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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Music: Times New Viking Are Hiding Something

Times New Viking

Times New Viking got a lot of buzz for their ultra low-fi album Paisley Reich last year, some of which emanated from the speakers that played the album. Meet the new typeface of low-fi...ultra low- quality recordings that challenge the ear to pick out the melodies and music trapped within the sonic sludge.

Signing to storied indie label Matador hasn't changed the band's M.O. , the band's relationship to fidelity is Hugh Hefner-esque on their new one Rip It Off -- though songforms and hooks are marginally easier to pick out. It helps that there appears to be a stronger set of songs here but who can tell?

In a way, ultra-low fidelity (no fidelity?) is very now, what with the debate over the prevalence of MP3's and their relatively crappy sound in comparison to the good old compact disc. If we are devolving in our sonic expectations, why not fast-forward into the barely comprehensible.

The reality is that this is more of a sonic pose than anything else -- copped from old Guided By Voices albums (which in themselves played up their sonic imperfections.) R. Stevie Moore made home recordings in 1975 that sound better than what GBV was up to in the very early 90's and wayyy better than what Times New Viking are doing now. In other words, especially in the computer age we are living in now, making music sound polished (if not good) is easy and cheap.

So why hide their light under a bushel? I think partly their is the sheer mystery of having to concentrate to pick out just what the hell's going on under all that distortion and bad mixing. But then there's also the fact that without the lo-fi they are just another band with a strong set of hooky poppy songs. Guided By Voices cleaned it up enough on Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes Under the Stars to reveal some really great songwriting while not losing a distinct sound and presence. Perhaps Times New Viking worry that if the sludge were stripped they'd just sound like Guided By Voices.

Based on the strength of songs like "Faces on Fire", "Come Together" and "The Wait" they should buck it up and go nekkid -- let's hear those hooks boys and girls. Don't be shy.

Rip It Off gets three out of five Tascam portable 4 track recorders:

Here they are live last year:

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