Historics - Strategies for Apprehension
Record Label: Metropolitan Indian Records
Release Date: July 28, 2009
When I put Strategies for Apprehension into my car stereo it was on the cusp of a long drive with my girlfriend. I put the CD in and Historics made their first impression. The CD begins immediately, and I mean immediately. There is no lull, no buildup and it was so disconcerting I found myself hitting the previous button to see if I had perhaps started the CD in the middle of a track, I hadn’t. Just under a minute into the first track “Skin Orders” I again find myself looking at my car stereo in wonder as the acoustic guitars that had driven the beginning of the song come to an abrupt end and are interrupted by an odd percussion solo. When the guitars pick back up I’m not sure if I’m on the same track or if I am on the second track after a short intro. This disjointed pattern seems to be the theme of the album, and the second track, “Two Tons,” starts with a backing guitar rhythm that is repeated throughout the song and serves as a point of reference when the track abruptly stops and then picks back up. Even now, listening through the CD, I still catch myself wondering if the track has switched or if I’m on the same song.
I pull over to get gas right around the middle of track five, "Kinda Personal." It’s preceded by “Fanfare,” a track that opens with a woodwind section and explodes into an upbeat, dreamy, pop song with some gorgeous female vocals from Z Berg. “Fanfare” is followed by “Taverns,” a surprisingly straightforward melancholic pop song. When I get back in the car after pumping gas my girlfriend implores me to go back to track six, “Take It to the Top” and I’m excited that she is enjoying the album though when I vocalize this to her she says, “That’s not what I said.” I skip back to “Take It to the Top” and it becomes immediately apparent why. I’m all for rappers, especially ones who change the first letters in their monikers to create consonance. But, unfortunately, Kool Keith is so out of place in this album and his bizarre rap track shatters any sort of continuity in the album. At first I even wondered if I had somehow accidentally pressed the wrong button on my stereo and switched to the radio (Apparently I think very little of my ability to operate my car stereo properly).
To add to the confusion the next track “A Lot Less” is sung by guitarist Josh Grubb (he also lends his voice to “No Worries” which sounds so much like something that I just can’t put my finger on) and the sudden change in vocals is quite abrasive. Dan Devore takes on most of the vocal duties and, while there is nothing extravagant about his voice, there are no soaring vocal melodies or standout moments, it blends nicely with the instrumentation and the instrumentation is what really shines on this album. Devore and Grubb split guitar duties and Ryan Rapsys provides the steady drum beat for their guitars to weave over. Mickey Madden, of Maroon 5 fame, lends driving bass lines, add in Matt Werth, Jeff Knutsen, and Dale Jiminez doing samples, moog, and keys respectively and the amalgamation is sonically impressive. Historics plays with pop and funk riffs and rollicks about, never sticking to a genre. At times, the music is sparse and airy only to explode into soaring guitars which diminish as quickly as they come. Unfortunately so much of the lyrical content is unintelligible, at times so much so that it sounds as if it is spoken in a different language (See: “Two Tons” and “City to City” in particular). This fact seems strange considering Devore helmed the album’s production but perhaps he intended us to focus on the music using his voice only as another instrument.
The latter half of the CD just furthers to showcase the bands instrumental proficiency. Tracks like “All Feathers” and “City to City” swerve from ambience to crescendo effortlessly. “Language They Use” showcases percussion from Anton Fier over Devore’s melancholic voice. The final track brings Z Berg back for more guest vocals and the song, driven by a catchy bass line and the airy vocals of Berg and Devore, makes a nice endpoint for the album.
Historics have crafted an avant-garde pop album, somehow managing to take the incongruity of several genres of music and fusing them into sonically rich and polished tracks. The CD is an excercise in patience, the first listen through is difficult and disjointed but if you stick through the stuttering lushness of the album there are sublime moments to be had and for a little while Historics was able to bring out pastoral beauty in the flat and boring midwest.