03 Mar 2021 - Ben
Endlings are an American band, borne of a collaboration at the Albuquerque Experimental Music Festival, way back in 2010, between John Dieterich of Deerhoof and Diné composer, visual and sound artist, Raven Chacon. They’re joined on three tracks of this release by virtuoso percussionist Marshall Trammell.
Both of the key artists in Endlings have a huge weight of critically well-received work behind them, which makes this – their second album – an interesting proposition. Their separate projects with Collosamite and Gorge Trio (Dieterich), and KILT and Postcommodity (Chacon) have seen plaudits from across the spectrum of musical artistry.
Combining heavy processing with field recordings and insistent tippy-tapping, the album opener mutates over the course of 150 seconds into a disconcertingly feral wind chime – instilling a certain tension in the play between chattering percussion, crushing chords and processed vocals.
One accusation you cannot level at this album is that of unoriginality. Moving from the tense opening track and into “In Us Confide”, we find the electronic crunches and squelches trying their best to conceal an almost easy-listening melody. Breaking down at the halfway point, the band present what could be a tribal threat of violence or a promise of friendship. As we turn our heads back to face the music, it seems to have changed back into its easy-listening cosplay outfit again, having shown its teeth momentarily.
Moving through the album, each… it doesn’t feel right to call them “songs”… each piece needs to be listened to and accepted as an individual contributor toward the overall feeling of the album. We could be fighting huge, stomping boots of processed vocals in one passage, then happily tripping to twinkles and sprinkles of abstract piano in the next. One section could throw apparently dissonant, filtered strings into the room, and we don’t know whether they’ll duel each other to the death or gang up on an unsuspecting counter melody and bludgeon them with a sharpened bow!
By introducing this tension into each of the pieces on this album – not knowing where we’re going, how we’re getting there or even why we’re going there – Endlings compel you to listen to every single second of every single track. It’s like watching a horror film: you know they’re building to a reveal of some kind – a jump scare? An innocent character? The Killer? – but the anticipation of the build leading to a sudden reveal leaves you feeling exhilarated/relieved/scared out of your wits. Far be it from me to tell you, dear reader, how to listen to music, but it’s worth noting that Human Form is worth experiencing with no distractions. It isn’t going to be background music to meal preparation or mowing the lawn. Engaging yourself in other activities whilst listening to Human Form is like reading a magazine at the cinema or scrolling through your phone at an art gallery – sure, you can do it, but you won’t gain half as much enjoyment from it.
Headphones on. Phone out of reach. Eyes closed. Now adopt your Human Form.