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Operator - Puzzlephonics I | Album Review

by: Joe Gutierrez (@steadylean)

I walked in circles through the Santa Cruz redwoods as Faust IV spilled into my ears. I laughed so hard I cried trying to get through Tago Mago on fungi. When you find yourself inside a washing machine or on the moon, you’re probably listening to Puzzlephonics I. Again. It’ll take you places like those, in that way. Brooklyn four-piece Operator have crafted an overwhelmingly phenomenal smorgasborg of sound and style, spanning several galaxies in under eighteen minutes flat. I think of The Slits. I think of Broadcast. But let’s take it a step further.

“I, Banana” kicks a door down. You’re in a new room, putting it all together for the first time: faces, furniture, foliage, fun. An escalator-up groove shoots you off and away, to someplace you’ve only occupied in your dreams. There are computers there, because there are computers everywhere. A post-punk romp that suddenly dissolves into tree-sap hammock-weather, blissful pop, rear-ended by psych-distorted chaos and confusion. I’ve never felt guitar stab like this. It’s a trip. You’re hooked. Then there’s “Requirements”: what it must feel like to float on your back along the Milky Way. Fiddling with the radio dial in a snowstorm. Watching an episode of the Flintstones, sipping a Mezcal Mule in a bar. The guitar swirls and scrubs your eardrums clean, bass bubbles like your first time seeing someone juggle, drums bounce up, down, in, out, pop bottle set to explode. These words slip out, desperate and concerned: “Whose side are you on at the end of the day?”, punctuated by a broad bass note, sustained and washing over. 

“Mr. Director” lumbers in with a cosmic Kubrick doom, the giddy excitement before every sci-fi flick with the lights off. It is the recognition of screeching brakes, a highway away, bracing for imminent impact. Space sounds and coffee grounds. Voices mix magnetically with slathering synth. This feels like Berlin, but I’ve never been there, only ever heard about it. “Trauma” is the memory of a megaphone dropped to dirt from above. A mesage home? Secret somber sighs over walkie talkies with friends. A split-screen ballet flickering above Times Square so bright you can blink. Synth contracts and expands, all-encompassing, like a boa constrictor squeezing the sleep out of you. Closing track “EE UNSH” brings a click-clack of bottlecap high-hat and swoony electronics, before a sabotage barrage of spazz-out six-string, jerky keys, and hammering bass smother. Look no further for a quality mishmash of jazz and punk, something to bounce off the walls to. Something to give some time to.

We’re only five songs into Operator’s discography, and look how far it’s taken us. This band has a future because they can see the future. They can feel the future. They pick notes from the air like lemons dangling from trees, they piece together puzzles of rhythm and melody. These empty spaces are all a part of the bigger picture. Infinite potential, sounds waiting to be found. Put yourself together to Puzzlephonics I