Review of Icy Demon’s album Miami Ice released through Leaf Label.
Maybe its just a sign of the times but more and more musicians seem to be embarking on side projects that in some ways, usurp the bands that brought them to prominence in the first place. Take Griffin Rodriguez for example, founder member of Bablicon, themselves a splinter group of lamented experimental outfit Elephant 6. His music, whilst groundbreaking in certain circles, was never going to be the most accessible for your average musical voyeur to get along with, so where to next? Simple I guess, pull together a few of your fellow Chicago musical entrepreneurs, most notably Man Man drum machine Chris Powell, and between you, create what can only be described as a mish-mash – or should that be collage – of varied sounds and ideas ranging from the uncharacteristically vague to surprisingly radio-friendly, dance orientated pop.
Not that Icy Demons is strictly a 'new' project in the most pedantic sense of the word. ‘Miami Ice’ is actually the third long player that Rodriguez (aka 'Blue Hawaii' here) and Powell (similarly known as “Pow Pow” for the purpose of this) have conjured up, and the majority of tracks on this record are at least two years old. Initially released last summer on the home-grown Obey Your Brain imprint, ‘Miami Ice’ attracted all kinds of attention, not least due to its strongest moments drawing instant comparisons with the likes of Battles and Animal Collective. Strangely, and fortunately for those of us without a local retail store to purchase the album on import, only Leeds-based indie Leaf took the plunge in granting them the European release licence this record so richly deserves.
Okay, so with every piece of sparse experimentation comes a fair point of trepidation, but scratch beyond the surface of the opening 90-second burst of light that is ‘Buffalo Bill’ and you’ll find a gnawing mid-paced rambler that has visions of mid-70s krautrock before turning into a jazz-punk odyssey a la Battles, only to dissolve just at its peak. The title track and dissipated ambient squall of the penultimate ‘Centurion’ really take ‘Miami Ice’ to another level, the former sounding like an amalgamation of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ and Panda Bear on speed, while the latter simply runs roughshod over the concept that ambience = mind numbing background music in four audaciously structured minutes.
Of course there are some minor irritations with ‘Miami Ice’; ‘Crittin’ Down To Baba’s’ veers just a little too close to ‘Shaft’-era seventies funk pastiche, while ‘Jantar Mantar’, for all its psychedelic intentions, does appear to see itself as a neo-nonsensical update on that old chestnut “world music” rather than the visionary, forward-thinking laired masterpiece Icy Demons would like it to be.
Nevertheless, minor glitches aside, ‘Miami Ice’ is a triumph for experimental, avant-garde pop, and one suspects Icy Demons may find itself engaging in a spot of role reversal for some of their main players, as there are many day jobs far worse than being an integral part of this.
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