Rudi Zygadlo

Great Western Laymen

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This is the kind of album that you really want to like, filled with interesting noises and textures, and alternately funky and forbidding rhythms. But it makes you work to like it, which reflects either a refreshing unwillingness to pander or an example of arrogant overreaching, take your pick. Whichever verdict you render, there's no questioning the creativity and adventurousness of Rudy Zygadlo's musical vision. "Manuscripts Don't Burn" just seems self-consciously difficult, with instrumental passages written in what sounds like 10/4 alternating with gracefully harmonized vocal sections that are still rhythmically off-kilter but technically regular. "Something About Faith," on the other hand, is weird-sounding but more conventionally structured: a slowly churning dubstep groove underlies the layered sounds of multiple household appliances going gradually haywire while a voice struggles to be heard over the funky mayhem. "Perfect Lust" and "Filthy Logic" are no less sonically crazy than the other tracks here, but they hang together better; in both cases, the sound salad settles down when the voices come in, and the rhythms are regular enough to engage the hips. These tracks work very well. "Song of Praise," however, also flirts with musical convention, and in so doing it falls flat, so it's hard to deduce exactly what it is that makes a Rudy Zygadlo song work or not. The more you listen, the crazier things get: "A Room to Sing" prominently features chipmunk voices, to no good aesthetic end. "Magic in the Afternoon" goes back to the dubstep verities -- squidgy sonics, slowly lurching rhythms, unapologetic repetitiveness in the service of an elephantine groove -- and in so doing becomes one of the album's most compelling tracks. (It also features a wholly unexpected interlude of jazzy piano.) What this all adds up to is a crazy quilt of jittery electro-funk that rarely fails to be interesting, and will make a welcome soundtrack to your next party of intellectual clubgoers.

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