by Thrin Vianale (@windedfl)
Max Goldstein and Skyler Lloyd, bandmates in Easthampton based math rock/ jizz jazz band Tundrastomper, have been playing music together since they became friends in middle school. I’ve seen Tundrastomper play live a number of times, and they possess an almost telekinetic sense of each other in the live setting, afforded I’m sure by their long term friendships. Their latest offering, a split tape between drummer Max (Maxshh) and guitarist / vocalist Skyler (Lrrr) is endearingly called Thank You Lrrr, You’re Welcome Maxshh, and is a collection of songs written and recorded by both artists in the winter of 2014.
“The idea of the split as a way for us to release our solo music for the first time, but to do it together as a symbol of our friendship, is what has allowed us to ever get around to it,” Skyler told me in a brief interview. Some of the tracks carry some of the same trappings of the Tundrastomper discography, like their penchant for off-kilter time signatures and varied recording styles overlaid on each other, but this recording project shows the pair exploring ideas that transcend their band. Both musicians recorded every instrument on their respective sides entirely. All of the tracks on this album are quite short, the longest one clocking in at just over two minutes long, but despite its brevity the collection is as fully realized as it is wonderfully enigmatic.
Skyler’s (Lrrr’s) side opens with “Clear,” a song both pithy and reverent with ornately crafted vocal harmonies and organ. With an overall mood I’ve encountered only in a few tracks by The Microphones, it showcases the intricacies of Lrrr’s vocal style extremely well. “Another Circ,” which sounds like it was recorded to tape, features Max on drums and leaps into an upbeat, indie pop hook that whisks you away only to leave you jilted in its abrupt secession. The playfulness and spontaneity abruptly following the more somber “Clear” created a juxtaposition that proves “you actually have no idea what this record is going to be like.” So begins the contemplative “Fact Bowl,” which is my favorite on Skyler’s side, with its Adrianne Lenker-like acoustic backing and soothingly sad harmonized vocal melody. The track, tonally, is most related to the first with its atmosphere and gives one a sense that something deeply personal is being conveyed, without being explicitly revealed. Skyler’s side concludes with “Tired Man’s Tumble,” his only track without vocals beginning with a Twilight Zone-y swirling of ambience and ambling into the faint sound of wind chimes, before scratching to a close.
Max’s (Maxshh’s) side kicks off with “Sunsets,” with standout vocal harmonies paired with emotional distorted guitar reminded me faintly of the overall mood in The Anniversary’s Designing a Nervous Breakdown. This track precedes a highly caffeinated cover of Frankie Cosmos’ “Emotional Outbreak,” which I at first didn’t even realize was a Frankie Cosmos cover because of how truly reimagined it is when compared with the original. Maxshh’s cover clocks in at under 40 seconds while the original is about twice the length. This adaptation is a punchy speed-read in Maxshh’s own style of math rock, as if the original drank a ton of espresso in the front seat of Universal’s The Incredible Hulk roller coaster. “Sussman’s Ghost” is by far the most dynamic on Maxshh’s side and faked me out multiple times upon first listen. Maxshh’s tracks on the whole do this often- you may think they’re going one way, but odds are you’re wrong. Beginning with ominous vocal and guitar reversals, “Sussman’s Ghost” slides into a sweet, infectiously catchy indie rock ballad before totally losing itself with harsh vocals and a cloud of distortion like the song is overtaken by a swarm of bees. Maxshh’s side ends with “Nussman,” maybe the perfect soundtrack to being trapped in a haunted Tamagotchi. Nintendo-esque ambience and unsettling in cadence, the track is surprising, winding, and a perfect summary of the tracks as a whole.
What I love most about this tape is the incredibly dynamic but balanced experience of songs against each other. The songs themselves seem to be in an argument against each other at times, and yet tie in harmoniously when listened to all the way through. This collection gives you somber singer-songwriter, emo-leaning power pop, weirdo electronica and cross currents of so many styles that renders it consistently unpredictable, engaging, and unlike any other split I’ve heard.