Chalk up Exodusarabesque, the 2009 album by Andrew Douglas Rothbard, as one of the two most unique, defiantly genreless efforts I’ve heard all year.1 A stupefyingly complex melange of blistering psychedelia, mystical folk, chamber pop, synth pop, trip-hop, and general noisy bastardism, all generously served up with a healthy dollop of sensory overload, Exodusarabesque is a delectable, sinfully rich earful. Another way of putting it: Listening to this record is like looking at one of Louis Wain’s psychedelic cats.
(How hard is it to describe this shit? I used the word “melange.” You don’t EVER see me use the word “melange,” because it’s a fucking awful word, but that’s how scraping-the-bottom-of-the-critical-cliche barrel Exodusarabesque makes me. Hell, I’m floored and practically drooling right now just listening to it. You try writing well when you’re floored and drooling.)
The weirdest thing about Exodusarabesque is how out of left field it is, at least to me. You see, I’m already somehwat familiar with Abandoned Meander, Andrew Douglas Rothbard’s previous release, and, well, it ain’t like this. What was it like? Oh, thanks for asking! It was, in brief, shamanistic out-folk. Some of the songs had an ecstatic, incantory fever to them, almost like an alarmingly dexterous iteration of Current 932, or maybe Six Organs of Admittance on an ADHD-aided sugar rush. It was difficult to place exactly, but very easy to paint broadly. Part of “that whole thing,” as it were.
More Current 93 similarities: There was a seriously apocalyptic edge to the whole affair, a really earnest, panicked edge to everything. The intensely busy production work definitely played a part; at times, it sounded as though Lubomyr Melnyk had picked up a guitar and teamed up with Kevin Shields and a doomsday street prophet. It was pretty good, but ultimately too weird for me to return to with any regularity. (If you don’t know ol’ Tom very well, rest assured that the “too weird” thing, coming from me, means a LOT.)
As for Exodusarabesque? None of the above applies. Sure, it’s a busy, cluttered, at times incredibly bizarre record, but it’s an intensely inviting clutter. The record is overstuffed with ideas, rife with unexpectedly vibrant clashes between genres. Blown-out folk weirdness blends effortlessly with seductive instrumental trip-hop rhythms. Lush, textured psychedelia meets propulsive house touches. Occasionally, what sounds like two totally different songs played simultaneously will occur, and it will sound awesome. At its finest moments, I’m reminded of what would happen if early (good) Animal Collective and Luomo got together, huffed Day-Glo paint fumes, and made a pop record. It’s fucked up and wonderfully addictive and I’m quite confident in asserting that Exodusarabesque is like nothing else you’ve ever heard.
Speaking of confidence, that’s another thing all over Exodusarabesque that was nowhere to be found on Abandoned Meander, or at least not in such obvious quanitites. That’s right: This is a profoundly confident record, one clearly made by someone assured in his abilities. How else can you possibly explain the fearless originality all over this album? There’s touches everywhere, like the jarring cut-ups that mimic a negative beat all over “Wisely Wasted” or the lush, almost sonically luxuriant psychedelic breakdowns (in both senses of the word) that characterize “Cypherbets.” And if you want a true display of out-and-out balls, look no further than the absolutely monstrous, four-minute wall of backwards drums and razor-wire shredding that ends the title track. The strident, quavering seer from Abandoned Meander is clearly gone.
There’s more. ”Elief,” with its brooding bassline and mumbled falsetto harmonies, sounds like the best outtake off of the Flaming Lips’s Embryo ever. ”Lil’xmoke” takes a languid Kim Hiorthøy or Four Tet track, detonates it, and seductively emotes all over the glued-together fragments. I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
With Exodusarabesque, Andrew Douglas Rothbard has made something unexpected, brave, and important. The transition from willfully obscure, deranged backwoodsman to brilliant genre alchemist/beatsmith is complete, seamless, and gratefully accepted. Everyone: Listen to this man.
1The other is Lists by Colorlist. Lists, from 2008, is an absolutely astonishing, gorgeous, and compulsively listenable slice of jazz-inflected electro-acoustic composition. It’s one of three records by the band, and if anyone—ANYONE—knows where I can hear more from this fantastic Chicago duo, let me know, because I’m kind of a desperate fan over here.
2It really, really pains me to reference Current 93, because I fucking loathe that band. I just do. I’m sorry, but I find them almost comically unlistenable.
I’m looking to steer the ol’ psychedelic music blog towards writing about, y’know, psychedelic music. Exodusarabesque is a hell of a start. We’ll see, though. I have a pretty bad attention span. If I can think of anything neat in the pipeline, I’ll put it in here.