Reporter have been together under this particular domain name for about three years now. In their former life, they were called Wet Confetti, but they were informed via a cease and desist order that there already was a band called Wet Confetti in Rhinebeck, New York and the Portland band were forced to change their name.
No, that’s not true. I just made it up. But, just the same, I bet there’s some other band called Reporter out there already, so you kids look out now.
The name Wet Confetti kind of implies some Macarthur Park-ian product of a post-parade rainstorm; whereas, Reporter sounds cool, cosmopolitan and officious. Professional. That more or less describes the musical differences between Wet Confetti and Reporter, as well.
Wet Confetti were sort of an earthy, organic, minimalist garage band for six or seven years. Without changing personnel, they rather suddenly metamorphosed from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly of disco electronica, informed with Neopolitan flavors. Italian, French and German.
They are often compared to Portland’s other disco electronica band, Glass Candy, although the two organizations are considerably different in how they approach their musics. The only real similarities between the two lie in the predominance of breathy female vocals and the heavy usage of synths. Stylistically and referentially they are significantly different.
Temperature-wise, Reporter are far cooler than Glass Candy. Where Ida No of Glass Candy sort of smolders, Alberta Poon of Reporter shivers orgasmically. And for every breathless Deborah Harry coo, there is the murmured purr of Donna Summer, and the whispery Andrea True “connection.”
Today’s disco flavored electronica is constructed in ways similar to the original stuff in the ‘70s. But software has replaced the Linn drum machine, a Prophet 10 synthesizer and a midi sequencer. Drum triggered beats and riffs in a rainbow of sound colors are really very easy to access these days and for a righteous price. Synths are ubiquitous. Any sound known to man is available. What’s your choice?
Everything can be recorded (or stored, anyway) to a computer. That makes studio-quality productions entirely portable to any nearby club that will have you on a bill. Lay a band, say, Wet Confetti, over those tracks and woo-hoo- disco ball and crazy X sex. You have the best of both worlds: electronic precision and garage band ethos.
I couldn’t, for the life of me, ever begin to compare their music to others, especially Ms. Poon‘s ethereal vocals. Nico ( a little bit), Lena Lovich (hardly- except for the occasional goosey falsetto stuff) and Nina Hagen (barely at all) have all been tossed out there elsewhere.
I suppose, in order to fill a void, I would have to include Diamanda Galas to the list- if only to be the first to make that ridiculous comparison, no matter how ludicrously inaccurate it is (too). Diamanda Galas on helium. Now there’s a thought.
She’s closer to Beth Gibbons of Portishead. But not that close. Maybe Julianna Hatfield in an alternative universe. Perhaps Miki Berenyi of Lush. I guess she sounds like Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki too. Some piece of promo compares them. Sinead O’Connor. Don’t forget her. They all sing in a high, breathy voice- which, I guess, is what I‘m trying to convey.
For Ms. Poon’s vocals, Reporter add loads of swirly echo that bounces around your head like an empty gymnasium- vocals similar to those of Elizabeth Fraser in the Cocteau Twins. Put it all together and what have you got? Bibbity bobbity boo.
Musically, it is squiggly electronica, with a good beat and inventive arrangements. Reporter create great dance music- with a lot of variety, inside the fairly rigid constraints of what it is they are trying to do.
“Geronimo‘s Bones” begins with Daniel Grazzini’s treated guitars bubbling under Mike McKinnon’s insistent ostensible kick drum punches (what is real and what is synthesized is entirely arbitrary in this musical scenario). Slowly, loops and themes begin to add themselves to the mix, in some cases, by subtraction. Figure that one out.
Near the two-minute mark, the song turns into what it is going to be: an otherworldly paean to the ineffable inexplicability of the mysterious. At five-minutes, the band breaks into a very cool concluding groove, that could easily be a transition into another song, if the band desired. But not here.
Instead, while maintaining a straight-ahead kick beat, at about the same tempo as the previous track (who‘s counting?), “Total Fascination” creates a sense of drama- or as much drama as you can squeeze from a circuit board, anyway. Ms. Poon’s cool, surreal backing vocals are one of the main attractions here. Some very well executed, very well developed electronic interplay concludes the song.
Maintaining the tempo, but changing the beat and the feel, “Click Shaw,” heads away from the disco mainstream into something more thematically 80s pop- vocally related to Kate Bush and (yes) Lena Lovich in it’s nervous falsetto. A real cool bassline, that sounds as if it was actually played and not merely “generated,” drives the song.
“One Night” develops slowly, rather stuttering and meandering at first, before breaking into the familiar driving disco tempo (around 120 bps). Some fine guitar work from Mr. Grazzini, and possibly well-articulated bass work (presumably on a real bass in tandem with a synthetic one- but who can tell these days? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) by Ms. Poon. The silvery, shimmery extended fade is very nice indeed.
The relentless kick escorts the album to the instrumental “The Moon,“ augmented by crazy hand drums that may or may not be the work of Mr. McKinnon and little plinky synth ornaments, before a spaghetti western guitar swings the piece into a darker, more shadowy area. Synth hand claps. You don’t hear that enough anymore. A very nice pastiche. Film score stuff, for sure.
Mr. Grazini’s jagged guitar figure saws through the underside of “Lab Test,” as Ms. Poon’s dreamy vocals float upon a pelting rain of drony, arpeggiated synth splashes. Again with the insistent kick beat- here sounding like someone punching a leather sofa. Still more hand drums, in the background, add a crazy cool accent, daddio. When the song finally kicks into high gear, a succinct happy-skippy bassline propels the song (at times). It might be the work of Ms. Poon.
“Silent Running” rolls out with- wait for it- the unmerciful kick drum object throbbing like a goats heart after a voodoo ceremony. Underneath that is a tinkly synth arpeggio, creating a faint sense of foreboding. Faint, child-like vocals initiate the ceremony.
But, unexpectedly, at around one-minute, forty-seconds mark, the song launches into a wonderful disco pastiche that evokes the days of Studio 54 or Les Bains Douches. O mon dieu! A pretty piano filigree weaves a design for a while and then it’s back to something more tribal.
The title track is notable for the fact that the four-to-the-floor kick beat is replaced by a slight (welcomed) variation. Mr. Grazzini contributes a nifty, Andy Summers sort of lick- and, again, Ms. Poon executes solidly concise bass. But, soon enough, the song wanders into a different vibe, before returning to the main theme.
Wraith-like, hallucinatory vocals float around, trying to puncture the thin plastic film that wombs the arrangement. At four-minutes forty they go somewhere else, more electronic, with great results. Reporter are nothing if not adventurous and creative. They typically crowd three or four pieces into one whole. But they do it really well.
The instrumental “Love Sounds” serves as a lovely coda to the proceedings: downright pastoral and primordial- until a bit of edge creeps into the mix near the middle. Very nicely done.
Reporter are a remarkably talented bunch. This album more or less flies by, connected by the pulsations of the kick drum; but with each song ornamented individually, with special attention to detail. Time Incredible is a wonderful “concept” album, where the concept is the music. What a concept!
What is really clear here is, that despite good quality recording methods (murkily pristine, perhaps), it’s hard to tell what is being played and what is being manufactured. And, at a certain point, who cares? This is really great music. Slick, but warm enough to mistake the hologram of a warm hand for the real thing.
© 2011 Buko Magazine