Ava Luna Infinite House
(Western Vinyl- April 14, 2015)
(Neo-Soul, Indie, Alternative)
Review by Jack Hartley
Ava Luna’s newest long player, Infinite House, is a diverse and densely packed affair. The opening track, “Company”, is a knuckleball of a song. After starting with a groove that could be right at home on any Stereolab record, it suddenly switches into a noise rock rave-up with weird harmonies circling around a strained refrain of, “Do you appreciate my company?!”
If the company he is speaking of is the multitudinous influences that pop up throughout this record, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Ava Luna has an uncanny ability to blend disparate sounds and styles in a seamless fashion, not just across the album, but from movement to movement within a song, all the while maintaining a playful nature that hides the precision and severity of this band’s execution.
“Tenderize” rides a classic funk vibe, but at moments the vocals become so unhinged they pull the song into the darker corners of the mothership. “Steve Polyester” sounds like a thought experiment to answer the question, “What would a recitation of Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ sound like if it was performed by Gil Scott Heron on LSD?” Turns out, it sounds pretty damn cool. On the stellar track, “Coat of Shellac”, they mold kraut, 90’s R&B, and surf rock into a song tied together with hooks. You could put this on repeat, and not think twice about it.
At the halfway mark we get to the title track, which feels more like a musical interlude than a song, but Ava Luna have already shown us, by this point, that they are in this game to subvert expectations. The back half of this album is where things really open up and push into even stranger, more intense territories. After the pastoral arpeggios and breathy vocals that open up “Black Dog” the song slams into a clipped and fuzzed-up rock out that would make Ty Segall smile. “Best Hexagon” continues in that vein with riffs and four on the floor rhythms driving the song. It’s more straightforward than most of the other tracks on this record, but that’s part of what makes it stand out. “Billz” has, perhaps, the best hook on the album. It sounds like the band channeling a broke Erykah Badu, and it sticks.
The record finishes with a weird one-two punch of songs. Second to last is “Victoria”, which is the most experimental track on the album. When you do as much genre-hopping as Ava Luna, why not have a seven minute tape-spliced space jam? It’s good to hear musicians just living in the music and not worrying about crafting the song so much as just letting it come into being through them (and a hefty dose of delay pedals). In general, I want a record to close with a punch in the gut. Infinite House, however, hits with so many left hooks that I’m fine with an easy come down. After the trip out of the previous track, “Carbon” feels like a shower after a fight. If I’ve used one too many boxing metaphors to describe this record, it’s because, much like Muhammad Ali, Infinite House floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.