A Single Frame album rarely sounds like the work of one singular band. Rather, their discs tend to sound like mix tapes, free-form radio or an mp3 playlist on shuffle. Jumping back and forth between guitar-driven rockers, synth-heavy new wave songs, post-punk dissonance, hardcore intensity and, of course, the brief bits of found sound and instrumental interludes between songs. But on Body/End/Basement, it’s apparent that the Austin band has made a turn for the darker, even if few of the songs actually have much in common with each other. Nonetheless, the cartoon mummy on the album cover should be some indication that the band has moved into more sinister, albeit no less accessible territory.
BEB is, in many ways, a continuation of the unpredictable sound of their first album, Wetheads Come Running. Yet, this album seems grittier and dirtier, transmitted from an underground frequency that has filtered out all of the quirk and lightheartedness, replacing it with fatter synths and more distorted guitars and bass. Well, it’s still quirky, but if we’re going to give a name for this style, let’s call it robo-goth, as the two qualities that all of these songs share are a heavy treatment of synthesizers and an overall dark, shady tone.
The funny thing about Single Frame, though, is that even the guitars don’t really sound like guitars. The woozy riffage of “I’ll Lose Your Balance” doesn’t sound like the product of any stringed instrument I’ve heard before. And yet, that’s what makes the song so memorable. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there was a fourth member lurking around somewhere, “treating” the band’s instruments a la Brian Eno in Roxy Music. Likewise, “Culture Medium” features a fuzzy bass that’s so distorted, it could have come from a Death From Above 1979 song.
When Single Frame wants to be strictly synth-based, however, they’re equally ass-kicking, as in the minimal electro dub of “New Blank Document” or the new wave goth of “Exact Copy of This in the Basement.” But the combination between this synthetic side and the one that prefers guitars is where the magic really happens, as on”Digital Witness,” a song that’s so Joy Division that Factory Records could release it for their big comeback.
Thankfully, Single Frame scaled back on the segues this time around, opting for more songs, even if some of them are on the shorter side. And the songs are unpredictable and awesome as ever. Though it can be frustrating for an album to be so random and jumbled, in the case of Single Frame, it’s standard practice. It’s all part of the charm, I suppose, and the Texan trio mixes it up well. But if they get even more eerie and robotic, I believe a call to Six Finger Satellite’s lawyers might be in order.
Enon – High Society
Brainiac – Electro-Shock For President
Milemarker – Anaesthetic
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.