Artwork by Ilan Schraer.
At our current stage of technological development, virtually anyone can start making music and distribute it to people via e-mail, website, blog, or social network. This kind of unprecedented technological access presents results that can be both exhilarating and frustrating, highlighting widespread creativity and a welcome reception of an ever-widening array of musical styles, but also exposing our generation’s increasingly limited attention spans. I’m still mostly exhilarated (would I be here if I wasn’t?), if maybe a bit exhausted. Music projects are flooding the internet, bands rise fast, some seem to fall even faster, whole genres crop up in a matter of weeks (days?). But, of course, it’s not like everyone has access to equal technologies. A large number of new acts have embraced a decidedly lo-fi approach to recording music — take the current explosion of “chillwave” — one born of necessity, but typically embellished for the sake of art.
It’s difficult to imagine another world in which Seattle’s Big Spider’s Back could be doing his thing. Armed with guitars, synth, and a Roland SP-404, Yair Rubinstein has been constructing rich webs of kaleidoscopic bedroom-pop for more than a couple years now, carving out a local following with his subtly mesmerizing live performances and an increasing presence on the web. And while he may approach music in a way that’s similar to a number of his peers, Yair’s aims feel different. His recordings aren’t hi-fi by any means (all of his songs are home recorded onto his computer) and yet the songs on his latest and most realized effort Warped are surprisingly dense, even downright towering at times. It becomes quite clear early on that this ain’t no peak-heavy, over-compressed, Casio-synthesizer shtick. Instead, this EP finds Yair wafting through a spacey soundscape of melded electronic ambience and psychedelic pop not so far from contemporaries Atlas Sound and Panda Bear.
Throughout it’s all-too-short 17-minute run time, Warped also displays an impressive emotional depth along with Yair’s compositional prowess. “Again, Agent”, which should be familiar to followers of his blog, floats and swells in sweet melancholy, consuming the listener with layers of hypnotic synth, harmonious feedback and looping, reverbed stabs of percussion and sample work before fading into standout “Perfect Machine”. Opening with a crescendoing assemblage of sounds — off-kilter acoustic guitar strums, pulsing electronic tones, percussive clatter, effects-laden vocals — this track slowly builds into a soaring wave of droning electro-psychedelia. Lush, ethereal, resonant, and elaborately constructed, “Perfect Machine” features all of Big Spider’s Back’s strengths in one infectious burst. The title track is perhaps Warped‘s most immediate jam, pushing into Person Pitch-like sampledelic-pop territory before segueing into the instrumental meandering atmospherics of “Spooked”. “Don’t Make Me Laugh” ends the EP with a subtle exhale of fragmented nostalgia that unfolds into a transcendent swirl, only to dissolve just as patiently.
Warped comes out on November 10th on Portland label Circle Into Square. Until then, check out the excellent (and recently Forkcasted) “Perfect Machine” from the EP down below and also the previously BSB blog-shared boom-bap of “Mind Grapes”, which Yair bills as a Flying Lotus tribute.
Watch: Peep Big Spider’s Back new video for “Warped”, featuring some hazy, polychromatic visual work from Seattle artist Karla Santos.