Monday, July 29, 2013

Pseudo/Sentai: Nature's Imagination Pt. 2

Since the popular music of the 1960s, so-called "fusion" artists have attempted to create new music from already established styles. While sometimes successful, the downfall to this approach is that many of these artists combine such elements in a way that is too restricted by the forms that their original elements came from. This is the anti-thesis of Pseudo/Sentai, and Nature's Imagination: Chapter 2 is a perfect example of this. This album doesn't necessarily qualify as "fusion," per se, but it speaks equally with characteristics from metal, pop, and everything in between--the dense instrumentation would appeal to everyone from fans of Baroque music to Noise Rock, and their melodic sensibility dishes out lines that remind us of groups like of Montreal, The Flaming Lips, I'm From Barcelona, Make Yourself-era Incubus as well as those who appreciate the technical appeal of novel vocal acrobatics.

The Track-By-Track:

1. "Landmark of Vascular Catastrophe"
The first track on the EP opens with synth strings that lull you into a false sense of comfort, and seconds later vocalist Scott Baker and dense supporting instrumentation take you to another musical dimension. The atypical vocal harmonies are both beautiful in their ambiguous tonality and just jarring enough to feel fresh. After this initial dynamic shift, guitarist Greg Murphy introduces a guitar motif that serves as an interesting hook; happy, yet pensive. Subsequently, raunchy guitar chords and synth orchestration comprise a coda that lasts for the remainder of the track. In this instance, the odd compartmentalization of song structure serves as a mini-epic, that, while full of concrete melodies, offers a somewhat impressionist gesture in its totality.

2. "Photoperiodism"
The second track opens with a different aspect of Scott Baker's vocal abilities. Warm, comforting timbre colors the mid-rich guitar tone with interesting results. The vocal melodies aren't composed as hooks in the traditional sense, but rather every melody, repeated or not, balances beauty and catchiness in an attractive equilibrium.

3. "Oil Hurricane"
Track three opens with erratic synth instrumentation that reveals influence from classic video game music. The seemingly 8-bit opus gives way to live vocals drenched in distortion, and eventually tight-toned guitar lines. The last 15 seconds or so are particularly enjoyable as a coda, with a tasteful fade out on melodies that seem random, circusy, and mad-scientist, all at once. The composition as a whole is interesting, but the placement of the track between "Photoperiodism" and "Foliage Flower" seems to break the flow of the EP; it seems that it would be more appropriate after "Landmark of Vascular Catastrophe" or as the EP closer.

4. "Foliage Flower" 

"Foliage Flower" is beautiful. Less warm than the vocals of "Photoperiodism," but equally soothing, Scott Baker's singing shines in this track, and the computerized harmonies contribute valuably to the atmosphere of the track. The song, in my opinion, should have been much longer, as it seems like it is just getting off to a mind-blowing start when it is in fact ending.

5. "Keeper of the Stars"
Track five, is a masterfully balanced composition, and finally gives us a song that approaches the 5 minute mark! The extended bridge section sports interesting and memorable guitar lines as well as well placed bass embellishments. As with tracks two and four, vocals in this song are a highlight of the performance.


It is clear from the opening synth tones that this album was recorded with Apple's Garageband. Rather than this being a liability, Pseudo/Sentai should be commended for making such a balanced, listenable, and enjoyable piece of audible art with software that is, albeit powerful in an objective sense, widely regarded as a DAW for amateurs. It is no secret that this is an indie production, but these musical DIYers have managed to avoid the typical pitfalls of many homemade albums--they no doubt spend a lot of time dealing with software issues that professional studios do not have to worry about. Most importantly, the palpable dedication to production is coupled with clearly mature, skillful compositions.

Stand-Out Tracks:
The entire album is commendable, but "Oil Hurricane" may prove to be a bit abrasive for some listeners.

Pseudo/Sentai is:
Greg Murphy - Guitar, Bass
Scott Baker - Vocals