Review Summary: Progressive Lo-Fi featuring Dusin Donaldson of Thought Industry, Dave Edwardson of Neurosis, and Robynn Iwata of Cub... and it's free.
At first glance everything about this album might scream “progressive metal” or even “post metal”. To start with, there are only three songs, yet the album clocks in at just over forty minutes. From there you could take a look at the line-up and realize that one of the band members is Dustin Donaldson, the man that played drums on two of the most chaotic, unique and challenging progressive metal albums ever with Thought Industry
. Then you’d probably notice that bass duties for this album were being handled by none other then Dave Edwardson of Neurosis
, but from there things become a little less cut and dry. The third member of this band is a lady by the name of Robynn “Cup” Iwata of pop punk band, Cub
; but the girl responsible for “cuddlecore” could still be branching out musically; right?
Vague descriptions of the music contained within this album would lead you to believe that she really was branching out into some sort of progressive post metal musical realm. The percussion of Dustin Donaldson is frequently complex and is often times complimented by programmed beats as well. Musically the rhythms and melodies are multi-layered and have a tendency to morph and change without any warning at all, but that isn’t the kicker. The thing about this band is that other then the drums and bass, the entire thing is done with synths. You see, I Am Spoonbender is a low-fi band that incorporates musical elements more commonly found in progressive metal. They stick with the lo-fi Casio, video game-ish sounds, but incorporate real drums whose beats are often complex, which forces the music to branch out as well.
The first track displays that progressive edge expertly by beginning with over five minutes of instrumental music. The instrumental section begins easily enough with marching band-style percussion and waves of synth, but soon enough it morphs into something more complex featuring great percussion and a synth rhythm that almost comes across as metal in its construction. One thing that hasn’t been addressed yet is the vocals and at about the six minute mark they make their first true appearance. Vocal duties are split between Dustin Donaldson and Robynn Iwata with Robynn handling the bulk of them. Despite the gender differences their styles are basically the same. Their vocals come off as almost monotone in delivery even though there is definite voice inflection, it’s just that the tone changes are similar to that of Skinny Puppy
’s vocalist (without the distortion) in that they change to provide variation and mood more then they attempt to give you something to sing along to.
The opening track finishes out its nineteen minute run with varying movements, sometimes coming across as almost bouncy or danceable (a descriptor the band hates) and other times complex and moody. The second track can be described in roughly the same way as the first except it comes across as much more progressive despite its shorter length due to the chaotic rhythms (for synth) and complex percussion, and also contains an intro made up of distorted bass that will shake your walls with a good stereo system. The third track ends the album in a more subdued manner with an intro that could definitely be called ambient in nature and an overall more simplistic vibe musically.
Unfortunately, even the relatively simplistic direction of the third track won’t stop this album from coming across in a way that will probably alienate most people. The lo-fi synth is enough to probably turn off a large majority of those that may like the prog influence, but on the other hand, the song lengths and prog influence is probably enough to turn off those into lo-fi and electronica. Admittedly, that doesn’t leave a lot of people left to enjoy their music, but I don’t think the band cares as long as they are true to their fans. In keeping with that idea, the band made this, their sophomore album, available completely for free because in the words of Dustin Donaldson, “…an album about lies should be true to itself”, and while I don’t admit to completely knowing what that means I do know that I got a great and unique album that I would gladly pay for entirely for free.