Agitated Atmosphere: the usaisamonster - R.I.P.

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as the usaisamonster.

Life has juxtaposed death since the dawn of evolution. As Louis CK has thoughtfully put it, there’s more people dead than those of us living -- a scary proposition to believe we’re all just waiting to die. It’s a morose thought, one better forgotten.

R.I.P., the last album from The usaisamonster, forces us to face mortality as we bid farewell to the darkly jolly duo. But it also heralds the arrival of Northern Spy, backed by the same individuals who remade ESP-Disk into a modern behemoth during the past three years. The creative force that forged Northern Spy is the same found throughout R.I.P., as Tom Hohmann and Colin Langenus (here joined by Maxx Katz and Peter Schuette) dig deep into their creative spark despite the pall of finality hanging over the album.

R.I.P. is by far the usaisamonster’s most accessible disc. Featuring the far out jams and odd time signatures that have blanketed the band’s previous output. Somehow the band’s strange tendencies have morphed over time into an equally bizarre cohesion, lacing the weirdest experiments of Lengenus and Hohmann with a pop aftertaste. The album brims with anthems of schizophrenic delight and voices shooting off in various directions, each telling a childish story, while bombastic percussion and psychedelic prog swirl with visages of Prokofiev dancing around the glowing campfire. “Heavner” gleams with Stan Ridgeway obtuseness (think Wall of Voodoo hit “Mexican Radio”). The playfulness of “Ranald MacDonald” recalls Canadian oddball, Spookey Ruben.

Listen to “Ranald MacDonald”:

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It’s not until the dire organ of album finale, “Dynamite Day,” that one remembers this is usaisamonster’s swansong. The familiarity to outcast such as Frank Zappa or the recently deceased Captain Beefheart only makes R.I.P.‘s conclusion all the more painful. “Dynamite Day” puts on a serious face that reminds us that talent is fleeting and to embrace it when it calls. R.I.P. stands as a strong testament to the will of usaisamonster.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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