FRESH WAX: Red Sea, Warning Light

Red Sea - Yardsticks for Human Intelligence

RED SEA
Yardsticks for Human Intelligence
[Self-released, 2014]

★★★★½

Purchase This Album:
Bandcamp

Red Sea caused quite a stir with their 2010 debut, Weird Problem, a beguiling art-rock record that captured the imagination of local critics and artists alike, before gaining some traction with the scene at large. For a while it seemed that the foursome were poised to emerge as the city’s next big experimental rock act, but whatever momentum they gained eventually dissolved into sporadic live performances and the faint hopes of a follow-up. Fast forward three and some odd years and here we’re confronted with Yardsticks for Human Intelligence, an ambitious, sprawling four-song EP that finds Red Sea once again deconstructing psychedelic pop and rock constructs while liberally exploring jazz, prog, noise, math rock and more.

Lead track “Tandem Stye” is the catalyst for this newish (the EP was recorded in the spring and summer of 2012) assortment of spacey, beautiful, oddball explorations; it’s a splintered and elusive track, a sketchbook of seemingly incongruous thoughts that somehow coalesces into something grand, inventive and sublime. Everything else, whether it’s the sweeping art-pop gestures of “Grape,” or the atonal psyche-garage deliriums of “Down with the Crown,” or the angular post-punk lurch of the melancholy “Vacant Ring,” falls out that initial rush of sound like coins spilling out of a Vegas slot machine. And that’s really the sense you get from this record — of a band bursting with ideas and doing everything in their power to cram as many as they can, as elegantly as they can, into four-minute vessels of experimental sound. It’s an immensely impressive display of architectural songcraft where perhaps the greater miracle is that it doesn’t all fall apart at the seams.

Overall, Yardsticks for Human Intelligence is a glorious EP; it’s darker, more scattered and noisier than its predecessor, but that level of complexity only makes you want to dig deeper and unravel the record’s many mysteries. It may only be February, but this is my clear frontrunner for the best ATL record of the year, hands down.

Red Sea will perform on Monday, March 3rd at 529. Supporting them will be Canadian psyche-pop outfit Each Other. Doors open at 9pm. Admission is FREE.

More Info:
Bandcamp: www.redsea.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Red-Sea/135420179805127

Warning Light - A Vast Moment

WARNING LIGHT
A Vast Moment
[Persistentmidnight, 2014]

★★★½☆

Purchase This Album:
Bandcamp

If you’re a fan of ambient electronic music and/or minimalist songwriting, no one in this city does it better than composer Drew Haddon, a.k.a. Warning Light (among a host of other projects). On A Vast Moment, his ninth EP and staggering thirteenth record overall (not including singles, soundtracks and compilation tracks) since 2006, we find him further refining his spectral loops and soft-focus drones, continuing his slow but deliberate move away from the gray-hued noir soundscapes that have defined his work in the past. It’s an often grainy, sometimes blissful record that feels warmer and more welcoming than previous efforts even while tracks like “Endless Celestial Streams” and “Alone Out on the Negative Plane” prove he can still deliver the ominous holding pattern dread when desired.

If you’re looking for revelations on this record, they’re small but critical. Opener “Walls of Starlight” is anchored by pulsing bass and a bouncy synth loop that brings with it shades of ’80s soundtrack guru Harold Faltermeyer’s work on Miami Vice without sounding tacky or dated. The retro-futurism continues on “From the Outer Reaches of the Universe,” a heady mix of stabbing Soft Cell synth and 8-bit video game abstraction. Elsewhere, there’s the disorienting burst pattern swells of “The Lost Signal,” while “Left to Forgive” brings it all to a rapturous close with its cavernous din of throbbing chords and windswept white noise. Haddon has always wrapped his music in a cloak of amorphous cinematic allure, but here he allows himself the luxury of a rhythmic structure that’s more referential to pop music and pop culture at large. It’s a subtle shift, but one that yields some fairly striking results.

More Info:
Web: www.warninglight.blogspot.com
Bandcamp: www.warninglight.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/warninglight
SoundCloud: www.soundcloud.com/warning-light