Sunday, 6 April 2008

Rings - Black Habit

Re-branded from their old formation, First Nation, Rings have notably now acquired Abby Portner, sibling of ever-polarising Animal Collective’s Dave (aka Avey Tare). The NYC-based trio also comprises of Kate Rosko and Nina Mehta, who claims the band to be “inspired by lots of different music, like folk, hip hop and r&b, and traditional and pop music from our own city and farther lands”. So on goes the stereo, ready to listen to some sort of generic hybrid and then… WOAH. What is that cacophony? What is that perhaps accidental percussion? Where exactly are those strange voices coming from? Even, where the hell am I?!

First track, ‘All Right Peace’, is four and a half minutes of obscure, other-worldly, flat vocals, piano twinkle, occasional march beats, and pagan weirdness. This album clearly isn’t one for casual listening – it makes Xiu Xiu-Larsen and Deerhoof look unambitious. ‘Scapeaside’ is screechy, thrashy in parts; plain bizarre. ‘Mom Dance’ is anomalous as well, with the apt cat call of “in another world” making that clear as if it wasn’t already. It’s more calculated than it is playful.

Plaudits because at least it’s attempted to demarcate a metre and slightly recognisable cadential sequences on ‘Is He Handsome’ - if you listen hard enough behind the off-putting yelps and dissonant, conflicting sound effects. But it can’t help the fact that this is wholly abrasive music with the aim of running a coach and horses through all convention, making parts of it nigh on unlistenable.

‘Double Thanks’ shows opening signs of greater user-friendliness (until we move into the rant “shy child shy child shy child shy child mwraurghrr”). But that would defeat the purpose of this project. It’s pretty circular that experimental composition inevitably triggers allegations of inaccessibility and hypocrisy, because it flips what’s normal on its head in order to be experimental, but equally it finds itself lumped in with a genre who seem to share the same limited and burdened desire to use the eeriest, least together amalgamation of clutter in existence to make them the most experimental, as if it’s a competition. If you’re a fan of Animal Collective then you’ll probably think this analysis blasphemous, but there’s no apologies as this is no fun, leaving the ears cold and the mind aghast as Rings have overdone everything that could be done.

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