Try to imagine that some friends took a record collection containing a carefully curated assemblage from the 70s to the 90s and smashed them up, then pieced them back together in some strange collage. Maybe it didn’t play right, so they spent time mentally trying to recreate what they remembered, what stood out, which moments were full of promise, curing all evils, smashing all doubts. Then they carefully pieced it together and recorded a soundtrack to accompany them on their long ride across the emptiness of space. It didn’t sound like what they started out listening to, but it contained echoes of this re-imaged, re-imagined past. There’s a Stone Roses album cover where they broke apart a transistor radio and glued it back together. Now you’re getting closer to understanding what Complexion is like. It’s art, it’s rock, it’s pop choruses, it’s anthemic, it’s moody, electronic, rhythmic.
Jorge Elbrecht from Violens and Ariel Pink have contributed to the mix with their spacious, delicate production, drawing attention to a shimmering guitar riff here, sinking a sound in the background effortlessly to bring forward another piece of the puzzle. The vocals are more forward on this album than on Dinowalrus’ last one, but they weave in and out of the music, deploying the bursts of cryptically intelligent, gnomic lyrics that leave traces in your consciousness like being forced to read a fortune at knifepoint. The guitar slides from shoegaze meditative repetitive riffs, to swaggering hints of the Echo and Bunnymen, to sudden smoke swirls of psychedelic intensity that are almost Hendrix-like. Better add the sixties to that prismic broken-up collection. The bass and drums are more live than before, but they alternate with sharp synths that keep us on edge, cold and distant, holding the landscape wide open for the bursts of guitar that run like a tethering rope through the whole album, anchoring us to the ship while we freefloat in space.
The first track, “Lucite,” takes off like a jump jet. Why does it make me think of the song “Love Will Tear Us Apart Again”? Maybe it’s that same excitement building, the same feeling that you’re about to go off somewhere new, the adrenaline rush of the unknown. An electronic wave of sound is wide, expanding the space in your mind. Is it a lucid or Lucite dream? Who knows.
“Tropical Depression” hints at an air of menace that is strangely upbeat. It’s a tribute to a pop song that doesn’t exist.
“Psychic Pharmacy” has the shimmering guitar dissolving into a relentlessly catchy chorus. Again, the backing vocals by Felicia Douglass that run through the album add to the otherworldly feel.
The repeated guitar riff of “In a Sense” brings force to the lyric that snakes through the layers of sound. “Why let someone else decide your fate?” It’s filmic, like Easy Rider for Brooklyn; it makes you want to take to the road.
“Mispronounce” is hopeful and heroic, tinged with the regrets of daily life. The thing is that none of these songs is one just one mood.
My current song on repeat is “The Ancient Stereo.” With hints of Bowie and Echo and the Bunnymen, once again the production brings sounds forward so subtly, mixing and dissolving with the verse. This one is a beauty. Louder? Sure.
Dinowalrus. The sound of the summer, beamed down to your rooftop from space.