Glish: Blast Off
Only seconds after the aerated opening notes of “Legs In Space” jounce from their speakers, it’s evident that Glish is attempting to breathe new life into an otherwise stale musical vista with a detailed attention to textural convention. Echoed, wiry lead guitars overlay a bouncy barely-there rhythm section, ghostly stargazer lyricism and cymbal-heavy drums that create less of a solid beat than a ubiquitous air of soft white noise, bringing to mind to the sounds of early, spacey David Bowie. Space appears – at least now – to be the driving theme of this infant New Orleans band: gift wrapped in all the traditional onion layers of 1990s Space Rock (an album title metaphorically invoking exploratory otherworldliness; vague, abyssal lyrical subject matter; album art presumably culled from NASA stock photos), the Blast Off EP is, on its face, a purposeful throwback to the days when bands uniformly obsessed over the Infinite simply to avoid being boxed in by existing pervasive musical norms.
It’s entirely possible, however, that the members of Glish intend themselves to be less a throwback than a genuine response to modern indie rock culture, whose already-constricting rules for reputability and success seem to gradually tighten each year, narrowing the playing field with every annual “Best Of” list. When acts like the Fleet Foxes and Neon Indian, who – to any fan of grit, fuzz or distortion – may be nothing more than banal exercises in background pot smoking music, are being considered the standard of relevancy, crafting an imaginary soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey is as worthwhile a counterpoint – or at least as admirable a cop out – as any. Alternatively, Glish is a perfect efficiency model response to New Orleans’ own relative lack of anything Space, Shoegaze, or Post. Indeed, grumblings of “Why don’t we have a band like that?” bubble up every time a Ringo Deathstarr, Deerhunter or Harvey Milk roll through town.
Nevertheless, with Glish’s collective membership reading like a short laundry list of local outsider musicians, each of whose presence in a melodic space rock band implies a willingness to vacate their usual artistic fringes to write some tunes with a tinge of traditionalism, this EP at times comes off not as anti-Indie Establishment but as an anomalous experiment in pop fun. Evan Cvitanovic’s trademark drumming style – akin to a somewhat down-paced Zach Hill mathy drum roll, at times a minimalist parallel to Caddywhompus’ Sean Hart – is completely absent on Blast Off in favor of the barefaced percussion work of the alternative nineties, and on tracks like “Magazine” he and his High In One Eye band mate, guitarist Andrew Landry, temper their attention deficit techniques with a restrained peppiness and a surprising grasp of pop subtlety. Bassist Dexter Gilmore (otherwise known as the axeman and lead singer of the Dongles, possibly the strangest, hardest avant-garde band playing in Louisiana today) similarly displays an uncharacteristic amount of self control, providing a meandering lull to the tender, silky vocal harmonies of Byron Chance and Meagan Lanier on “Sex”. Even Lanier, a relative newcomer to New Orleans rock n’ roll, sounds as if she’s miles from her stylistic comfort zone, but this frontwoman is absolutely captivating as she eerily and aptly glides her voice through deep sonic caverns of shoegaze-esque accompaniment.
That the band’s members even manage to smoothly reconcile themselves with their chosen sound is in and of itself miraculous, and the EP isn’t without its rough spots and wrinkles, with occasionally jazzy guitar solos or math rock suites that seem heavy handed and out of place, probably the result of the kinds of instrumental tug-o-war that are inevitable in a band made up of musicians from other already-established acts. But that apparent inner antagonism – the collective attempt to master a well-treaded genre that nonetheless stylistically challenges each individual member – is ultimately Glish’s greatest asset, and on Blast Off the band achieves precisely what it set out to do.