Fog: 10th Avenue Freakout

10th Avenue Freakout
Lex Records

Andrew Broder made his name as a DJ, but he's more like a record-hungry raccoon, knocking over garbage cans to feed his found-sound habit. He cemented his talent for creating hypnotic atmospheres on 2003's Ether Teeth, which was enchanted by reconfigured military drums, chirping birds, and the crackle of discarded vinyl. On that album, his voice was just another sound clip to be twisted and chopped up. But on 10th Avenue Freakout, the ambient soundscapes have been demoted to a mere bed for Broder's lumbering vocals. Alas, it's as if he now fancies himself a singer-songwriter.

The album isn't without highlights. "We're Winning" pairs handclaps with creaky synthetic percussion and eventually builds to the soaring refrain, "Squirt guns filled with pig's blood, for real." "The Rabbit" features an exuberant, unexpected Beach Boys-esque chorus that fails to brighten the otherwise dull track. On a section of "The Poor Fella," Broder, a shaky singer, turns over the spotlight to an operatic robot--an inspired whim, but it's probably not a good sign that the automaton steals the song.

For the most part, the only emotion the album manages to convey is sullenness. On the title track, the melody repeatedly falls into awkward dissonance, similar to the verses of the Dismemberment Plan's "You Are Invited." Broder's deadpan vocal delivery isn't so different from that group's Travis Morrison in his calmer moments. The difference is that Morrison is a great storyteller, while Broder's tone is conversational but empty, sort of like a friend who calls you up to talk about nothing for hours on end. When he drones some vacuous poesy about "a neon pink werewolf suspended above the ceiling of the sunken sunset sky," it's as if your friend has dropped acid and still fails to be interesting. Perhaps with an intervention, we can get our friend back on his feet and rummaging through dumpsters again.

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