Though an album’s artwork can rarely give you any indication of the music that’s actually on the CD, sometimes what’s on the cover can suggest that the listener is in for something special, or vice versa. Take Mos Def’s Tru3 Magic, which featured practically no art, and, musically, came off as underwhelming and uninspired. On the other hand, there is the new album from Saskatchewan’s Decomposure, titled Vertical Lines A. Each copy of the album is bound with handmade packaging, and tied together with string, which, aside from being difficult to open, makes for a complete artistic experience that eludes the digital age. Before the music even makes its way to the listener’s ears, the aesthetic appeal should win him over easily.
So, with string untied, present opened and music pouring out of the speakers, Vertical Lines A only furthers its uniqueness with a sound that defies any easy categorization, or rather any categorization at all. Decomposure, better known as Caleb Mueller, has both an emotive, expressive tenor and a high speed nigh rap delivery, backed by dense electronic soundscapes that are one part glitch to one part shoegazer. Needless to say, finding a contemporary to this sound proves difficult, though if you can imagine Anticon and The Postal Service crossing paths, you’re on the right track. The tracks themselves, titled “Hour 1” through “Hour 11” (in order, mind you), jump around a bit themselves, from the Brian Eno gone hip-hop “Hour 2,” to the slightly emo “Hour 3” to the sci-fi poetry of “Hour 4.” And there’s merely one more new surprise with the changing of each track, showing the varied aspects of Mueller’s musical identity, and invigorating the senses with new layers of electro-funk, distorted IDM and gentle ambient waves.
It occurs to me, listening to “Hour 5,” that Mueller is like the IDM Justin Timberlake. He’s got soul and can definitely groove, but in ways that evade commercial viability and with the utmost of artistic innovation. With the unwrapping of this elaborate package, the listener truly is given a musical gift, one that rewards and surprises repeatedly and consistently. Now, getting that string to tie back around the thing is another story…best to keep this one open.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.