Thursday, December 4, 2008

Boy Eats Drum Machine review


Forget everything you thought you knew about love songs - unrequited desire and heartache are no longer in fashion. Forging the way, Boy Eats Drum Machine professes authentic attachment in a way that will have you throwing your Prozac prescription from the rooftop and remembering what its like to dance.

BEDM is the Portland trio of skilled sampler and vocalist Jonny Ragel on turntables, guitar and keys; along with Ben Rickard on guitar, synth, and the occasional cowbell; with the magic of Peter Swenson pummeling that drumkit. Together they have concocted a new form of electronic dance/pop trip-hop, blending many music styles to create a diverse and original result: Pleasure.

The debut is marked by soulful emotion and energy. Its infused with well crafted beats, charmingly simple melodies and infectious samples.

With near perfect arrangement and fluid, changing song structure the tracks are kept interesting such as in the gradual wind up and release of the single worthy 'Angel Telling Lies' or even the slow pressure built within the closing number 'Sometimes you Wanna Go Where Nobody Knows your Name'. At times during the album the vocals will hit at the same instant the drums propel them forward, or a sample will fall incredibly well as in Introduction a, and your serotonin levels will soar.

Ragels vocal technique is a defining characteristic of the BEDM sound, with an undeniable range and seamless shift throughout - from the high falsetto in the opening 'Pleasure Theme Song' to the deeper styling found a few tracks later. His raspy, textured quality contributes to the sensual atmosphere already present.

The lyrics are often overpowered by the music and vocal aesthetic and with a repetitive pattern to them lines like "eunuchs always feel this way / cry at night / laugh all day" are lost in the shuffle (think about that one). However, such lyrical simplicity is highly enjoyable in a sing along in your car sort of way, and with vocals like Jonny's you wont really mind.

The album has a subtle static, lo-fi quality lost in translation to the live show, yet any such discrepancies are compensated by an incredible stage presence not to be missed. Having recently opened for another amazing Portland trio, Menomena, the Boy Eats Drum Machine team seems to be well on their way to deserved success.

-nwb intern

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