Replicator – Winterval


Looking at the blue jewel case (not Ryko green) and eerie artwork to Replicator’s Winterval, I knew quality music was a-waiting. The album title, to say the least, is undeniably cool. And then I noticed that Bob Weston, member of Shellac and producer of Sebadoh and Archers of Loaf, produced this half-hour LP. Boy, everything about this album smelled of rock. And, what an excellent smelling rock Winterval is.
The album opens with the 5-minute “(no more) salted beef,” an instrumental that only half foreshadows what lies ahead. The song fluctuates between two parts: a soft, patterned guitar-picking part accompanied by a just-noticeable marimba, and a heavy, distorted guitar part á-la Shellac. “Soda Troll” combines driving bass and more distorted guitar, but this time with yelled vocals from guitarist Conan Neutron.
Another instrumental, “Journey to the End of the Night Part 2” throws out the Shellac formula, opting for an atmospheric-providing ebow and laid-back guitar work that screams This is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing to Think About. But all sanity is lost when the guitar comes crashing in like lighting, and the song is forced to plunge on with bass leading the way. A more engaging instrumental than the album opener, “Journey to the End…” provides the perfect soundtrack to the Winterval‘s stormy cover artwork.
“Ka-Tet” just rocks. There is not much more to say here. The almost tribal drumming, along with the relentless loudness and spurted vocals that I cannot make out (but that are supposedly inspired by Stephen King’s Dark Tower series). If a single were to be chosen off Winterval, the 3-minute song about lethargy, “Motivationally Challenged,” would be it. Perhaps the most poppy the album has to offer (but still not a pop song by any means), “Motivationally Challenged” bounces along, never forgetting to be loud along the way. It opens with “he’s got his own set of problems / lord knows that I have got mine / he’s been feeling unappreciated / so I listen to him whine,” sung over intricate guitar and then shifts to an insanely hooky double-vocal climax. “Strategery” is another dark, Shellac-y number where Neutron’s almost-singing over distortion is reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr.’s late 80 days to be sure. But, like on all of this Berkeley band’s songs, Dan Kennedy’s bass is as equally a driving force as Neutron’s guitar.
The album’s final songs, “Will C. Wood” and “Taxi Driving” represent Replica’s loud and soft side, respectively. “Will C. Wood” will inspire the listener to pick up a bass and mean ax and wail away at them simultaneously. Piano and ebow are found at the foreground of the third instrumental, “Taxi Driving,” creating undoubtedly the most solemn and atmospheric song on Winterval.
Replicator comes as a pleasant surprise. As of now, I would deem them my favorite new band. After all, they combine elements of Shellac and Modest Mouse but still sound their own. And they have a very raw sound, perhaps even moreso than Shellac, if that is possible. I eagerly await their follow-up release to this rawkin’ debut.