A month ago, I reviewed Fades, the latest album by Cheer Accident. I’ve since wondered that if Cheer Accident were shot through a black hole, dispersed at a molecular level, and then reassembled by a ghost from a David Lynch film, that they might sound like The Dreebs, a more abstract and darker delve into the alternative. Forest of a Crew is the first album in five years from the Brooklyn-based three-piece. It is a strange, daunting, and altogether captivating experience, minimalist in its own right and rather unsettled because of it.
The album is like the lost wedge from a larger orchestral spectacle never to be unearthed. I can’t quite work out what it is, where it came from, or what any of it means. And being so musically perplexed is mighty great fun. I am extremely grateful for the ride. I’m grateful for the whole general weirdness of it all, and I’m grateful for the ‘I AM CREW’ message subliminally planted within the track listing, and how each letter marks an abstract musical interlude across the album. It’s a stockpile of nice touches uniquely blended to grant our ears with a once-in-a-lifetime listening experience.
The feeling of uncertainty manifests from the get-go in the first segment of the “I AM CREW” progression, from which we move forward to the opening track, “Reese”, an oily clunky soundscape, which by all rights should fail musically, but actually achieves the opposite, all due to some impeccable timing and natural musical ingenuity. It is an energetic opening to the album, carried forward by the excellently groovy “My Killer”, where the less-is-more formula really comes to play, and is in many ways the party-piece of Forest of a Crew. But that’s not to say that it’s in any way, er, normal.
And what we might class as a rock persona/tempo in the first portion of the record dissipates by the time we get to the foreboding “Marble Head”, a haunting ballad where an unexpected key change morphs the eerie into the beautiful, and once again with the smallest touch takes the music in a whole new direction. We then face newfound strangeness in the rather tribal “QAC”, which features some rather gothic sounding string work. If Forest of a Crew was just one big disturbed dream, then we would find ourselves lodged in the darkest pits of it right here. And things take no course for the lighter at the cataclysmic “The Paint”, another example where the discordance makes for a unique brand of beauty, and provides an intense epic turning point for the record.
We then lull into the melancholy, yet still abstract “Picture of Faith”. But Forest of a Crew ultimately closes with ample fervor in the last sequence of tracks, with the suitably operatic “De Beers” and the vocally driven and satisfyingly strange “Love Your Body”.
Forest of a Crew is so dedicated to its journey along the abyss of slow-burning weirdness, that this record is going to be a divider for certain. But for people like me who enjoy being musically knocked-for-six out of their comfort zone, it’s a real treat. It’s hard to tell how this band managed to pull off such an exciting soundscape with only a handful of sound effects, but they did. And that stripped-down methodology is the key to making this such an enthralling jaunt. The Dreebs understand the formula to making good music, and henceforth seem exceptionally good at tearing it to bits. All we need to do is sit back, close our eyes and get lost inside the awe-inspiring madness of it all.
Notable Tracks: “Reese”; “My Killer”; “QAC”
FFO: Tomahawk; PC Worship; Suuns