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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From the Future

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

There was a time not so long ago in Detroit when the mere mention of Scrummage made the CCS kids and downtown trendspotters go a little gaga in their fancypants. Scrummage was a place (a space in Eastern Market, specifically) as well as a collective aesthetic (Hey! Look what fun and art we can make out of nothing! And such bright colors! And it's all homemade! ) and, finally, a band — or, really, several bands (Lenny Stoofy, Benny Stoofy and Lord Scrummage, among various others). Then they moved out of Eastern Market to an abandoned toy factory on the east side, and things were never quite the same. Eventually, it seemed the Scrummage "moment" had passed. So it's with a good deal of curiosity that this writer downloaded this record from the netz. 

The Scrummage crew always had a psychedelic soul and a penchant for "folk" — even if that's loosely defined by making music with whatever's at hand. And From the Future is a generally ADD-addled statement of purpose encompassing those two forms along with a healthy dose of DIY beatmaking, and some truly fresh-sounding synth experiments (see the wonderful album closer, "Happy Now"). The mix succeeds in subtle ways and sometimes stumbles in predictable ones. 

Can you take these tracks as freak-folk club mixes for jams that were never heard in any club? Sure. And songs like "Dead Dogs" marry a Scrummagesque shimmer, glimmer and oddball-buzz-hum to the kind of pleasantly bouncy disco bloops and keyboard lines that have been filling up 12-inch singles for 30 years. The result is a kind of homemade Anglo-stoner take on a Flaming Lips comedown. The slight-but-whole "Funeral London," meanwhile, builds with swirly psych to a chiming, charming drum machine finish. And that's not a bad thing. 

But for every gem like "Dead Dogs" there's one like "Knife Hits" that's just fucking infuriating at five minutes and packed full of a bazillion notions — perhaps a half-bazillion of them really sounding like "fun." But the musicians, alas, either don't have the confidence or attention span to figure out how to make it all work. Whatevs. These guys are obviously just in it for the huge bucks to be made by touring basements, back rooms, warehouses and flop spots. So who are we to rain on their parade if they put together an hour-long mix tape of the most awesome sounds they can coax from their cheap equipment, stringing it together via a master-matrix mixological cut-and-paste method that has more to do with shits 'n' giggles than chin-scratching and tongue-waggling? Take this example: Just when you're lulled into a trance a couple minutes into "Captain Rat," with its bleary Glass Records-esque overcast Sunday comedown, the Scrummagers then cut in with a truly buoyant second wind of dance floor-aping and -mocking beats. Bastards! Or perhaps that should read: "Thank you!" There's still every chance that if these guys focus their laser beams all in the same direction at the same time, they could blow some shit wide-open.


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