Freshmillions, Focus Group, Royal Forest, the Ripe, and Flyjack
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., May 28, 2010
Why hasn't the record industry sued Girl Talk? No one at the South by Southwest 2010 panel had a definitive answer, and Freshmillions couldn't care less anyway. The local trio distorts its vintage jazz-funk samples beyond recognition, mashing them with squiggling classic rock riffs, cascading synths, and throbbing beats into a thoroughly addictive electronic art. Its debut for Insect Records sounds like it was hatched in Octopus Project and Black Moth Super Rainbow's The House of Apples and Eyeballs, only more aggressive via production arrangements by the Sword's Bryan Richie and robotic vocals in "The Helicopter." Focus Group treads similar territory on Unicornography, skittering around snippets of found sound like a manic, prog-rock version of Negativland. Instrumental chase "Albuquerque Freak Out" and "The Proper Way to Fold a Map" are dense and diabolical, while the guitar-based elixir "On Purpose for Money" wouldn't be out of place on Ratatat's Classics. Here's hoping Royal Forest takes a cue from the success of the group's last EP under its former name, Loxsly, and that this eponymous debut serves as a mere teaser to a more fully developed LP. These four songs, anchored by keyboardist/vocalist Cody Ground, sound like extracted chapters from a larger narrative, with the moody and conceptual indie pop of "Courtesy in Decline" the only notable standout. More promising is the inaugural outing from the Ripe, a Red River supergroup led by Nic Armstrong, former Ugly Beats guitarist Jake Garcia, and Amplified Heat bassist Gian Ortiz. The band's 12-inch EP, Man With No Eyes, pressed on gold vinyl, is appropriately aged and seasoned, with "Holiday" and the title track playing to their collective strengths in summery 1960s power pop. Flyjack is the latest entrant into Austin's soul revival, mining near disco-era R&B and Afro-funk. The quintet's debut On the 1 (Bean Pie) plays it safe, with only a few flashes of Paolo Negri's Hammond B-3 wizardry, but there's a catch. John "Jab'O" Starks of the original J.B.'s handles the sticks, which lends some credibility to the rousing James Brown cover "Ain't It Funky Now."