Anyone who heard Warm Climate's previous opus Edible Homes can't be expecting anything less than perfection from its follow-up Camouflage on the River Wretched. And, man, it really delivers, probably even surpassing Edible Homes.
The only aspect where Camouflage doesn't quite match Edible Homes is atmosphere. That's not a criticism in the least though. The pervasive chilliness of the cavernous free-glam-creep-out of Homes is more or less unbeatable but Camouflage hits hard is the songs. "Saltwater Simplified" launches things off with a fuzzy, stumbling synth-bass line. After a few echoing shrieks the song hits full force with groovy, loping drums and thick grinding organ. Seth Kasselman, who masterminds Warm Climate, is singing in his signature glam-falsetto, struggling to be heard above the racket. It's a short song but immediately sets the tone for what's to come. "Trespassing" shifts into the more avant-garde Warm Climate mode, with sample manipulation, eerie drones from guitar and keys floating pretty freely. Then Kasselman's voice enters out of nowhere and all of a sudden this loose arrangement becomes some futuristic ballad. Bass backs up the vocals while a wah-wah'd guitar sets about squirming. Things get more and more twisted with matter-of-fact female narration about a fat man, and a basement, while brass supplied by Cailin C. Mitchell lets out some elephant roars. The track totally works but its amazing it does. How Kasselman envisions this and then keeps it together is beyond me. The track wears so many hats, it's mind boggling. Balmy ballad, cinematic soundtrack, dark jazz/drone session, placid keyboard piece all in one. "We Wish You Rain" may be my favorite track. It begins with a fantastic foreign-sounding rhythmic jaunt and then just fucking lays into it with copious amounts of bad vibes. Multi-tracked vocals, thick thick thick bass, keyboards and effects-laden guitar squalls. All this with a relentless, organic dance groove behind it. The track just gets more and more unhinged drifting off to any idea that gets in its head. "More Wretched" kicks off almost like MF Doom beat, vaguely hip hop-styled drum machine and weird collage of instruments/sounds. It's a pretty short but it's a nice interlude seguing to the next side.
"Voice Over Headlights" features a murky beat akin to quick foot steps. There's a brief intimation of a gospel-blues vibe amongst scratchy crackles but the track eventually settles into some gargling vocal drones. Jangling chimes, guitar fuzz, a slow bass throb and something like walkie-talkie feedback lead into Kasselman riffing on his clarinet. The dry, woody tones seem unusually at home in their crusty surroundings and clarinet is just awesome period, I'll think it sounds great anywhere. This section is one of my favorite parts on the album as its a great solo and a really nice, somber break from the album's constant cacophony. A bit hotter playing from trumpet and drums takes over before launching into the "song" portion. Which is excellent. Chunky bass, operatic keyboards and multi-tracked vocals over a great guitar line. It gets interrupted much too early by garbled noise. The final section recalls some of the eerie minimalism of the last tape, and for the first time on the record Kasselman's voice doesn't face any competition to be heard. It's him singing over a low bass rumble and airy keyboards. Seriously epic jam! It's a well-placed retreat to calmness, in conjuction with the brief swirl of keys, guitar, bass and voice in "Two Stones", before moving into the gutsy finale "Blue Metro." Kasselman is in unabashed rock & roll mode here, screaming about something being "blue on the metro" over crunchy drums and bass and plenty of thick guitar distortion caked on as well. It feels great going out on the rawest note.
Well, what an album. I'm impressed. Stunned claims they were recently christened the best band in LA and I'm not gonna disagree. Kasselman just keeps barreling on down the street with no signs of slowing down, doing his thing like nobody else. Either climb aboard, or get your ass run the fuck over.
Stunned is down to it's final copies so paypal that shit right away!
Oh and there's fantastic color-pencil(!) artwork by Phil French all over this thing. I love it!