Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where Is The State Of Flux?

The Flux Capcitors

John Q. Brains-For-Arms


Written by Mike Breen
Spill It: New Waves

One would think that aficionados of instrumental Surf music would be at least a little reluctant to anyone coming along and messing with the formula. Like Blues, there are expected features of Surf -- reverb being the main one, I suppose -- and, while there have been groups that play the music in funny costumes or with some kind of gimmick (like, "It's Surf music ... but about spaceships!"), very few have strayed from the blueprint. Sure, there is a charming purity to simple Blues and Surf music, but I want to hear what people can do without the constraints of expectation.

That's why I was excited to get a copy of the debut CD from Cincinnati's Flux Capacitors, John Q. Brains-For-Arms. The Capacitors perhaps don't reinvent the Surf music wheel, but they certainly have deflated all of the air, painted some avant ornamentation on it and refilled it with laughing gas. If Sonic Youth would have been inspired by Dick Dale instead of, say, Glen Branca, this is what they would have sounded like.

That's not to say the Surf music puzzle-pieces aren't all there, nor that fans of the genre (well, open-minded ones) will be turned off by the band. The Flux Capacitors' members all have a clear knowledge of classic Surf and their chops reflect that. Lead guitarist Erik Stoll can whip out a wiry, reverb-drenched lick as good as anyone I've heard. And the rhythm section is more than adept at re-creating that big-wave rumble. 

But it's when the band gets "weird" that things start getting really good. On "Better Get Used to These Bars, Kid," the guitars are downright jazzy, with a circular figure serving as the spine of the song. But from there the structure wanders like a boat lost at sea. As they explore different territory (harmonics, almost Prog-like licks, stop-start beats), they pull into a harbor of delicious guitar-noise, as feedback swells and swirls, sounding at times like an all-out air attack. To start from this sublime little jazzy riff and end up with something that sounds like it could have been left over from the Daydream Nation sessions is a remarkable feat.

It's these little surprises that make John Q. Brains-For-Arms an instrumental album to which you need to pay attention as you listen. On "The Flight of the Cat-Faced Bag" (seems having no lyrics gives license for deliriously surrealistic song titles), the band injects impulsive shots of over-driven fuzz, seemingly from out of nowhere, before breaking down into a softer section that really shows the tight interplay between the musicians. "Just 2001" is totally left field and one of the record's more engaging tracks, with spacey synth noise sprinkled throughout. I can safely say it is the best "cover" of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" you will ever hear. Well, at least the most creative. The band meditates on the theme (best known from being featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey) like a group of Jazz musicians, doing to it what Coltrane did with "My Favorite Things" (that is, making it all their own and changing how you'll look at that song forever).

I've run out of cheesy Surf metaphors, so let me just end by saying that Flux Capacitors have taken a musical genre seemingly set in stone and made it a Technicolor detonation of adventurous ideas, creative and deft chops and more than the occasional dose of humor.


1 Mr. Blister
2 Better Get Used To These Bars, Kid
3 The Flight of the Cat-Faced Bag
4 Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Tonton Coat
5 Just 2001
6 Dead in Arizona
7 Stop the Terrorism




Brandonio! said...

Cool taters Trustar,I remember these dudes from the MP3.com days.I remember thinking they sounded like Forbidden Dimension meets Man Or Astroman? meets Servotron.I guess I'll have to download this to see if my memory was correct.Man everybody's been digging out some cool things lately.

Brandonio! said...

Oops! my bad this isn't the band i was thinking it was.I'm thinking of the Capacitors from Chicago.You would so happen to have them would you?
I'm listening to this as i type,and find it quit pleasing,so all is well none the less.

OZ said...

truly excellent!! 2001 is my favorite movie so hearing the FCs version of the main theme was a lot of fun. :-)

Guillermo said...

One of my favorites, cant stop listen =P