Repetition is often seen as the antithesis to good music. People are so hung up on the concept of constantly moving forward that they often forget one important thing: music derives its meaning from repetition. Rhythm is, inherently, structure and structure demands consistency and repetition. Even when you’re breaking, the hallmark of progressive music, you’re still defining yourself in the light of that repetition and your movement away from it. Thus, the inexorable grip of repetition on music continues and many, many forms of resistance and acquiescence to that grip exist. Some bands, like Atlanta’s Crispin Wah, lean into that repetition, banking on the structure that comes from out of it to give their music punch and meaning.
And it works. Their latest release, Lemon Pepper, is a wonderful example of what the band themselves call “shredgaze”. It’s a style of music that relies on guitar loops, odd tones, thick and hazy drum-work and an overall structure of back and forth that creates a dreamlike quality to their music. Take “Splat” for example, the track that closes the album. It starts with the guitars describing an odd scale, certain notes picked out to echo beyond the line’s movement while the bass hums in the background. This one line will repeat throughout the entire track, lending its backbone. Because that backbone is inherently off-kilter (embellished with psychedelic excursions along that scale) the track itself becomes almost lurid, vaguely unsettling and odd.
The drums, on this track and on the entire album, keep things moving along building up enough momentum to get us across the ambient section in the middle. Once that bridge of quiet has been crossed, everything comes back but even weirder somehow, notes piling on top of notes in that “shredgaze” fashion. That’s the secret of repetition; the more Crispin Wah pile on, the more things refract among themselves and multiply into new, cool places. The end result is overwhelming but by channeling it into more tripped out and ambient tracks, like the almost math-rock in nature “Rain, Wait for Me” on the beginning of the album (which also features some ridiculously good manipulations of the guitar tone), Cripsin Wah manage to make Lemon Pepper not too overwhelming and tiring.
Somewhat. I don’t think it would come to surprise to anyone, based off of my descriptions above, that Lemon Pepper is not an easy album to listen to. There’s a certain mood or state of mind necessary to “dig” what Crispin Wah are doing here; since the music aims to inherently explore through looping, the mood here is psychedelic, “far out” as they used to say in the 60’s. If you’re not there mentally, emotionally, then it’s often “too far out” and the music’s meaning is lost. But when you’re keyed in, you’re keyed in; there’s something enthralling and unique with how the band approach composition and track structure. And you know what, it’s fine that this is music for that particular mood because that particular mood is a good place to be. And so is Lemon Pepper. If you’re looking for music that’ll challenge you and translate you through that challenge into a new state of mind, spin this album. Safe travels.