Music’s future is in the independent label scene, and it is likely that talent will be culled increasingly from the fertile fields of Myspace Music. But there comes a point when a critic who reviews predominantly Indie releases begins to wonder, “is there such a thing as being TOO Indie?” Is there a line in the sand over which lies a dangerous realm of lo-fi, ‘I cut this album on my laptop’ music containing so much ambient sampling, white boy pretentiousness, and overdrive-free rock as to be embarrassing? The answer is yes, and I’m damn sick of it.
SJ Esau is the kind of artist that the snot weevils at Pitchfork Media will have an orgasm over. His is the species of music that adorns the corners of theater-junky dorm rooms and twenty-minute independent films. To put it bluntly, the British artist sounds like a more vocal Mogwai with slightly fewer layered harmonies and a love of the whimsy of everyday in addition to acid dreaminess. There are a million ways to groan over this album. From the ridiculous title to the jarring masturbation dance of violins in “Cat Track,” SJ Esau certainly knows how to skirt the border between ingenuity and irritation.
I found myself wanting to despise this album from the get-go. But unfortunately, it’s got some redeeming value. Esau is a devoted son of Radiohead and Thom Yorke, incorporating enough dissonant static chirps, swaying ambient swarms of feedback, and glowering percussion to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse often works best when Esau shuts the hell up and lets his digitized meanderings take a hold of the listener’s cerebral cortex. His voice becomes one with the undulating warmth of “Where’s Your Control” as little words like ‘retina’ puncture the gel-like surface of the dreamy music. It’s subtle and expansive.
The best moments of Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse occur toward its end, including the doom crawl of bass in “Queezy Beliefs” and the frenetic pace-break in “Halfway up the Pathway.” The album reaches its percussive conclusion of throaty marimba and thick vocals on “Lazy Eye.” Sounding like a bored orchestra jamming before the main symphonic event, it nonetheless ripples with warm sonic blankets before it is overtaken by static.
Yes, this is perfect music to accompany dissociation on cough syrup or rubbing bodies with a lovely other in the candlelight. But in a sober frame of mind it’s just plain boring, stretched past a very tedious thirty minutes of too much ambience. Indie does not have to be elevator music.