I came into contact with this guy Ivan Matthew Hicks through slsk one time and he sent me a couple CD-rs of murky organ and tapes weirdness from Australia. Then last Fall he got in touch again wanting to send a new CD he was putting out (like a real, professionally manufactured CD.) I said "Sure, man" expecting something along the same lines but boy were my expectations subverted.
Opener "Womb Envy" is a burst of rapidly strummed nylon strings and syllables, setting the tone for the album. Brighter Futures Dialysis, which clocks in around a half hour, feels like a blur. The ten songs fly by, in part, because they're so quickly paced and catchy in their own strange way but also the record is so well put together that moving from song to song seems so natural that you don't realize how far you've traveled until you look back when the silence hits.
One of Hicks's immediate signatures is how he crams words where they don't want to go, particularly on "Cat Power's Armpits." Simultaneously raw and verbose, whether delivering apocalyptic love visions on one of many standouts "Venus on Fire" or the metaphorical environmental descriptions in "Winter is My Favourite Airport" Hicks is never short on bizarre syntax or chunky guitar chords. In "I Just Wanna Be Noticed" Hicks adopts the voice of an egotistical, bigamist, possibly anarchist politician. "I just wanna be noticed/I wanna be the one in charge/Just want to be the guy with my finger on the button" goes the refrain, the most memorable description contributing to the portrait of a rather sociopathic and despicable character.
Nothing is sacred in Hicks's vocabulary, not in the sense that his lyrics are offensive but because no words are off-limits. On "Cat Power's Armpits," "dandruff," "diarrhea," and "herpes" all show up in the same phrase; yet, it doesn't seem like the words are chosen for shock value. Who knows, maybe they are but it doesn't matter because they don't seem like it. Those words are nestled alongside clever declarations like "take control of your own opinion polls" and the delivery is so mild, matter of fact and quick that no single word or phrase is dwelled upon. There really are quite a few words crammed in this thing. Very little space on the record is not accompanied by voice.
The employment solely of a "$40 acoustic guitar" is quite an inspired and fitting choice of accompaniment. It's sparse and unadorned, letting the spotlight shine on Hicks's voice, but it's presence is sturdy enough to provide a very important, and much needed harmonic base. That said Hicks's Australian-accented cadence does actually deliver on the melodic front; he's not shy about belting it out and the record is all the better for it. His vocals are not the most skilled but they're uniquely effective and his delivery of such outlandish lyrics is pitch-perfect.
Brighter Futures Dialysis is an unusual and fantastic record. It's scope is specific--it's as much a product of its limitations as it is pushing the envelope--but oddly enough it's rare when I listen to it only one time through (I usually spin it in twos and threes) and I never listen to just one song. The more I digest, the more I want. There is a much more brilliant and clever authorial hand guiding the record than is noticed your first few times through.
Since I really don't think this review did a particularly good job capturing the feel of the record I recommend just listening to it. It's real good.
Though the record is available for free streaming and download at the above link, it's also available as a pro-pressed CD in an edition of 500. It comes with this totally weird booklet documenting a correspondence between Archwire & Partners Youth & Family Services and someone named Xavier. They write to tell him he owes $230 dollars in cancellation fees and not to miss anymore his government-ordered appointments and he writes them back with a multi-page scree to fuck right off, hand-scrawled over every square centimeter of notebook paper. Just another enigma to add to the package.