God’s Dream 12” EP
(Neon Sigh / Noyes)
God’s Dream is quite a bold title for a record, yet somehow it all makes sense. Ringo Deathstarr, from Texas, has a way of encapsulating all kinds of various things and cramming them all into compact little moments of organized chaos. Over their first two albums and multiple EPs, they have mined familiar musical territory (but really, honestly, who doesn’t?) and have been accused of copying their musical idols (My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, etc.). What sets this trio apart is that they are clearly having fun. They infuse their noisy songs with a lot of energy and a touch of randomness that always keeps fresh and a little bit surprising.
This EP, or mini-LP (it’s seven songs, but is nearly as long as each of their first two albums), was originally released in Japan at the end of 2013 with more songs, but I missed that one, so luckily, a shorter version on fancy coke bottle vinyl was finally released this spring domestically. Why is it that Japanese releases often provided with bonus tracks? I’ve never understood this.
Anyway, “Bong Load” opens side one with a sudden burst and a lot of lyrics where lead guitarist Elliott Frazier seems to be describing some sort of psychedelic meltdown. In many ways this is the perfect Ringo Deathstarr song, because it is somehow both loud and full of disorientation, but there is calm inside the storm. The rock steady, be it off-kilter, beat, along with a constant drone that runs throughout the song provides the song its guiding light, as the rest of the instruments meander their way down the path – eventually finding the other side. It’s an intriguing balance that I first remember Sonic Youth achieving with their landmark late 80s work, but very nicely done here.
The highlight of the collection is the title track, “God’s Dream.” Bassist Alex Gehring steps in with lead vocals, as she has done a couple of songs a collection, and spellbinds us with a stunner. Actually, there are a lot of Alex’s singing this song and her angelic voices culminate in a beautiful chorus over the top of a descending guitar line. Again, this song is not quiet, but like “Bong Load,” it has a majestic beauty that this band seems to have found on this newest material.
“Flower Power” begins as a harsh march, turns into a speedy buzzing force, and then about halfway through changes into a drifting ambient dreamscape, before slowly building up the noise and momentum and finishing with the rock. It was about this point, the second of third listen through the record, that I began to realize that Ringo Deathstarr is starting to record more fully realized songs. Their fantastic short and varied collections have hinted at this, but here they seem to be stretching out and giving more ideas to each song.
The first side closes with the dreamy David Lynch-ian “Shut Your Eyes,” which, in all honesty, has often made me do. There have been long gaps between my listens of side one and two as “Shut Your Eyes” has allowed me to drift off into my own little dream world.
The three song second side begins with the pretty straightforward rock song “Chainsaw Morning.” There is a back to basics to feel to this loud song, right down to the verse/oft-repeated chorus/verse and the big drum fill - sort of solo - that is the climax of the song.
Up next is “See You,” another big sounding track. This song musically alternates between a jaunty bounce with Gehring’s dreamy vocals and a dragging darkness with Frazier’s deep voice. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, but lacks a certain hook.
The collection ends with the epic and upbeat “Nowhere,” which brings back their earliest mildly industrial influence aside the all out noise assault that makes up this beast. This song evokes more modern contemporaries of similar sounds like Ceremony and A Place to Bury Strangers.
Overall, this is an excellent collection, though side one far outshines the second. It is great to hear the band continue to spread their wings. It’s a fun ride worth taking. Stay tuned and come along.
Ringo Deathstarr "God's Dream"