by Joe Gutierrez (@jgutierz_)
As soon as you read the name of the band, you know you’re in for something out of the ordinary: “Cloud Becomes Your Hand”. Upon identification, it summons up a brief and jolting consideration of the suggested transformation and consequence. Something as intangible as a cloud up in the sky, floating water and ice, becoming a piece of your body, perhaps the piece of your body you rely on most in this world. Rest In Fleas is a record that packs a parallel punch to this conjured up sensation.
One of the album’s most impressive tracks is the nearly six minute hyper-speed post-punk weirdness “Bridge Of Ignorance Returns.” It arrives with an avalanche of a tom roll, making way for a frantic storm of steady noise. I feel like I’m walking up an escalator the wrong way on a loop. The bouncing bass and drums serve as a shaky foundation for sounds to dance atop; synth, shakers, clarinet, violin, and bells are all there. About halfway through it breaks off into a brief psychedelic unveiling of sun-soaked gardens, before plunging back into the previous chaos. A recorded slurping sound and a pulsing organ slipping in and out of consciousness craftily punctuate the track. Another favorite is side A’s closer, a fitting transition into what follows. “Other Suns” feels like stumbling distortedly through a carnival’s house of broken mirrors, or like waiting in an elevator and never knowing when it’s going to stop at the right floor. Cloud Becomes Your Hand is fantastic at creating an atmosphere and letting it take the listener elsewhere.
The adeptness of the instrumentation never subtracts from the profundity of Rest In Fleas’ vocal performances and lyricism. I particularly love the use of repetition at the end of “Hermit”’s second verse- “I saw a reflection in the water today. I saw a reflection. I saw a reflection!” The tone and emphasis on each word of this final repeated line is forced out with the utmost conviction, almost as if the singer is discovering themselves in their reflection for the first time. Other notable lyrics appear in the album’s title track, introduced by woozy organ and cascading acoustic guitar. “My teeth are eyebrows and my head is an apple. I live in the sewer and I drink my own vomit.” Words here are used not to tell a story, but to conjure up images and feelings. It brings to my mind the surrealist film collaboration between Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, Un Chien Andalou. The absurdity of what is sung compliments and enhances each musical trap door’s unexpected arrival.
Listening to Rest In Fleas is probably the closest you can come to feeling like a cartoon without using drugs or dreaming. The band has developed a whole new language with their musicianship and every instrument is the star of its own show, functioning as pieces of a grandiose puzzle. They’re unique and beautiful all on their own, but juxtaposed they create a quilt of sounds. It is one you’ll definitely want to wrap yourself up in.