Washington State, in the northwest corner of America's Pacific northwest, has done more to revitalize and energize the good ole electric guitar in the last two decades than perhaps any other place on Earth, outside of maybe the retroactive nostalgia of Britpop in the early/mid-‘90s. Grunge kicked against the skinny, de-fanged cosmopolitan sounds of synthpop, while Washingtonian indie bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie did the same thing during the indie electronica scene of the early 2000s.
Bands from Washington have always seemed like a defense against the artificial, in favor of the real. "We've got to keep the music pure," as a four-year old Kurt Cobain told his aunt, who recommended he use a drum machine rather than beating on an old suitcase for a rhythm section. Washingtonian bands could be seen as The Night's Watch of modern culture, guarding the walls against the virtual barbarian hordes, and all their attendant lifestyle temptations.
Rainbow Machine, from a little town called Enumclaw which is south of Seattle, doesn't entirely forsake electronic elements on their EP Animal Backwards. Rather, they smoosh them together with classic experimental guitar textures, ranging from noise pop to shoegaze to offer a commentary on modern living.
Album opener "Come Down" comes on with a locked-in drum machine groove with waves and waves of blurry, dreamy guitars roaring in like a wounded animal or the wrath of god. Things don't progress as much as it builds and builds, finally crashing into a quick dance punk breakdown. This is the sound of getting down amidst the machines, of dreaming instead of staring at your screens.
This effect is amplified with "Television World," which sounds as if Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin were to produce Modest Mouse. Vaporwave synths go all gooey and melty, like Kevin Shield's glide guitar being used to soundscape corporate training commercials. Dillon Colson sings a song of protest, urging us to live in the real, the now: "Get me out of this television world/where everything is fake."
Late capitalism would have us believe there is no choice but to buy into the machine. Living in 2016 could be sub-titled "How I learned to stop worrying and love my machine overlords." Animal Backwards, and other bands from Washington, remind us to turn off the damn screens and walk outside, squinting into the sun. They remind us of the joys of exploration, the pure fun of kicking it with your friends, cooking out, drinking, getting high, causing mischief or doing nothing at all.
Perhaps living in a locale as epically and wildly beautiful as Washington helps inspire musicians to stay rooted in the real. It's like Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum said, comparing bands from Washington to Scandinavian metal bands, how each encompassed "a vague sort of nature worship." Whatever the causes, Animal Backwards remind us both to enjoy life and to stop worrying and enjoy the music.
Great stuff! Can't wait to hear what full-length sounds like from these guys!
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