By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
For an entity that's existed for only a little over a year, Dada Trash Collage has had a prolific output. Since last January, the band released two EPs and two full-lengths, including one of each already in 2010. The newest of these, Neighbors, is so full of ideas that it could take weeks to parse its many layers. Together with its immediate predecessor, the Rain War EP, the album marks a considerable leap in the band's development. On its own, it's Dada's most accomplished effort to date.
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Dada's rapid evolution owes some of its debt to famed producer Scott Colburn, who worked on both Rain War and Neighbors, which were recorded together but divided when the band realized it had too much material for one release. Colburn is best known for his work with underground legends the Sun City Girls, although more recently he's worked with Arcade Fire and Animal Collective.
"The amount of knowledge he has is so incredible," says William Freed. The singer originally emailed Colburn on a whim, but the producer invited Freed and drummer Richard Bell to stay with him and his wife so that the pair could record with him in Seattle. "I've worked with producers before in other bands, but never with someone who knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish and what it would sound like. I learned a lot just being out there."
Neighbors' seven songs are bright, sunny sound collages full of lush melodies and dense rhythms. Looping samples overlap to create hypnotic textures that shed much of the abrasiveness of the band's earlier work. One of the keys to Dada's fuller sound is the work Colburn did with Bell's drums. "I love the drum sound he got. Rich was playing [a kit] based around floor tom rather than kick drum, so he used the floor tom as the bass drum, [and] Scott just knew how to fill that space," Freed explains.
The new album also emphasizes live instrumental recordings for its samples, which lend the music its rich, organic feel. "[Colburn] cut a lot of the crap I'd usually include in there out, stuff that wasn't really complementing the song in any way. There were a lot of really high-frequency field recordings that I'd throw in the background, and it would just be, like, noise," Freed admits. "Second Helpings" is perhaps the most impressive example of Freed's evolving technique, a nine-minute song built around a single chord played on an acoustic guitar, looped and processed to mesmerizing effect.
There are a number of influences rippling through Neighbors' abstract pop, from the Beach Boys to the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. Of course, the most obvious precedent is Animal Collective, a comparison that Freed acknowledges is easy to make. "I love that band, and the press they deserve, but I don't want to be Minneapolis's answer to Animal Collective and I don't want people to think of me as a crappier version of them," Freed says.
"It's also a style of music you can't really fake because you have to really care about it and be interested in it to do it, otherwise it's not going to work" he continues. "It's definitely been going on before [Animal Collective], so I think maybe people will just pay more attention to a lot of other bands that are doing that sort of thing."
For Freed, Dada's sound stems more from his approach to music than any sort of imitation. "The thing I love about this band is taking something that isn't pretty and making it pretty with [samplers and other instruments]. A lot of that interest comes from just liking sounds but also wanting to make music," he explains. "For example, when I'm playing guitar, I like making sounds—not just playing guitar, but making sounds and figuring out ways to do things with the guitar."
The band's development has come with costs, however: Since the release of Rain War three months ago, Freed and Bell parted company, turning the band into a solo project. "I love writing music and he loves playing drums, but the levels of commitment were extremely different," Freed says. He sees the split as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. "I have the freedom to have more stuff going on without it getting lost. People come up to me at shows and say they hear more now because it used to be so loud. [When there were live drums] it was hard to judge where we were at with each other."
Freed has plans to tour this summer and is already working on new music that won't be hindered by Bell's absence. "I want to do a record with samples and write string arrangements for them. It's a little more out there, but then it's also a little catchier," he says. The description is an intriguing one, and if Neighbors is any indicator, it's also liable to be another big step forward.
DADA TRASH COLLAGE plays a CD-release show with Dearling Physique, Netherfriends, and Hunting Club on SATURDAY, MAY 8, at the 7th ST. ENTRY; 612.332.1775
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