May 03, 2013, 05:18AM

Three Querulous Dancefloor Rejects

Triple Threat: Pissed Jeans, Jon Hopkins, Speak Onion.

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Pissed Jeans, "Cafeteria Food"

File "Cafeteria Food" under "mass-culture memes that hit way too close to home," alongside Office Space and Dilbert. That Pissed Jeans pace their deadpan, Steven Wright-esque gargle-grunge ode to cubicle-farm neuroticism on par with the common turtle and frame the narrator's point-of-view somewhere between a Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" mock tribute and this insufferably smug commercial just adds insult to injury.

If someone confides to you that they've never been envious of anyone else, don't lend that person your credit card. Because it's perfectly normal to run down co-workers in one's ongoing, work-a-day inner monologue, empathizing with gripes like "walking around like you own the place, you must think you're some kind of dude" doesn't require much of a perceptional leap. But what's interesting, and what's kind of unfortunate, is this: the more you listen to "Cafeteria Food," the more you'll begin to wonder how many people view you that way, as an undeserving, overhyped popinjay or an outright first-class dickhead.

Jon Hopkins, "Collider"

A keyboard hum hovers in the wings like a cloud disguises as a sand dune, fading out of perception and then somehow, imperceptibly, floating inches from your nose. In the context of "Collider," I think this hum is equivalent to the metronoming pocket watch the hypnotist is imploring you to follow, while the dry scuffle-kerfuffle of the beat is intended to conveyor-belt you to a safe house somewhere beyond waking cognition. But let's discuss that beat some more, because it's really weird. For a while it seems to be breathing on your shoulder, until you're inured to that breathing. Then it seems to suggest a mélange of the following: a) poorly conceived and assembled hand—a large hand—with sandpaper skin, attempting to snap its fingers, and doing so in a rather relentless go at rhythmic consistency, b) someone sweeping a floor, and c) someone breathing from your bedroom closet while you're trying to fall asleep. Besides that, someone is messing with subterranean electronic effects at the same time. As a result, listening to "Collider" is to the experience the feeling of being picked up, but then immediately knocked down, but then picked back up again, and so on, while sleepwalking through a rave the size of London and simultaneously, somehow, exploring haunted forests at dawn without a flashlight.

Speak Onion, "Makes Breathing Difficult, Stupid, Wet"

The dirty little secret of writing about underground music is this: there is too damned much great underground music. So unless a given writer is omniscient or able to outsource all other aspects of life lived, the writer is, by, necessity, a squatter; a month dedicated to a label's catalogue here, three months married to a particular scene there, then you turn in your copy and hop into bed with another discography. Not to belabor the metaphor, but these are the kind of relationships where you actually do want to come away with an incurable social disease. The bristling thrill of songwriting, or a particular aesthetic, or a singer's way with words, or a combination of all three, that's what ultimately draws you back to the scene of the crime years later, forces you to re-commit and vow to stay plugged in.

I wrote an article about Speak Onion a few years ago, and then was on to other pastures. In returning to his corroded synth noise, it's reassuring to see that Daniel Abatemarco's grooves are as dissonant, distorted, and primordially industrial as ever. On "Makes Breathing" he's sneaking more tricky hooks under the radar than ever, but they're Giger-designed Alien monster hooks that live and breathe for a matter of seconds before being subsumed again into the programmed Armageddon muck of the song; a whole shelf of sci-fi graphic novels implied in a sprained, autistic seven minute burst. Which means, maybe, that this project is evolving, becoming gradually more essential, more fungible, less liable to tumbling off anyone's proverbial radar, once exposed.


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