Distinguished readers, here is the 2017 album that took BloodLetterPress by storm, the one that we’ve had playing at most of our in-person meetings this year, the latest offering from the man we’ve come to view as the voice of a generation. Neil Cicierega, perhaps best known as the creator of Lemon Demon, Potter Puppet Pals, and countless other internet follies, has graced us with a third mashup album.
If you’ve ever been under a weighted blanket, or dozed off in the trunk of a car during a hot summer, you know the sensation I’m trying to invoke when I say that Ex People’s debut Bird is a comfy doom album. Comfy doom is the kind of music that Windhand plays, the kind that Cloudkicker invoked on Subsume, the feeling of getting overwhelmed by something heavy and soft that pins you down and gets you cozy. It doesn’t need to be scary or capital-e Evil; its power comes from its ability to flatten, to neutralize, to disarm. “You’ll be eating out my hand,” vocalist Laura Kirsop promises on the track “You Creep”. It’s a cool subversion of the macho posturing that some elements of metal fall back on, and given Ex People’s roots in punk and riot grrrl, it’s certainly intentional.
The London quartet bring the low end like nobody’s business on Bird; at its grooviest, this album’s kinetic energy is the kind of meaty lumbering you might expect from an entire slumber of megatherium. But the blunt instruments of the rhythm section don’t just twist and crush aimlessly though the earth; this is not just a collection of nice riffs that become stale after twenty minutes. Ex People craft a heady soundscape, nestling you in layers upon layers of textured guitar, beautiful loud-soft dynamics, and a perfectly matched vocal performance even as you’re driven forth by the low end. Guitarist Calem Gunn said it best in an interview with Metal Hammer: “There’s a unique, addictive feeling to be wrought from playing low and slow. Weight and the absence of weight.” Bird is a colossal creature borne aloft.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a divide in the kinds of media that my friends and I consume. Most of the time, across mediums, my tastes tend strongly towards work with high production value; I’m all about skilled musicianship and a clean mix, and typo-ridden or trope-heavy writing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t believe production value is the be-all end-all of art, but I’m way more likely to give something a chance if whatever sample I’m checking out bears the hallmarks of careful craftsmanship. This means that a lot of the styles of media my friends love (like bedroom folk-punk and fanfiction) never really grab me. We’ll come back to that, but first, I need to tell you about how I couldn’t stop yelling about Dragonoak.