An owner of a brick 'n mortar record shop would have to order five copies of Flipswitch's Catharsis, to file in different sections: one for sound collage, 3 for various sub-sections of metal, one for punk. Or they could simplify if they simply have a "wtf?" section.
Flipswitch are a young band of metallic experimentalists, based out of Fairmont, WV. It would be fair to call them metalheads, but it would not prepare you for the ? minutes of lowing cows, wind chimes and Tibetan chimes that begin the album, with "Catharsis". The title track began life as an introduction to the band's live show, but has been expanded to its current state of bizarro bricolage and down-tuned riffs, clocking in at a stunning and mind-melting 16:30. If Flipswitch owe an allegiance to any metal bands, it would be The Melvins and Neurosis, both of which have defied genres, pushing the tradition into every direction it would possibly go, and are both rugged sound experimentalists in their own right. Flipswitch seem to share a similar sense of uncanny humor with The Melvins, and a sense of genre hopping.
I may be emphasizing the metal, and it definitely comes around, but a great majority of Catharsis is sound experimentation, weirdo sound collages of chapel bells and radio static, underpinned with new age synths, that is likely to turn off the straight metalheads.
I enjoy this kind of thing, as I feel it is more representative of many of our listening habits; people that dig on Penderecki and Jon Oswald and Necronaut, frequently in the same sitting. And when it comes time to make something, all of the listening and the influences and even the structure of music itself go out the tower, and you have to decide for your self what your musical vision is. Even if you're a guitar player, that doesn't mean you have to start with a guitar; or that your guitar has to sound like one, for that matter.
Flipswitch are trying things out, and they're quite good at each style they're pursuing. Their sound collage is lovingly warped, never harsh or digital, masterfully mixed and manipulated. It's impressively accomplished, for being a band less than a year. After the weird cough syrup mental journey of "Catharsis", the band detours into sludgy metal geography on "The Praynor", which is a salvaged live track from a doomed recording, which is then reversed and cloaked in pillowy reverb. It is a satisfying, shivering spectre of a headbanging, which is both lowdown, odd and eerie, all at the same time.
Then the band hypnotize you with tones for a minute, on "Crank The Cane Toads", only to finally bust out with "Quiet," their best Pink Floyd moment yet. It's a mixture of the ominous echospace of "One Of These Days", and the tropicalia mesmerism of "San Trope". "Quiet" will quiet the detractors, the impatient who aren't willing to adventure and explore. This band can, and does, write killer psych rock metal tunes, but that is not their sole reason for existing.
Catharsis is exciting. It's got me jazzed. There may be life in the old six strings yet, and opportunity in the mind-melding of the analog and the digital. With Mastodon going all Steely Dan, this last year, it's nice to hear some metal warriors plunging ahead, still diversifying, still mutating.
"We never went away," they sing on "Quiet". And we will never will. Rock and roll is here to stay.
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