Permissionslip – Rock the Available House / Burning Index

Permissionslip
Rock the Available House / Burning Index

You can do some interesting things with just a keyboard and a four-track. David Watlington, aka Permissionslip, is one of those many people out there who uses the keyboard but manages to make some interesting music. A cross between electronica and rock, Permissionslip is lots of assorted keyboard bleeps and whistles, drumbeats, distortion and other sounds. Sometimes, he manages to create some danceable fun and original sounds, and sometimes the music succumbs to too many options and trying to do them all. Both albums are about 14 minute long experiments of sound and energy.

Rock the Available House starts with “This Time This Time This Time,” which has a fairly standard Casio keyboard beat and some fuzzed out electronic sounds and bleeps. The vocals are almost monotone and muffled, with the chorus even more electronically distorted. But he lyrics are cool: “For so long I believed this lie til I endeavored to untie / what had begun to pacify my terror of a butterfly.” There’s some guitar here as well, or you can do more than I thought with a keyboard. “Coinslot” has some excellent dance-like noises, but the radio-tuning distortion when the vocals kick in is just too much and very distracting. “Something #3” has a killer guitar riff to kick things off, but again I wish Watlington would either not sing with the distortion or not sing. The combination of keyboards and guitar are pretty fresh, almost like a more rocking Woofie. “C.C. of C.K.” combines a sped-up hip-hop beat with fuzzed-out guitar, and the vocals actually work here, creating something of a muzzled rock song. The album finishes with two keyboard-heavy songs that probably get carried away with the various noises, but I guess that’s what Watlington was going for.

“Artificial Sun” from Burning Index has a little bit of a different sound. Casio rhythm #4 (guess) is a Latin/somba beat, and Watlington sings with much less distortion, which I think helps. Oh, and he varies the rhythm a bit, bringing in more electronic drums. But “Defenestration” is a much more original rock song with an 80’s beat and heavy keyboards. It’s the guitar sounds that make this song faster and more energetic. The most cohesive song, “And What, Pray Tell, Is That?” almost sounds like it could be a Sonic Youth track, with some finally good muzzy vocals and some every-changing rhythms. “Follow the Bouncing Ball” is just weird, Watlington’s attempt to mix some sounds around a very simple keyboard loop and terribly distorted vocals. And finally, “Subliminal Architects” is just too much noise for me.

Watlington is having fun with these two Permissionslip releases. You know we’ve all sat down with a keyboard at one time or another and found how easy it is to make cool sounds and how awesome it would be to record them. Watlington just did it. Granted, we all probably couldn’t have added as much guitar work and fuzzed-out distortion to turn some of these little playful ramblings into real songs. Permissionslip isn’t your everyday rock band or even experimental outfit. It’s just one person, making some interesting music with keyboards and guitar. But is it any less for that fact? Naw.