo can handle the rush; before your arms can reach up to protect your face, an explosion of Canadian rock is abound. By the time the vocals hit you’ll be acclimatized, but the original surprise is enough to deter anyone with half-decent reflexes.
Once you’ve finally grown the balls to jump into the chilly pool, little is present that might make you want to leave. Things may get too slow for comfort on the more exploratory tracks like “Birdtown,” a wanderlust driven synth-jam featuring more orchestral parts than the average listener has the ability to pay attention to, but elsewhere DD/MM/YYYY give consistent performances throughout the whole of Black Square.
The post-punk nostalgia of “Infinity Skull Cube” comes free of charge with a progression that reaches into the eternal. Irrational-yet-somehow-calculated percussion introduces an unusual time signature and a verse that’s both familiar and enigmatic. The chorus sports electronic samples just loud enough to hear, alongside drumming that I can’t even imagine premeditating. This rhythmic complexity is a perpetually effective tool that becomes especially noticeable on closer dyad “I’m Still in the Walls” and “Digital Haircut.” The off-kilter tempos disarm the listener, leaving you vulnerable to the burst-like incantation of whichever 2-3 band members happen to be near a microphone.
DD/MM/YYYY embrace their patternlessness. Their only principle is that they have no founding principles, a contradiction in itself. It’s a refreshing philosophy to see carried out in song, especially by such agile musicians. While most music is founded on order and verse, it seems like these guys took David Byrne’s sensational advice to heart, “Stop Making Sense.”
Label: We Are Busy Bodies
Release Date: Feb 17 (iTunes) / Mar 17 2009 (Physical)
- No Life
- Infinity Skull Cube
- My Glasses
- Sirius B
- Real Eyes
- $50,000 Guitar Gear
- I’m Still In The Walls
- Digital Haircut
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