Wednesday 5 July 2017

Review of 'GT Ultra' by Guerilla Toss

Guerilla Toss have always been nutty as fruitcakes. But they’ve been getting tamer as the years go by.

Now on GT Ultra, the Brooklyn-via-Boston mosh-funk space-punk world-shred chump-jazz group have taken to singing about love affairs with aliens and the boredom of dying accompanied by instrumentals that sound like warped kids TV themes from the 80s. 

That may not sound like a band that's tamed down, but I assure you they have. The production is less muddy and whilst lyrics like ‘sparkling like pastry’ still don’t make much sense, at least they’re intelligible this time around. Most important of all, the band are now writing actual songs rather than masturbatory displays of noodling. It's phenomenally groovy and catchy stuff.

That isn’t to say that they’ve traded in all their mad ideas for accessibility. Arian Shafiee’s twisted guitar may not be as grating, but the synths of ‘TV Do Tell’ make up for it in their gaudiness. And whilst Kassie Carlson has eased back on the screeching, her wild incantations are still far from conventional (she even drenches ‘Crystal Run’ in wobbly auto-tune). These experimentalisms show the band to still be off-the-wall but in a playfully cartoonish way, unlike Eraser Stargazer which bordered on obnoxious, or indeed the band’s earlier back catalogue which at points was so unlistenable it made me want to strangle myself with my earphone cables.

On top of easing up on the dissonance, the band have also developed a knack for progression on this record, particularly present towards the back-end. ‘Skull Pop’ is one the group's best tracks to date, building up from an eerie synth drone into a frenetic sprinting rhythm, made more entertaining by it's deadpan musings on dying. ‘Dose Rate’ meanwhile is a steady pulsing dirge that revolves around hypnotic spoken verses before climaxing in a tempest of distortion, acting as the perfect closer.

Yes, at 29 minutes, it's certainly a succinct album. But none of it feels underdeveloped - not even 'TV Do Tell' which warrants it's brief one-and-half-minute running time by sounding like a TV ad jingle. If Guerilla Toss were once poo-flinging apes, they've now evolved into maturer mad scientists, offering purposeful experimentation rather than throwing things randomly at the canvas. The result is one of the most innovative albums around.