If you’ve heard “I Know”, Children of Pop’s slamming psych-rock single and think that Fiesta / Drift is more of the same, than think again. The Houston outfits debut album is a journey of the unexpected, and consequently an absolutely wonderful testimony of why defining bands by genre is getting increasingly troublesome or unnecessary in the zeitgeist of 2013.
But before we go any further, let us return to “I Know” that opens the album with a storm of swirling phased guitars and an urgent plea to “take control of your mind”. It reminds me of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s wonderful second album, at least in the way it channels the music of for instance George Harrison or Led Zeppelin, but without ever attempting to imitate. It just gives slight delicate gestures towards these past greats, while being buried under the warm and comfortable blankets of Children Of Pop’s own idiosyncratic aesthetics.
Suddenly, “I Know” turns into the chilled-out waves of the aptly titled “Breezin”, almost as though the needle mistakenly skipped to Toro Y Moi’s Causers Of This. Between these two tracks, Children Of Pop lay down the blueprints of the record, even as the tempo gets considerably slowed down from thereon. On the rest of the nine tracks, the mood alternates between different psychedelic sub-genres and the tape-warped romanticism of the chillwave movement, yet it’s done with an updated delicacy that has more in common with Animal Collective than Neon Indian.
While I’m no way attempting to label Fiesta / Drift as chillwave, (or as anything, for that matter), it’s still itches to compare it to Washed Out and Toro Y Moi – two of the genres pioneering acts who both released albums this year. The thing that makes Fiesta / Drift a whole lot more absorbing than Paracosm or Anything In Return, is the way it brings something fresh to the table. Both Washed Out and Toro Y Moi have started travelling down a psychedelic route, but in a no way comparable to Children Of Pop’s nonconformity. There isn’t anything particularly familiar or safe with Fiesta / Drift – at least not when considering the whole album in context. Instead it dares to travel down the rabbit hole, exploring different moods and textures and is not afraid of altering the mood by 180 degrees on the track that follows.
It’s certainly one of the most charming surprises of 2013 and I can’t think of one album released in recent memory that sounds quite like this. The album isn’t without faults and it does loose some of its momentum towards the end, but with the amount of quirky and plain out brilliant ideas, they’re more than forgiven for it. And even if there are a couple of tracks that serve more as ideas than fully formed songs, they are nice hints of what Children Of Pop might have to offer down the road.
To my surprise, and as a token of good taste, they did include their almost two year’s old first single “Charge”, one of the most straightforwardly traditionally structured pop songs on the album. While it’s not one of the albums obvious stand-outs, it certainly is its most hauntingly beautiful offering. Once again, it’s a complete sea change from the track that precedes it; the wonderfully twisted “All This Love”, that most obviously embodies the album’s playful yet dark sentiment. But as far as highlights go, nothing is as striking as “Power From The Sun” that centeres around a repetitive picking guitar line, surrounded by increasingly dense textures, while the bass line goes into a driving funk mode. It’s minimalistic in terms of chord changes, but its hypnotic presence is so bloody addictive that you won’t know what hit you before the three short minutes are over.
If you’re looking for conventional songwriting, or thought that the obvious psych-rock of “I Know” would pave way for more of the same, than Fiesta / Drift might not work for you. However if you’re looking for a unique musical discovery, from where the reward is proportionate to the amount of time and dedication you give it, than I can’t recommend it enough.
Fiesta / Drift will be released via Chill Mega Chill Records
- Listening To: Children of Pop (thegreyestates.com)