The songs just skitter away in a delightful pop of Roman candles on Wet Fruit’s self-titled, debut LP, out last week on digital and cassette via Seattle’s Halfshell Records, each composition uniquely frenetic and painted with minute detail to texture and tone. But to write off the ascending Portland quartet as some incantation of art-rock or less pop-fixated Talking Heads worship is not only wrong-headed; it’s pejorative. This is brilliantly unclassifiable stuff, somehow walking between the raindrops of no-wave, math rock, post-punk, even muted psychedelics. Simply put: it knocks you off-balance and is downright intoxicating.
While the gentle, carefully pulsing ebb and flow of standout track “Water” hints at post-rock queen Tara Jane O’Neil and her Sonora Pine or Retsin projects, it’s not a good calling card for the record, which has livelier colors to molest. Instead, look for theses to album opener “Conceptual,” which seems to toy with the guitar/bass call-and-respond technique mastered by avant-noise trio Storm & Stress and filter it through the post-everything carpal tunnel syndrome of Lick My Decals-era Beefheart. (Bassist/vocalist Rebecca Rasmussen’s and guitarist/vocalist Elaina Tardif’s soothing coos, accentuated often by reverb, are tasty counterpoints to the jaggedness of it all.) If it weren’t for the occasional eruption of distortion and punk energy – or maybe because of it — one would be left to call this, dare I say, Art.
On the verses of “Goodbaddog,” Wet Fruit engage in menage a trois with the likes of Devo and Servotron. Just three songs later, on the wonderfully titled “Christ In Heat,” they employ the same rigidity – listen to drummer Papi Fimbres’ locked grooves! Damn! – but the fluidity of Charles Salas-Humara’s heavily reverbed electric guitar, mixed with that ethereal vocal charm, suggests deeper narratives. That is, until two and then three minutes in, when the song, out of nowhere, explodes and distorted shrapnel begins to fly. (They thankfully return to the earlier trance-making after the breakdowns.) Fimbres also shines on “Minute Women,” where the compounded cycles of his tom/snare refrains roll us right into a rousing chorus. And did I mention he’s the glue that holds together gems like “Conceptual?” No? Well, then, that, too.
I have it on decent merit from the Internets that the quartet is based, at least in part, on improvisational studies. Yeah, maybe I buy that; maybe I hear that and maybe I heart that. There’s an intrinsic and carefully superimposed narrative to much of the song-logic here, a way of making listeners think it just flowed forth. It also seems like this is painstakingly refined and rehearsed material. Or is it all a series of happy accidents? How else can you explain the slightly looser-limbed “Wasted Future/Relaxed Trucker,” the album’s closer, which falls apart halfway through its 6:56 run time, only to work its way back into a beautific psych-rock crescendo? There’s a beautiful diversity of colors on display here and the record feels larger, and somehow deeper, than the clock on its seven tracks suggests. Want the skinny? If you’re feeling adventurous, track this one down.