(Listen while you read!)
According to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, 2013 is the year of the snake. Those in tune with Indianapolis' underground music scene know better. This is the year of the moose. David "Moose" Adamson has been everywhere. Below is a run-down of his creative output in 2013. Somebody alert me if I've missed anything.
Like I said, the man has been busy. Amidst all of this recording, Adamson somehow found time to contribute to the live version of Jacob Gardner's ever-evolving psych rock project Raw McCartney, hold down a steady job at LUNA Music and, oh yeah, he got married. Before I get started on the music, this review only attempts to encapsulate the thoughts and feelings that DMA's music inspires in me as the listener. I can't even begin to discern what goes on within Moose's mustachioed noggin. It's entirely possible that your experience with Pheel Phree will inspire a completely different reaction, and that's okay. That's the beauty of abstract art, where the composition exists independently of conventional explanation; the beauty lies firmly within the grasp of the beholder.
In my write-up of Meta Monk's Eons of Time EP I talked about Adamson's tendency toward the abstract in both his music and lyricism. This is a trend that has been in place at least since 2008's Ropechain, as Jookabox, found him embracing voices that visited him during an intense week of recording. Adamson has always been keenly aware of the anti-linear way in which our brains create. Both internal and external stimuli forge in a melting pot fashion, and the resulting art serves as the creator's synthesis or conversation with those varying inputs. When writers mention modern, experimental music in the same breath as contemporary art it comes across as pompous elitism, but one of Pheel Phree's most redeeming qualities is its grittiness. There's no pretentiousness to the grimy, rattling rhythms and primitive howls that define these beats.
The track listing for Pheel Phree is comprised largely of re-worked material from two EPs, The Boardwalk and Drem Beb. The former is no longer available, while the latter found release on a limited-edition cassette via Joyful Noise Recordings in 2011. Pheel Phree opens with the teetering, warbling synth lines of "Toy" over which DMA wax's poetic about a plastic toy with the multiple personalities of a lizard and an insect with the "dark, expressive eyes of a dog." In Adamson's world inanimate objects often show signs of life with the ability to morph into entirely new beings. Here, it seems like he's trying to alert the listener that logic has been thrown out the window and any pre-conceived notions of what is and what isn't are irrelevant.
The pace picks up at the outset of "Dogman" where DMA employs his signature blown subwoofer sound to add texture to the track's lower end. The song simmers down, dissolving into layers and layers of vocals. The vocals serve as instruments throughout Pheel Phree, creating lush sonic spaces for DMA's spoken-word lyrics to reside. Moose uses live looping, but just as often the vocals are ran through his sampler where they're chopped and reconfigured to fit whatever rhythm his heart desires. This underscores the sensation that we're trapped inside his skull, attempting to navigate the competing voices that have been rumbling around in there since Ropechain. The vocal samples also make DMA's instrumentals unique. Rather than utilize the same tired sounds that reappear all over the EDM landscape, Moose turns within for his source material. The result is a refreshing, singular sound unlike anything else I've come across as a listener.
"The Boardwalk" serves as the centerpiece of Pheel Phree's 11 tracks. The beat feels something like a mellower, more inviting MRI machine with more rumbling, blown speakers on the low end, pulsating beeps at the top and whale-like moans in-between. "The Boardwalk" ends abruptly before dropping into the maddening, skipping CD-style arrangement of "It's So Real." A slowed-down, syrupy repetition of the track's title serves as the song's foundation with a helium-infused call-and-response for the hook. It's tough to pick a favorite track from Pheel Phree's b-side, but the ambient, static-laden beat of "Space is a Place" comes awfully close. It's a terrific palate cleanser before Adamson dives headlong back into the abstract storytelling of "Dog Drem" and the lighthearted send-off "It's Funny."
What I love most about DMA's music is that it forces us back within ourselves as the listener. Pheel Phree won't be a home run for everyone. It's not accessible enough for that. However, the album offers an attractive excursion of the mind for those willing to venture down its singular path. It has also been encouraging to see Adamson bring these songs to life in a live setting over the last few months. Though he composes this material solo, DMA's live act includes former Jookabox drummer Patrick Okerson, Everything, Now!'s Allen Bannister on guitar as well as a handful of other frequent collaborators. Catch them in the flesh at the album release party at Joyful Noise Recordings in Fountain Square's Murphy Building tomorrow night. Other performers will include Raw McCartney, Oreo Jones, Haunted Horses (Seattle) and Darkmans. Find all the details on the show via Facebook.