What does psychedelic surf rock from Detroit sound like?
It sounds like the exceedingly creative At The Beach, a full-length album by the one-man band Whatever. A fun listen from beginning to end, this album is jam packed with unexpected music techniques, a vocal style that is off-key for all the right reasons, and simple yet well-written melodies that are deserving of praise. The entire album evokes the feeling of being at the beach with friends, high on LSD – even if you’ve never tried the drug, and if there’s a negative wind chill reading just outside your window.
The album begins with “Charlie Don’t Surf,” a classic and familiar song premise that captures your interest, if only because it sounds so different and interesting. The first real prize awaits you in the following song, “Beach Party,” a thoroughly difficult song to describe. The time signatures change at seemingly random points throughout, and the percussive rhythm seems to purposefully lose the beat from time to time. Despite seeming scattered on paper, the song is incredibly engaging and the vocals are humorous, giving the song a pleasant edge.
“Isla Vista” is the second prize, and quickly became my favorite though it’s easily the craziest song on the album. Harmony occurs in the pairing of vocals, and in the catchy melody – and that’s about it. Part of the song will likely be spent attempting to determine exactly what instrument is being used to produce the ample dissonance, while all other conventions of sound, particularly with the drums staying on track with the rhythm, have flown completely out the window. The rebellious nature of the musical elements combined gives the song an odd charm that makes the sound more enjoyable.
If that sort of experimental song isn’t quite your taste, rest assured that “Rasta Life” has a more standard song structure. The sonic dissonance still makes an appearance, though it is more delicately placed here than in previous songs. The guitar solos also give this song a nice flavor.
The first of two final songs, “What a Bummer” serves as a nicely crafted interlude, and is a lot calmer than most of the other songs here. The very last song, “Ghost of a Surfer Girl,” features an entrancing, layered melody. What little dissonance that is here is noticeably toned down as compared to the rest of the album, as it eases you out of the experience and back to earth.
The off-key vocals and sometimes detached drumming might be a bit of a turn-off to some, but others will identify the unique charm those elements add to the album and will realize that it wouldn’t be the same without it. This is perfect for anyone looking for an ethereal, entertaining experience that will give them a bit of a reprieve from the harsh winter weather – even if the initial vacation only lasts for ten tracks.
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