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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Christopher Willits
Surf Boundaries
Ghostly International

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

October 11, 2006
When trying to think of an appropriate comparison to make in order to shed light on the sound of Christopher Willits' Surf Boundaries little comes to mind. Experimental, orchestrated, electronic-pop flavored bands are a pretty rare breed, and the most relevant thing I can come up with is Jaga Jazzist, but even the the ten-piece Norweigan ensemble is a far cry from an accurate comparison. Insead, what comes to mind as appropriate illustrations for Willits are descriptive words, colors, movement, and the ideas of theme and solidarity. For Willits and his latest album, the biggest difference maker is an unrivaled sense of sonic inhibition.

Never at any point during Surf Boundaries, Willits' third release and his first for Detroit's Ghostly International, does it feel like the composition is hedging too aggressively towards a hook or an end (two vitally inherent conventions of pop music). The organic flow makes Willits' musical blend seamless and void of any major disruptions; the overall idea is very experimental and electronic. But even that word - electronic - is a descriptive misnomer; in its greater sound aesthetic Surf Boundaries doesn't always boast what one would traditionally consider as an "electronic" attitude.

This musician/tinkerer and his collective - which shows off an adept collage of musicians from horn and string orchestral players to wall-of-sound rock 'n' rollers - are more concerned with the finished composition than with the particular instrument used to create it. In each sound there is an extension of an overall feeling, one that is brought on by crescendos, accentuations, distortion, effective repetition, and countless other effects. There are tracks ("Saturn") that ride airy background sounds with glitchy electronic popping noises for two full minutes, and lead into songs full of indie-pop vocal harmony ("Green and Gold") that would bring Sufjan Stevens and his after-school special band to their knees. Down moments are not filler, instead they are set-ups or simply the quieter sides of a multi-level musician and his helpers.

Another edge of confusion to the overall pinpointing of style here is Willits' use of vocals and meaningful lyrics. Similar to the aforementioned Jaga Jazzist, the singing is all done in choral harmony and drones, and on Surf Boundaries it sounds amazing. The fact that a good part of this album was written reflecting a personal relationship in Willits' life makes the vocal urgings and guitar loops and experimental electronic freakouts that much more personal. He was really in it, and this effect bleeds through on all levels.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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