The question is whether psychedelia has become categorically retrospective; like modernism in
literature, art and architechture, like fusion in jazz, what emerged as a genre term has
evolved into a period- term. The style becomes a function of the times in which it was
prevalent: we hear the style and think of the era, and then we proceed to criticize the
artists for retrogression and irony.
The trend is unfortunate. Where there still flowers abuse of entheogens, the potential for
psychedelic music still exists. This is the great primitivism embedded in psychedelia: it's
always potentially participatory. These days, you can get your requisite mindfucks anywhere-–
leaf through the glossy pages of "The Wire," it's all out there: electronic, free jazz, new
classical, drone. But the psychedelic ideally invites participation, while the more abstract
experimental music is crafted for reception and contemplation.
Doldrums' music is psychedelic and is sound enough to withstand all the cheap cracks about
beads and flowers in the barrels of police rifles. Zappa already perfected the art of bashing
hippies on We're Only in It for the Money back in 1968, so you'd have to work really
hard to out- jeer modern music's master satirist. Regardless, Desk Trickery sweats
righteousness. The music is curvaceous and sloppy, slurring in wonder and falling all over
itself like it polished off a quarter- bag of mushrooms about two hours before you hit the
Desk Trickery's music consists of Bill Kellum and Justin Chearno's heavily treated
guitars and Matt Kellum's doubled drum tracks. And the Doldrum's expert use of computer editing
is one of the ways in which the band seems to elude the retro tag; we don't need the illusion
of an improv jam session and drum circle to hear the exploratory fascination the players seem
to have with their own music. The whole album smacks of a ludicrous zeal that is simply
infectious. It's like that weird cool rock you found in the woods while tripping-- you just
want to show it to everyone "because it's just so fucked- up looking, man!"
The tracks on Desk Trickery all segue with only the slightest regard for continuity.
The squealing forty- five second sizzle of "Office Scene" gives way to "Sparkling Deadheadz"
which lays James Plotkin- like treated guitar lines over mechanized flourishes reminiscent of
the great Derek Bailey over fervent jazz- rock drumming. The guitars in "Deadheadz" begin to
drone like cellos as the track progresses and falls apart into jagged Flying Saucer Attack
noise. The third tune, "Fritland," recalls the experimental sonic collage of the Dead's
completely overlooked MIDI-jams of Infrared Roses. If you actually have ingested
something, my guess is that the walls are breathing now.
"Grill Out Time" is the first track with vocals: a sparse frontier Western, all twangy guitars
and scraping strings, with tumbleweed percussions rolling steadily underfoot without progression.
Reverberating arachnid guitar lines blissfully undo this scene and are summarily clipped at the
outset of the fifth track, "Free Festival of the Stonebridge." The song is a poppy dream- rock
tune a la Galaxie 500 which morphs over 13 minutes into some kind of evil music box sound and
eventually ends up as a dissonant electric sitar- like raga.
"Who Shot J.R.?" is spacious and creepy, certainly the album's darkest track, but probably also
the quietest. The tone is one of foreboding or, worse, a restrained malevolence which serves as
a frightening undercurrent to the ecstatic joy of the album's first half. The total degeneration
into whispered noise is checked by the advent of the last track, "Godspeed You Young Actress!"--
a nod to labelmates, Godspeed You Black Emperor in title if not in sound. The last song is
revved up guitar rock at its most unabashed and, like great acid- rock album closers of the
past, "Godspeed" rings with triumph, as if sloppy whirring guitar rock had just been discovered
by the Doldrums themselves on accident. It's the perfect antidote for Desk Trickery's
eerie penultimate track.
Desk Trickery eschews those stabs at profundity that make too much head music transparent
and dull. The album makes no attempts to veil the music's limitations; in fact, the album itself
is the sound of the album being constructed. You can hear the decision- making process unfolding,
the wrong turns and the mistakes as well those moments where the band seems to pick up the trail
again. As freaky as the sound gets, the human element is always present. You don't need drugs to
dig Doldrums, the music will feed your head 'till its full.
-Brent S. Sirota