Hi Red Center – Assemble


Hi Red Center – Assemble

It’s easy to review an album when you love it, and it’s nearly as easy when you hate it. When you’re unsure, however, even after repeated listens, you’re bound to start a review discussing how hard it is to write. Hi Red Center is tough to categorize, their music tough do describe. And Assemble is an album that can be tough to listen to.

That’s not saying that it’s a bad album by any means. What strikes me is how interesting this album is. Not a single listen passed without me noting the songs, even if I was using it as background music, and that says a lot because I listen to music while doing everything. And what strikes me as a profoundly good song on one listen may be my least favorite track the next time I play the album through. There’s something to be said for a band that provokes that kind of reaction.

The band cites musical influences as varied as Captain Beefheart and Lionel Richie, and comparisons have been made to Deerhoof and Pattern is Movement. I come back to Don Caballero because of the oddly disjointed rhythms and creative song structures, but you’ll likely make your own comparisons. Instrumentation includes xylophone and oddly tuned guitars, keyboards and jazzy, math-rock style percussion. Vocals are often sung over top of each other, gang-style, yet sometimes they sound surprisingly pretty. Songs start and stop, at times tough to follow and other times riding a pop-like hook that comes out of nowhere.

“Toothless Beau” features pretty vocals and lovely xylophone that contrasts with the pounding, almost relentless guitars and drums. The new-wavey “Littlest Giant” is perhaps my most consistent favorite track, following a simple mix of keyboards and xylophone but featuring the vocals that are a feature here but detract from other songs like “Symmetry Chameleon,” where they’re just all over the place, like the rhythm. “Nowheresville” is a virtual unlistenable mess of singing up and down various scales while guitars and drums blare at you atonally, but then “Lullaby” is an oddly calm take on a car driving away, nearly pretty despite the jazzy rhythm and unusual background songs. Again, in order, “Chicken Gorlet” is a chaotic, frenzied mess of sounds and rhythms, but it’s followed by the cohesive “Trees in a Row,” a kind of pleasant if unusual track. If more songs were like the closing “Pipe Dream,” which has a kind of Elf Power-esque pop feel to its more consistent flow, I’d probably like the entire album.

To say Hi Red Center is all over the place is an understatement. At times quiet, at times loud and abrasive, it follows no set pattern. It’s not pop or jazz or punk or plain old noise but an amalgamation of them all, resulting in an album at times appealing, at times appalling, but always interesting. You will have an opinion about this band; it just might change every time you listen to the album.