“Gold Ropes” starts things off about the best they can be with a nice ten minute work out. It’s tough to adequately describe everything that’s going on but I can tell you it is a lovely menagerie of sound. I haven’t thought about Black Dice in a while but this track kinda reminds me of those guys when they were making stuff like Beaches & Canyons and Cone Toaster with the odd tumbling forth of sound but I wouldn’t say they sound like Black Dice per se. Bulbs is really kinda mining their own sound here; which is totally respectable and entirely awesome. It’s a bit airy and relaxing but not droney in the least, there is a constant (ar)rhythmic pulse and a mindboggling array of sounds floating by or spitting themselves at you. Over the ten minute runtime the track somehow changes vastly and stays exactly the same save for cloudy minute long outro. The track is an anomaly just like the band. “Wind Conditions” furthers the skittering, blippy beat dynamic of “Gold Ropes” which makes me wonder if they constantly jam Burial on road trips. The drums and guitar don’t sound quite find the unity they do on the previous track though. Guitar takes the lead on the brief “The Green Flash” and instills the album with a lovely, fleeting spot of beauty. “Swinsons” brings the beats straight ahead and really puts you in the zone before splicing the groove, crossing your wires and frying your brain. There’s a short guitar lick in there that sounds really familiar too but I can’t place it. Anyhow, it pops up a few times providing a melodic point to orient yourself in the ever shifting sea of terse tones. The title track is much quieter and more open sounding, based around a stuttering but lilting guitar figure that despite it’s reluctance to sustain any tone or rhythm is drowsily catchy. The duo is back to grooving on “Strickfadens” with a samba-ish thing crossed with a distorted techno, um, thing. It’s weird but an unsuspectingly great sound pairing. The guitar acts as a foil with heavily delayed high-end bleats. It starts busting heads at the end too. “Uamanas” closes the album out. The guitar/chameleon disguises itself as an mbira before turning itself inside out against a surprisingly constant and rhythmic fuzzy tom tom march. Everything accumulates into the most coherent offering of the album and certainly one of the better tracks before ending with a bit of solo guitar-as-violin action.
Light Ships is one the best albums I’ve heard this year because you can’t put your finger on it. Each listen is more mystifying and mesmerizing, making you think “I need to listen to this way more” regardless how often you do. Bulbs have successfully made an album with pop-sensibilities completely unpredictable. I don’t even know when the last time that happened was.
Swanson also mentioned to me that idea behind Freedom to Spend is to release very few albums and only ones he feels are of the highest quality. Based on this release, yr probably gonna end up owning the entire Freedom to Spend catalog. Speaking of which, Mr. Swanson has made it pretty easy for you to do so. This album seems to be pretty widely available and there doesn’t appear to be any of that limited to ___ shtick. The release itself is a professionally pressed CD in a digipak type case with radddd Comic book+Dali+Escher+Alien illustration by Matt something or other whose name I can’t make out due to the incredibly minute font. All in all it’s a handsome release.