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 Learner Dancer.
The world is inundated with works of art based on the work of Shakespeare. What is really being said in such a loaded phrase is that the piece of film, literature or television you are about to partake in comes from ancient Greek drama. Shakespeare, having the foresight to trim the fat and play toward modern proclivities, ditched the seething morale conundrums for more fortuitous travels in mainstream mindsets.
The same onus can be placed upon any genre of entertainment. The music world has long heaped praise on the lore of 1960s San Francisco for birthing modern psychedelia. The tenets of the movement were conceived long before Haight-Asbury became ground zero for every burnt out busker and two-bit cult leader with wily fingers. It just so happens some talented musicians, poets and thinkers were able to crystallize the emotion into main line needle jabs of intoxicant.
Jettisoned of any expectation or revelation, this is the world of Learner Dancer. The Indianapolis band is every Hollywood Shakespearean rewrite and Timothy Leary soliloquy mashed into acid tablets placed on the tongue of modern invention. They bypass fad, riding the wave of whim that takes them to the swinging bath houses and unmitigated excess of yore. The roots of psychedelia rise at their feet, and though one may not find a physical allure to the boys of Learner Dancer, the art itself will be the basis of future ramblings about what is real, what is art and what is zeitgeist trappings.
The band’s self-titled album proudly calls to psychedelia’s past without latching onto it like a tie-dyed child. Learner Dancer has worn their personas close to the vest, wilily smiling at drug culture but bear hugging musicianship that is beyond freak-outs and blackouts. This is a work beholden to no one but Learner Dancer and the Fountain Square scene that birthed them. It’s loud, unrefined and finely tuned. It’s Shakespeare before the editor; Greek Tragedy in the minute millisecond before the Grim Reaper comes to call.
Opener “Radiation Chile” is happy visiting the Deutschland and the Boomtown. “Rainy Day, Weeping Willow” is as milquetoast as Learner Dancer gets and yet, its subtle drones and unabashed two-car growl separate its downer melody from milquetoast posturing. “Astronomy” is a classic Learner Dancer staple, here at its fullest. Once a thin rail wall of bass rattle, “Astronomy” now has the ferocity of Altamont post-Hell’s Angels. Broken bottles and bloody bodies are the only artifacts remaining after Learner Dancer steamroll through the haze.
Learner Dancer has no precedent and names no successor. It is alone is the vacuum and for 37 brief minutes, we understand what it was to hear the words of Sophocles or feel the tension of Shakespeare for the first time. Our cherry has been popped and the world will never be the same…
[NOTE: Learner Dancer’s album will be released in a limited cassette pressing via Magnetic South, which will also include the new full-length from equally heady Indianapolis outfit, Crys]