Experimental Aircraft – S/T

From the very first few seconds of Experimental Aircraft’s self-titled debut right down to the way this release is packaged, it is quite apparent who this band longs to be. But since I know and you don’t, we’re going to play a game. (For a brief preface on games, please see my Creeper Lagoon review. Summary: games are fun, I like games.) This time, we’re going to play a guessing game. I’m going to describe some things, such as how the booklet art is laid out or perhaps how a certain song sounds, and you’re going to try and guess what band Experimental Aircraft is so fond of. OK here goes.
Let’s start with the album art. First of all, the cover obviously doesn’t say much. [note – the blank box to the left is actually a scan of the cover – ed.] Neither does the back cover. In fact, except for the obligatory label recognition and an insanely annoying song list that presents the name of the six songs as one long sentence/word so that no one really knows what the names of the songs are, the two covers are exactly the same. But alas! What have we here? When we open up the (two-ply) booklet, we are bombarded by a hazy mix of bluish color and some faded credits. Hmmm…very interesting indeed.
OK, maybe that wasn’t enough of a clue. Maybe through either my somewhat inept description or through your own lack of taste you have no idea what I’m talking about. No worries, for now I shall describe a song, because I never want this game to end. The first song opens with lush, layered guitars, light percussion, and a female singer who sounds like she’s singing through a cloud (well, through a cloud or through an English accent).
Well, since all good things must eventually end, I will now tell you the name of the band. *Ahem* Drumroll please. My Bloody Valentine! And just because I’m a nice guy, I’ll tell you that Experimental Aircraft borrow quite heavily from them and their marvelous album, Loveless. (If you have not heard this album, assuming the following about yourself: you suck.) Experimental Aircraft hail from Austin, TX, though they sound for all the world like a British shoegazer band from the early 90s. They have a co-ed vocal tandem, layered, organic guitar instrumentals, and so many atmospheres they can’t handle them all.
The second song, called “The Pod,” I believe, follows the same formula as the first, only without vocals. Sustained guitars flesh out a landscape of quiet rhythm, subtle breakdowns, and sonic decadence. The third song, “Electric Surgery” improves yet again, standing as the most rocking song on the album. Using a bassline as a propellant, the song shoves itself forward yet still seems feverishly restrained. “Semi Super Friends” (again I am just guessing at these song titles) is an instrumental that sounds like something U2 might do if they were staring at their sneakers instead of wearing stupid sunglasses. “Ghost Rain,” the only song sung by the male vocalist, sounds like just about anything from the early/mid eighties (take your pick: Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc.), and even though they’re from Texas, the singer still sounds British. (Perhaps even more amazingly, the Austin Anglophile actually sounds good.) The last song, “Solitude,” is excellent as well, with female vocals skirting over buzzing guitars that finally sound like they’ve been let off the leash.
All things considered, this is an extremely impressive debut. Their shoegazer songs may not be all that original, but they’re written remarkably well. Their instrumentals are also excellent, and their new wave revivalism is substantially more interesting and accurate than most of the shoddy retro impersonators that have surfaced lately. While not being intensely original, Experimental Aircraft succeed in a lot of areas that a young band usually doesn’t excel in. (They’re promising to say the least.) If you’re a fan of the shoegazer scene, track down this band. If you’re not, take note – you’ll probably hear about this band again.