A Different Kind of Listening CD
After a self-released demo cassette, four EPs and numerous compilation appearances, what began in 1997 as a Connecticut emo act known as the Little Dipper has morphed into something very different. By giving your first full-length as a new band the title of A Different Kind Of Listening, you are giving any critic the perfect opportunity to either rip you apart or praise you highly. Either way, it almost begs for a response before the music even begins. Fortunately for the three young men that make up the Nationale Blue (Adam Kriney, Reuben Bettsak and David Altman), they have succeeded in creating something that is indeed a refreshing and very different kind of listening.
As evidence, we begin with the opening "Loop Transversion," filled with assorted electronic hiccups backed by cymbal crashes, spacey guitar noodling, and assorted other atmospheric noises. Out of nowhere, you're struck by the jazzy opening beat of "Silver Alien Pyjamas In II Movements," which features everything from Black Sabbath riffs to Sonic Youth noise and experimentation to straightforward indie pop hooks to jazzy and danceable interludes. After almost seven minutes, it all breaks apart into a wall of feedback and drum solos, a fitting close that leads nicely into "Hope Without Saying," which races about like frantic post-rock one minute, and mellows out with sedate and slightly jazzy garage rock the next. From there on, the roller coaster ride continues for the remainder of the album. Just when you think you have some grasp of what is going on or where the band is going with a particular song, they turn an abrupt 180 degrees and leave you coughing in the dust. But rather than stand there and sputter about it, you can't help but clean yourself off and begin the chase all over again, even though you are well aware that this is something you just can't wrap your hands around. It is indeed possible to blend repetition and improvisation, as silly as that may sound, and in this album lies the proof.
Vocals are few and far between, and as a result, when they do make an appearance it sometimes feels like they are intruding. Songs like "Secret Codes" suffer from this sort of setback, but the lackluster vocals could easily be looked upon as less of a problem and more of a reflection upon how good the more sprawling instrumentals are. Another thing worthy of mention is the drumming. "Focus In Six," an all- percussion number, is proof enough, but every other track shows off a range that stretches from jazz to rock to tribal to everything in between. Take this and add to it explosive guitars and a slew of other electronic and acoustic contributions, and it is impressive to think that this is the work of only three people.