Untied States – Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
Untied States‘ Instant Everything, Constant Nothing is a collection of ends that have been untied, reordered, and then tied together again, with a fragmented puzzle of grungy indie as the end result. Complex structures and layers are fused with a wide variety of musical ideas with heroin-through-vein sensibilities and deadbeat progression choice common to grunge. The addition of drawn-out vocals ultimately creates an effect as thick and layered as Animal Collective. Occasionally, a clean little pop or hardcore influence will pop its head through the quicksand and take hold of the listener, only to drown in the murky atmosphere before long. The musical vocabulary of Untied States is quite elaborate for the sound they have achieved, each track is unique and genuine sounding, and at times this record plays like 70s prog that has been dipped in plaid.
It’s hard to describe Instant Everything… with a blanket statement because it offers so many different things in different places and, at times, many different things simultaneously. I don’t usually do this, but I feel compelled to summarize each song at its plainest level, just so I don’t contradict myself trying to make remarks that hold true throughout the whole record. There are very few. Instant Everything, Constant Nothing. Keep in mind that I am only summarizing core essentials of these songs, and there is a great deal more going on in these songs than I will address in this summary.
At times gripping and at times less-than-anxious, “Gorilla the Bull” is a shaky roller coaster of quirky guitar and bass work in long-winded verses that build up to short, breakthrough choruses that offer the listener a sense of short-lived relief. “Not Fences, Mere Masks” has a repeating dissonant lick that serves as a great contrast to a cycling set of clean breaks, and grounds an otherwise unstable piece of music through its infancy. The song then crescendos with a marchy take on Drive Like Jehu-esque post-hardcore riffing before it builds in tempo and ultimately derails itself as the track comes to a screeching halt. “Unsilvered Mirrors” uses samples and guitar noises quite provocatively after introducing itself with a drab organ and vocal piece. “Grey Tangerines” is the closest that Untied States come to “single material” on this album, but it is still a very thick and strange rendering of beauty. Electronic elements and an unconventional sense of progression play against the somewhat accessible lead work and make it one of the hardest poppy tunes to follow in recent memory. “These Dead Birds” opens with a beautiful acoustic piece that is soon accompanied by piano and serves as a good break from the murky atmosphere for a couple of minutes before the explosive, noisy chorus cuts in and the two become recurring counterpoints throughout the rest of the track. “Take Time for Always” sees Untied at their most urgent-sounding from the get-go. The layers and transitions on this track become a bit exhausting for my tastes, however. “Bye Bye Bi-Polar” features the most dynamic vocals on the record, with a chorus equipped with a disgusted bark reminiscent of the end of Pink Floyd‘s The Wall, when everything goes all crazy and dark and animated. A quite mellow and kind-hearted verse is pitted against a spiteful, chaotic chorus and I think this concept is as obvious as any on the album, with a title like “Bye Bye Bi-Polar”. “Wrestling With Entropy in the Rehabbed Factory” shoves the piano to the foreground, and then builds a cohesive soundscape around its epic progression that sticks to one theme more than the preceding tracks. From this point on, the album takes on a much more focused, keyboard/piano oriented tone and some of its most memorable passages come in its closing moments.
This CD is definitely a grower, mainly because of its tendency to veil accessible sounds in inaccessible clutter, but it’s one that is worth the time. It’s organized enough to be compelling music, and unorganized enough to be interesting and expressive. The second half of the album sounds like a Beatles record for an eclectic music fanatic who loves underground 90s music (it even seems to “borrow” a pretty recognizable chord progression somewhere in there). It is not completely unwarranted to say that there are moments on this album that touch on a level of musical grandeur and vision comparable to some of the more influential records of the past, although it too busy and unpolished to be top 40 material. There is also a serious lack of vocal hooks for it to be in this category. That didn’t stop me from enjoying it, though, and it shouldn’t stop you either.