by Matt Voracek (@anotherdyingart)
With a modest and refined air, the new album from Operator Music Band builds a 21st-century annex off the established architecture of rhythm-driven krautrock. The first half of Puzzlephonics consists of last year’s debut EP, and features five songs that are a master class of locating an entrancing groove, locking it down, and getting lost in the blissful drone. “Whose side are you on at the end of the day?” whispers Dara Hirsch with some accusation on “Requirements”, setting a tension between the elastic bass cycles and Television-esque guitar bursts. For “Trauma,” Hirsch shares vocal duties with the apropos deadpan of Jared Hiller. Synths hums and squelch as the momentum builds in each verse, all purposefully delivered with a post-punk austerity.
The never-before-released content on the second half of Puzzlephonics takes a sunnier disposition than the first, emulating more from the Stereolab camp of minimalist electronics than Neu!’s starker influences. On the wings of blissful Moog bleeps and a metronomic beat, “Wobbulator” takes their collective elements and sweetens the mix with playful flourishes and a pop-inspired chorus. Even when addressing dark subject matter, Operator Music Band chooses to rejoice rather than wallow. On “Creative Tube Bending”, Hiller describes his afflictive experience with a brain tumor: “I found nothing but the threat of discussion/ A lapse in my judgement/ Couldn’t hide the fact that nothing was working”. By setting that moment of anxiety against a juicy beat and Gang of Four-wiry stabs, a harrowing experience quickly becomes an impromptu dance party to celebrate being alive.
The Brooklyn quartet commit to their influences and create a fresh and singular sound. They are at their most polished and tight-knit on “Koma,” adding a circling buzz of feedback to counterpoint the duet’s subtle phrasing. “Find a story behind the story/ It’s never what you think” intones Hirsch in a placid coo, her voice pinpointing a no-man’s land between effortless understatement and automated response. This is the central modus of Puzzlephonics I & II, to get inside a listener’s headspace with irresistible hooks and make a mess by way of anodic repetition. With such a mesmerizing full-length debut, the future path of Operator Music Band is polished smooth with analog electronics and boundless inspiration.