by Glennon Curran
Guerilla Toss is known for its intense and energetic live shows. Angular screeches and laser beam synthesizers bounce through a shifting mass of funk-punk while vocalist Kassie Carlson leads the audience down the rabbit hole. Fans treasure these performances because they create the rare space for people to transcend through music together. Previous releases from the group have translated this phenomenon into a recorded medium with varying degrees of success. It is difficult (maybe impossible) to translate what is essentially a collective social experience into a recording often heard by the listener in isolation.
Eraser Stargazer is the band’s first full-length release on DFA Records. On it, the band channels its unique energy into the creation of a musical work for the recorded medium, shifting the focus away from capturing the features of its identity as live performers. The group’s bandcamp page states that the album was recorded and written “in 6 weeks of winter isolation in upstate New York.” This concentrated writing effort is unmistakably conveyed throughout each of the eight songs. The music is a departure for the group insofar as it is a more controlled expression of their typical mania. At the same time, the dynamic continuity creates a prolonged experience that the listener can escape to anywhere, at any time. This achievement makes Eraser Stargazer the definitive Guerilla Toss album up to this point. It does not require a familiarity with the band’s live performances and is therefore the most accessible recording for a new listener.
Something about the experience of this record is overwhelmingly visual, an attribute aided in no small part by the incredible album artwork. Artist Keith Rankin sets the tone on Eraser Stargazer with the album cover before the first note is even heard. The unique collections of noises that follow inspire a flood of surrealist imagery. Bubbling bass, rusty guitars, and percussion from a witch doctor’s inventory are all broadcast over short-wave radio during a mass hallucination about a future where colorful foam gurgles from plastic translucent pipes.
Eraser Stargazer is a funk-circus in much the same way that a rock-opera is an opera. But it is a circus performed by members of the Freak Show who rose up to oust the carpet-bagging owners and re-envisioned the whole thing as a celebration of their own distorted image. They proudly proclaim “Eraser Stargazer forever,” and as a listener, you can join in the celebration from the comfort of your own couch.