Man Or Astro-Man?

Man Or Astro-Man?

There is an undeniable connection between the South and occurrences of extra-terrestrial form. From other worldly jazz guru Sun Ra, to German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, Alabamahas always had more than an ample share of connections to outer space. Such is the case with Man or Astro-Man?, who arrived in a small college town in Alabama some years ago. In order to integrate into human society, they would have to downplay their true identities and take on aliases, most conveniently in the form as students. While studying industrial design and film, the group began formulating a mode in which to learn more about their new earthly environment.

Soon the group became immensely attracted to pop culture and decided that the cliché of a being a rock band would provide a perfect vehicle in which to traverse the globe and further their research. Full integration into Earth society would thus commence for what was soon to be known to the world as Man or Astro-Man?

A discovery of records long stashed away at various dilapidated thrift stores inAlabama lead the entities of Man or Astro-Man? to the scratched-up sounds of Link Wray, The Ventures, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, The Marketts, The Safaris, and other instrumental guitar oriented music of the late fifties and early sixties. Instrumental music provided a great escape from the sappy, pretentious lyrical drivel emanating from the (then newly christened) 'alternative' FM radio. At the same time, offbeat stage set ups and designs by Kraftwerk, The Spotniks, The Residents, Devo, Sun Ra, and The B-52s had a great impact on the rapidly developing troupe.

Around this embryonic time, Man or Astro-Man played innumerable shows in the Southeast with a scene of bands that included Southern Culture on the Skids, The Woggles, Hillbilly Frankenstein, The Subsonics, and The Flat Duo Jets. Developing around the liberating resurgence of the no bullshit sounds of surf and garage music, MOAM soon caught the attention of Estrus Records owner Dave Crider. He was taken with the band's teenage caffeine-induced energy and punkish take on instrumental surf music. Crider ended up releasing their debut full-length simply entitled, 'Is it...Man or Astro-Man?' (1993). The Estrus Records aesthetic that revolved around the art and packaging concepts of designer Art Chantry fit perfectly with the Man or Astro-Man? modus operandi. 'Destroy All Astro-Men' (1994) and 'Project Infinity' (1995), and several EP's were released by Estrus.

Faced with licensing issues inEurope, MOAM embarked on a search for a new record label. From their recent shows with The Jesus Lizard and the Mekons, the band was alerted to Touch and Go Records and their artist-friendly business practices. Upon visiting the fine earth people of Touch and Go, the band decided it would indeed be the best possible label on which to release all future albums.

'Experiment Zero' (1996) was Man or Astro-Man's debut for Touch and Go. Recorded in three days with engineer Steve Albini at the Zero Return studio in Alabama, it stands tall among the great modern instrumental guitar records. After its release, the band began to evolve at a greater velocity than ever before. They morphed by extending their use of samples, computer programming, homemade instruments, electronic gadgetry, tape splicing, and other bits of random archaic technology. Both the '1000X' EP (1997) and 'Made From Technetium' (1997) were darker steps into the futuristic soundtrack music realm.

Over time, Man or Astro-Man? has done countless bits of film and soundtrack work including compositions for Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network(SpaceGhostCoastto Coast and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron). Members of Man or Astro-Man? have started record labels - Warm Electronic Recordings; recording studios - Zero Return; bio-diesel fuel centers -vegenergy.com; and have written for numerous publications including Chunklet, CMJ, and The Melody Maker.

When Fullerton, California’s brash quartet Audacity first started churning out EPs and ripping up basements, it was hard to not get swept up in their adolescent exuberance. When a band can boast their ten-year anniversary before their members are legally old enough to rent a car, then one can only assume that their battle plan hinges largely on the rebellious energy and fearless charisma that comes with youth. Their last full-length, 2013’s Butter Knife, confirmed that strategy. It was the perfect encapsulation of a band brimming over with pop hooks, caffeinated chops, and a rabid repurposing of rock’s various primitive permutations. But young bands grow up quickly. Those deliciously sloppy riffs often get cleaned up. The petulant invincibility gets tempered down to cautious clichés. The rough edges get buffed down and glossed over. They stop exploring and opt to settle into the tried and true.

Fortunately, Audacity don’t seem to be the least bit interested in slowing down or sprucing up. If anything, their fourth album Hyper Vessels hits harder and meaner than any of their previous releases. Yeah, maybe the gear involved in making the record sounds a little better, but every drum hit, every guitar strum, and every tuneful shout sounds like there’s more heft behind it. Sharpened brains and sheer brawn compensate for whatever grit might have been compromised by a better recording budget and a little more musical acumen. “Our first two albums were made during our ‘young band’ phase,” says guitarist/vocalist Kyle Gibson. “Being a band of teenagers was our identity. Butter Knife and Hyper Vessels were our process of finding who we are now as a band of young adults.” While becoming an adult might mean having a more sophisticated worldview or more artistic discipline, it hasn’t tempered Audacity’s frenzied mishmash of garage rock, power pop, and proto-punk. “I usually reject the narrative of ‘the album when they mature’, Gibson continues. “I think all our albums—and all my favorite albums and works of art in general—have been a mixture of high-brow intellectual moments and silliness.”

From the opening bedlam of barnburner “Counting The Days”, Audacity demonstrate that while their songwriting has become more nuanced, their delivery has gotten more savagely precise. With recording duties handled by longtime friend and tourmate Ty Segall, Audacity sound like they’ve finally found someone who can capture the frenetic drive of a song like “Hypo”, the off-kilter hook of “Riot Train”, the undeniable melodic appeal of “Fire”, and the cowpunk influence of “Previous Cast”. It can be tricky to juggle the bubblegum with the piss-and-vinegar, but it’s a duality Audacity embraces, “I feel like we get portrayed a lot as a sunshine-y, carefree California band,” Gibson says “But lots of our songs deal with melodramatic subject matter. The fact we’ve all lived in Fullerton pretty much the whole time we've been in the band has some effect on the music. Driving around town, there’s a memory or a ghost on every street. People die or move away or get in trouble, or groups of friends drift apart and start hating each other and get in fights. It’s not demoralizing; it’s a part of life, but of course it affects the music.” That frustration manifests itself on songs like “Overrated”, where you can almost hear the spit and sweat hitting the microphone. But then they turn around and bask in the unapologetically gratuitous pop swagger of album closer “Lock On The Door”. By the time Hyper Vessels comes to close, you’re convinced that Audacity can get away with whatever they damn well please, it’s going to have it’s adrenaline-fueled charm regardless.

Suicide Squeeze Records is proud to release Hyper Vessels worldwide on April 1st 2016 on CD and digital formats, as well as a limited run of 1000 LPs, with 500 on green marble vinyl and 500 copies on traditional black. Vinyl copies include download cards.

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