Passage, aka David Bryant, is at a physical, creative and personal crossroads.
Waiting for a light rail car, he wonders how he might save his relationship, forge a “real” career, become financially comfortable, and “find happiness all the while” making music on his own and with his band, Restiform Bodies. He ponders why, after a decade as a musician, the first date of the big tour is at a pizza parlor in Arcata, Calif. “Not that I’m ungrateful,” he says. With all that mental racket, it’s no wonder his music is a pastiche of white noise and Burroughs-esque cut-up sounds, like an analog radio dial spun from end to end of an all-inclusive, frequency modulated band.
On the group’s second album TV Loves You Back, Restiform Bodies—a trio completed by also-solo artists Telephone Jim Jesus (George Chadwick on synths, samples and effects) and Bomarr (Matt Valerio handling beats and percussion)—the group issues a scathingly sensitive indictment of bling culture and the American strip mall, what Bryant calls “network-trash life with a spiritual awareness in a funny, entertaining and genuinely positive way.” Restiform doesn’t really play to the Anticon label’s rep of supplying hip-hop and dance music that bucks their respective familiar characteristics.
On “Pimp Like God,” Restiform repeatedly pulls you in and out of a vintage 1980s new-wave groove and cold hip-hop burn.“Opulent Soul” mines the same decade, specifically something between Depeche Mode’s synth pop and Spandau Ballet’s crooning new romanticism, while also putting Eminem through a Digital Underground sieve and tossing in futuristic static, clicks and breaks. And you might say “Consumer Culture Wave” is hip-hop all the way through, talking about pussy and screwin’ “like you mean it … like you got a reputation to uphold,” but for the somnambulant sing-song rhymes.
Bryant says the Anticon typecasting is hotly debated, “one of those well-trodden areas” in the artist owned-and-operated label’s camp. Most of the acts, like Why?, Subtle, Odd Nosdam, SJ Esau and Dosh, have been called “the hip-hop equivalent of post-rock”—the implication being that these artists appropriate hip-hop instrumentation and gear for purposes not originally intended. It’s not necessarily an accurate or fair description. “I do not consider Restiform Bodies to be post hip-hop,” says Bryant, citing Subtle and Themselves as better fits in that they use classic elements of hip-hop to “make great songs” and subvert the sound.
Restiform, he says, is electronic music and “definitely” hip-hop. However, if he has to call it anything, he’d choose “amateur slop or kids’ stuff or bad demos.”
Bryant’s low self-appraisal stems from other things he’s trying to figure out, yet somehow muddles through with some success. He knows the stylistic hopscotch can be considered bad business, but “I can’t sit before a piano and knock out a verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, verse, et cetera, from the same seat.” He admits a lack of skills and embraces his shortcomings. “I’d probably be more successful, but I do cherish that handicap because I find myself in places when writing songs without totally predictable options.”
It’s a suitable method by which to soundtrack “all this cynical material” and in doing so, make “a totally uncynical record.” But Bryant, ever the cynic, says Restiform didn’t even accomplish that much. “People get scared when you try to go about making ‘conscious’ art without cutting cynicism, so it found its way in. It’s one of my biggest regrets, letting the cynicism take over this record.”
w/ Thank you @ The Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Sunday, Feb. 22, 10 p.m. 24Tix.com