Blindfold Sights is the third album I’ve reviewed here on Divide and Conquer by the virtual collective New American Hustle, but if anything they’ve become more mysterious over the past year. For starters they seem to put out a new album (plus singles and videos) every month, which makes them a modern equivalent of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Strangely, many of their earlier albums on Bandcamp have been tossed down Willy Wonka’s garbage chute along with Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop (though a bit of internet sleuthing will turn them up).
Additionally, each new album comes with less information on the players and collaborators than the one before. We know that New American Hustle is a virtual band from San Francisco led by Ian Smith and featuring Lolita Larsson and Hilda Britton on vocals, and that their sound is an amalgam of “alt-rock, trip hop, rap and grunge sounds of the ’90s.” Their influences include Beck, David Bowie, Gorillaz and Portishead. They put together their songs using live players, tapes loops and samples with analog mastering by Nate Bridges in Nashville. But for Blindfold Sights there are no specific performance credits or mission statements.
As always, Smith’s presentations through Instagram photos and youtube videos are professional and enticing, given that Smith is a graphic designer and many of his collaborators are models. The photos and music convey a seductive, cocaine-drenched sexual vibe, sort of Studio 54 meets Ariana Grande. Given the group’s massive output, each album feels similar but rarely like a retread of what’s come before. The following tracks are my favorites from this particular edition.
“Tricky Locks” slowly unlocks all the tools in Hustle’s bag, as each instrument and sample takes a turn “signing in.” A slow vamp then kicks in for a solid rocking groove with complex slide (or lap steel) guitar breaks. From what I can discern, Smith plays five-string bass and it’s always solid. The female vocals are soulful and bluesy. Five minutes into the song, a killer hard rock beat kicks in that sets off and comments on the erotic female earplay. “Still Alive” starts with a similar melody to “Tricky Locks” to which is added some cool drum samples, Smith’s bass and a Leslie guitar-type effect with lovely lead vocals from the girls.
“Blindfold Sights” features Ian Smith’s sprechgesang style rapping with a busy, rolling drum pattern. I like Smith’s vocal takes as he brings a somewhat more relatable vibe than the supermodels. Based on the video, this song appears to deal with the sad aftermath of lives too closely aligned with drugs and debauched glamour. “Exorcism of the 90’s (Dead Star)” is a mostly instrumental grunge guitar and bass track, and I’m guessing it’s a tribute to David Bowie, what with the reference to Dead Star (“Blackstar”) and the video shots of a Major Tom-type character floating in space for all eternity. “You’re a dead star / Beautiful and free.” I get chills!
“Paper Shrine” is another Smith vocal showcase, this time with some interesting off-tune electric guitars as his backing. “Deepfake to Shakespeare” is an eight-minute epic with an interesting prog-rock structure with rapping by an unidentified male. The album closer “Prelude To A Drowning Girl” has a lovely female vocal and a violin playing traditional Irish melodies along with mandolin, acoustic guitar and a busy but engaging drum construction. Surprisingly different from the usual New American Hustle sound, this one’s my favorite by a mile.
Clearly there’s no stopping the pace of Smith’s music machine, and I’m hoping his manic speed never causes a downturn in quality.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook