Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sleigh Bells: Treats

     Here we are again, with me trying to introduce something to you that you may not have ever heard of. It's another weird one as well I'm afraid! When I first listened to this record more than a year ago, I literally couldn't, for reasons that will become apparent later. Now however, on return, I find my musical ears matured, and decided to try and review it. Sleigh Bells are a noise pop duo hailing from Brooklyn, with Derek E. Miller, former guitarist for metalcore band Poison the Well, joining with Alexis Krauss, who previously worked with teen pop band Rubyblue. That collaboration is a strange one, but they manage to pull it off with a messy flourish. They don't make the two different styles merge together, but rather create a new identity with influences from both. That makes for very original music though, let me tell you. The soft and the harsh side by side creates a shattered, crazy world, where things seep and blend into each other. Sprout flavoured lollipops. Flowery death metal bands. Imagine the chaos, and squash that into a record.
     This isn't for everyone, and in their very specific and at times abrasive sound, they're restricting themselves from people. Whether this is a good thing or not, I don't know. I myself can't listen to this for a very long time without a headache, which turns the appeal right down, but I appreciate the attempt to create something completely unseen, by me at least. Some songs aren't bad, but others, queue 'Tell 'Em', are relentless, and the mixture of high vocals, lower throbbing bass and chugging guitar, all lathered in reverb, isn't that enjoyable. The rhythm and beats present on every track however, are very addictive and pulse-quickening, which seems to be Sleigh Bells default setting. So, half marks from me.
     'Kids' electronic whirrs set off another flurry of vocals overlaying vocals, but the sampled schoolgirl voices are a nice touch of variety to the album. It's an asylum of fun and disregard for rules, but the mixture doesn't do it for me, I'm afraid. The only track I think I could listen to more than twice is 'Rill Rill', with it's acoustic twang and instrumentation more suited to Krauss' higher vocal range. The lyrics flow and although repetitive, this works when paired with the very repetitive backing. 'Straight A's' however? Ewww. The muffled bass buffets your ears, drowning out the vocals in the noisiest track I've heard in a long while. The singing on 'A/B Machines' are backed by nice electronic guitars, but then it all descends into headache-inducing chaos. Again.
     I think I'd better get my opinion across better than I actually have. I appreciate this album, a lot. I appreciate the messiness, loosely tied with the strings of rhythm and repetition. I appreciate the effort to create something different to nearly everything else out there, and I appreciate the instrumentation and careful production. Having said all that, I can listen to it, which is more than I could a year ago, but I simply don't enjoy it. The noise is too much. I would have preferred for the band to keep the very loud, fast, pounding noise to one or two tracks, with perhaps a slightly toned down approach for the rest. Even though this would have probably lost them their edge over other, less original artists, it would have certainly been better than the almost constant musical bombardment I had to endure here, for just over half an hour. It doesn't sound long, and relatively, it isn't. It does however, grate on your nerves a little when you can't hear yourself think. Like I said before, if you think you'll enjoy this, go ahead, but 'Treats' definitely isn't for everybody. Criticise my lacking musical palette, but it's my opinion at the end of the day!