I am all for artistic expression and daring to be different, “difficult,” and just plain weird. Sometimes these things go a little too far. Avey Tare (a.k.a. David Portner, member of Animal Collective) and Kria Brekkan’s (a.k.a. Kristin Anna Valtysdottir, formerly of Múm) album, Pullhair Rubeye, goes that extra mile too far. It is possible for me to admire this album on a purely conceptual level. I can discuss it and furrow my brow and talk at length about how this will fit into the experimental music canon. The thing is…I don’t really want to.
For the uninitiated, Pullhair Rubeye was more or less completed in December of 2006. Around that time director David Lynch released his test on the moviegoing audience, Inland Empire. Reportedly inspired by the nonlinear (amongst other things) nature of the film, Portner and Valtysdottir decided to reverse the tapes and release the album with all the songs running backwards.
This is when you say, “Jesus H. Christ. For real?”
A lot of experimental music goes unnoticed, save for maybe that one weirdo (you know, that guy?) who’ll insist on talking about it, but Pullhair Rubeye was not destined for that fate. Portner and Valtysdottir are too well-known amongst the indie music scene to have this experiment gather dust. The online community has essentially beaten this album to a bloody pulp. The rather interesting thing is that this album at its very core consists of acoustic guitars, a piano and voices. Some pretty savvy computer folks have even “fixed” the album, restoring it to it’s original-non-backwards state. Now that is something I’d be curious to hear.
It also leads one to question whether or not Portner and Valtysdottir would know that tech-savvy fans would “fix” the album? It’s hard to imagine that they did not, since technology is so prevalent and it’s just too tempting not to. But I beg the question: is this all some elaborate art project? Much of the album feels like it and maybe this act of fans “fixing” the album is part of the whole experience.
Pullhair Rubeye is an incredibly difficult album to review. You’ve probably already noticed that I haven’t even talked about any of the songs yet. Well, that’s just the thing. Since the whole album is backwards, the songs just all sound exactly the same. There’s that unmistakable “backwards” sound that when sprinkled here and there in other songs, give a really great, disorienting effect. But here, it is just so much of the same that the very same disorienting effect becomes really boring and at times, really annoying.
I totally get it. They decided to follow their artistic vision and it’s great that Portner and Valtysdottir have found each other and that they share such a unique vision. Kudos. But let’s face facts here: Pullhair Rubeye is an album, an album that is meant to be purchased by fans, a product. I won’t say that I’m sorry I listened to this album. On the contrary; I’m glad I did get to experience this weird slice of conceptual art. However an entire album of backward tracks bleeds together and removes any sense of the artists themselves. I don’t get an actual sense of Portner and Valtysdottir as people, except that they probably get stoned a lot. It also ends up being a massive sound blob that just ends up being kind of depressing. In the end, Pullhair Rubeye makes for an interesting experiment, I just never want to hear it ever again.
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs
The Flaming Lips – Zaireeka
Animal Collective and Múm albums played backwards