Free Blood | The Singles
Most Likely To: be restarted halfway through.
The adorable white kids that make up Free Blood produce dance-club funk by way of Dan Deacon-ish samples, cello, guitar, sax, male and female vox and a drum machine. I’m usually pretty skeptical of young white people making use of an old black form, but Free Blood replicates the tropes of funk–single-string guitar lines, intentionally flat falsetto harmonies, repetition of vocal phrases–in just such a way that it comes across as pastiche rather than parody. They get away with it because funk simply provides the roots for their well-groomed, many-branched tree. The trunk is a bizarre, disaffected but potent form of IDM. As the album proceeds, the listener has the pleasure of wrapping his arms around that trunk, feeling those roots beneath his feet and listening to the wintry clatter of the branches colliding over his head.
While the broad range of instruments and sounds that are sampled on their recent release The Singles provides for a diverse and constantly self-renewing listen, the drums provide the story the album most aches to tell. Each cut features a different style of drumming, from the toms-focused thrumming that opens “Never Hear Surf Music Again” to the clickier, clearly machined thuds and pops of “Parangatang.” The mix is crisp enough to keep three distinguishable drum and rhythm tracks playing at once, as on “Weekend Condition,” which features simultaneous drum kit, plastic jug and drum machine. The beats are surrounded by a steady stream of obscure whispers, whistles, moans, buzzes, clangs, claps, snaps and crashes, some of which surface only once while others bounce along through entire songs.
Each song on The Singles transforms several times before ending. “Never Hear Surf Music Again” begins as a sexed-up, pill-popping dance anthem, as the male/female duo sings, “Take it if it makes you numb / Take it if it makes you come / Take it if it makes you make it perfect.” It then slowly morphs into something much stranger, as the confident toms which introduce the song are traded for a clip of the female singer chanting “O-O-Ohio” layered over itself several times, accompanied by a nice little guitar line. This builds up to a ringing crescendo before returning to the melodic theme which earlier encouraged the listener to just do what feels good. Indeed, that seems to be the mentality that informs this album’s aesthetic: do whatever feels like it will work at any given moment.
The one annoying about this album is that it only features about 25 minutes of new music before leaping into 35 minutes of remixes by other groups and individuals, making “a very good EP followed by a less interesting remix EP” the overall gist of The Singles.
Listen to “Royal Family” from Free Blood: