Sometimes it's all in the name. Co-laboratory Science, the recent release by Los Giles is one of those cases—the album features a ton of other Columbus, Ohio musicians and subsequent styles, but, is also distilled down into a unified piece of art, held together by the mad scientist himself, experimenting to find what all of those different genre inclinations have in common.
Now this album isn't all over the place. We're not talking “chamber pop into death metal” across the board, although Co-laboratory Science does dabble in the direction of sultry jazz, blues rock, hip-hop and even a little bit of modern rock, but it's all roughly in the same wheelhouse, knit together with funky bass and guitar, great ambient effects, layering and overall enough coherence that it sounds like much more like one work of art rather than a collection of tracks.
The first song, “So Mean” sets the tone well, opening with a compartmentalized, laid-back-but-driving bass and scratchy, pulling guitar. The way this song is constructed is indicative of the albums as a whole: the parts are layered like bricks in a house—never one just on top of another, but each instrument or riff slightly overlapping. Compare this to, say, planks in a porch (to run with this homestead analogy...), like a lot of rock music, where you have these long, repeating lines of bass, guitar, vox, drums, etc. and you can begin to appreciate the nuance of this stitched together methodology. It's nothing new or novel, but clearly underutilized when you hear it executed so well here.
It's worth taking a moment to mention the production values and depth of sound. While the songs have distinct character, it's not just the different arrays of instrumentation, tones and effects—of course that's a huge element—but the tracks are mixed so that there are always many sounds swirling in the background, bubbling to the surface for a moment here, or buzzing in the periphery throughout. Often, when most of the instruments drop out for effect, you realize how many other tracks are constantly mixing and swirling together in the background—it's like having every part you've heard or will hear at the back of the stage, waiting.
Straightforward instrumentation is also used expertly to unify the feel of a song. On the track, “The Great Escape,” electronic drums fetter throughout, building tension, so that when the thick cables of synth start pulling the song upward and the female vocals sing, “twisted, intwined,” you can feel already feel the song wrapping around you. “Take Me There,” the starts with sparse, wide open jazz parts, so even as the song adds precise hip-hop, greater horn parts and more heartily stabbed piano riffs, the space only gets bigger and more cacophonous.
And, while catchy little riffs are strewn about this album like cups after a concert, there are a couple of songs that really anchor themselves those riffs and stand out. “Keep Pushin' On” bounces between blues-rock and a shameless 90's pop cut. Lyric's like “If you feel like singing along, than I will play your favorite song, 'til the break of dawn, 'til the mood is gone” are forgiven for their overt cheesiness on account of their bright delivery from dark and chugging guitar riffs. It works. “The Devil Don't Give a Damn” is all clap-along catchiness, with great sax, earnest delivery and an early morning, upbeat-blues pacing that can't be argued with.
Later on the album, a couple track skew a little bit from the mark, including one that traffics in these odd, sustained, modern/alt rock style vocal lines that just seem out of place. In the song's defense, it works by the end, almost channeling a post-synth Depeche Mode, but still: out of place.
Then again, can we begrudge an album that's a self proclaim lab experiment of collaborators, for the one or two tracks that don't fit neatly? As far as experiments and lab-work goes, I'd call Co-laboratory Science a smashing success.
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