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5 June 2010

Bugskull - 'Distracted Snowflake Volume One' (Pop Secret/Darla)

I think this is probably Bugskull's finest moment. It's not quite as messy (sonically) as the last few albums, but boasts a pop confidence not heard ever before. There's a more emphatic approach to the instrumental work as well, as the opening track 'Icecream Daydream' sets the stage, sounding like a looser Yo La Tengo circa Painful. The electronica aspects are much more personal than before; field recordings, affected keyboards and weird synth sequences create songs that are some of the most mystically odd electronic music I've ever heard. 'Goodbye' is like a bizarro Boards of Canada track, every bit as detailed and perfectionist. But it's also got the most song-based side of Bügsküll that we've heard to date. 'Grand Canyon' is a straight-up folk song, somewhat improvised lyrically, with the sound of wind (perhaps recorded at the Canyon itself?) that is deceptively simple; it's nuanced and honest, and a far cry from Crock's soup-maelstrom. And 'Winky's Wild Ride (The Quest)' is the best Bügsküll song ever - with probably the most forward vocal part, and also some magically ascending toneclouds - it's the essence of the sublime. The closer, 'Sun', starts like Charlemagne Palestine on a hot air balloon - warm to the touch, and occasionally flaring up before plateauing into a sophisticated mid-level psych workout. The percussion is Eastern-tinged hand drumming, a nice complement to the hard electro-beats that pepper the other parts of the record. The recording quality is stunning, letting the instruments breathe and find their own space -- but it could also be that over the years, Mr. Byrne has upgraded his equipment somewhat. The liner notes contain a silly/nonsensical story about a garden gnome that I could live without, but it sets a mood I guess, and the album more than delivers. All of these Bugskull records offer something to enjoy, but this one seems to take every aspect of what he does and do it better than the rest.

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