Exit Music Review SectionMusic Review Navigation Menu
Mastered By Guy At The Exchange

Max Tundra
Mastered By Guy At The Exchange
(Domino/Tigerbeat6 Records)

When I first heard the song "Cakes" by Max Tundra, I think I proclaimed something like, "this is absolutely insane...I love it!" That hodge-podge song was the lead track on his ultimately hodge-podge (but quite amazing) album Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be, and it set the stage for one of the more original releases that I'd heard that year. I was about a year late in picking up that release, but I wouldn't be denied again, and had to hop on his newest effort. In case this is your first exposure to the group, the main man behind things is one Ben Jacobs, and given the sound of his releases, he seems to be rather hyperactive.

Whereas that last release was sort of a hodge-podge of lo-fi electronics and post rock, this newest effort finds him sliding over into the world of pop. Granted, there were tracks on his last album that could have been thrown in the category as well, but these 12 new tracks find him tackling things head on. Even at that, though, don't expect anything you'd hear on commercial radio anytime soon, as Jacobs skewers the genre with so many off-kilter rhythms and odd sounds that it's doubtful he'll be taking on any of the big names quite yet.

One of the biggest obvious changes between the last release and this one is the addition of vocals, both by Jacobs himself and by his sister Becky. Whereas there were only vocals (mostly lyric-less) on a couple tracks of Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be, there are only a couple tracks on this new release without them. "Merman" opens the release with what you've come to expect, as drum machines skitter nearly out-of-control while little horn blasts and keyboard melodies shuffle at odd intervals, trying and failing to find their place. Over all this are breathy vocals by Jacobs which syncopate at odd intervals, sometimes feeling completely off, but then falling right into place at others.

"MBGATE" shuffles through an opening half of what sounds like a band warming up before a vocal sample fits and starts and the whole thing slides into a sort of stuttering disco-house number for the second half. It's downright scatterbrained, but it works wonderfully. "Lysine" is the first single from the album, and easily the most traditional sounding. With his sister adding some downright soulful vocals (about getting cold sores on your mouth from lack of the title element), the track is a great little glitch-pop number with old-school keyboard injections. After the fluttering "Fuerte," the album launches into one of my favorite tracks on the disc in the only minute-long "Pocket." Stomping along with a muffled beat and chorus of reverbed vocals by his sister, it's an infectious moment that I wish would have continued on for much longer.

So it goes with this release, though. While there are a couple longer tracks (the album closer of "Labial" is alternately richly gorgeous and elegantly cheesy), much of the album busts it through frantic shorter tracks like the frantic, pitch-bent vocals and pitter patter percussion on "Lights" and the touching skittery pop of "Acorns." Clocking in at under 40 minutes, it seems like the album would fly by too quickly, but the amount of intricate elements going on within most of the tracks is enough to keep your head finding new things for listen after listen. While the lyrics are sometimes questionably silly (like the aforementioned cold sore ditty), they work in large part because of the almost schizophrenic pace that the album keeps. Not quite as solid as his debut effort, but still highly recommended.

Rating: 7.75