Beautiful Seizure


The leaf label

(The Leaf Label)

4.5/5 Stars


No, I’m not crying wolf. There’s no towering cone of lava spewing forth the end of the world. Instead, there’s “Beautiful Seizure,” the debut album from the latest exclamation-turned-band to rumble out of the underground.

The group treads the same turf as Brooklynites Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but where the East Coast quintet plays it safe, this imminent disaster from Chicago (a city billed on their website as “a cultural center in the world”) dives in head first.

On “Beautiful Seizure,” the band hurls themselves through 12 tracks of schizophonia that will have you savoring each disjointed moment, not knowing which electric yelp will be their last.

Released to little fanfare on a label previously known for experimental electronica, “Beautiful Seizure” is a serendipitous indie debut, even if few songs lend themselves to OC soundtracks and sobby mixtapes.

“Kalamazoo” leads off with a little over a minute of random, dreamy noodling: the calm before the storm. “Easy Does It” kicks these jangly sleigh bells, gently strummed acoustic guitars, and heavenly harp right off a cliff to good effect. The possessed drums and guitars spar in a spastic soloing bout, while Thom Yorke’s bastard child croons a siren’s song to the wild things.

If Radiohead were ever to have an identity crisis, tracks “Apple or a Gun” would be a plausible result; the strained vocals smooth over turbid instrumentals, only to throw them back into a frenzy of urgency.

The album chronicles a battle between Volcano!’s many explosive elements. “Fire Fire” catches the band at a lull, with carefully articulated guitar and foot-tapping drum rhythms working towards a flurry into post-hardcore virtuosity reminiscent of a relaxed Fugazi. That is, until the vocals jump back in halfway through and take the entire song down a deranged stream of consciousness (including sing-spat references to “the nape of my neck” and “my nipple and breast”) ending in yet another clash between the rhythm and lead sections.

“La Lluvia” takes Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Amore,” runs it through a few electronic filters, and hops it up on acid. The vocals wander alone for a while before the drums and guitar jump back in, this time with electronics back up, forcing the band into “Red and White Bells,” the nine-minute nightmare opus of the album.

On this track, Volcano! again channels a younger Radiohead, recalling the British band’s tormented epic “Paranoid Android.” Surprisingly nimble given its gargantuan size, “Red and White Bells” shifts through a handful of carefully orchestrated yet chaotic movements, before ending in a massive eruption of sound. It’s as if they took the horns from The Unicorns and showed them the right way to noodle around with electronics.

Following “Hello Explosion”’s stop-start tribute to the various legacies of their Chicago post-rock predecessors (from mathy Shellac flourishes to Tortoise ambience), “Pulling My Face In And Out of Distortion, I Blink Too Much” lets the credits roll on “Beautiful Seizure” in a fittingly demented sing-song fashion. Guitars roll downstream with a twang of finality, as trumpets sound the band’s exit with gusto.

But wait! Volcano! is not done. No, rather than fade away, the album burns out in a raucous avalanche of sound as war cry, battleaxe guitar, and rolling drums crash down in a violent mess. Just when it seems as though Vesuvius has blown, the band returns to the twinkling calm of the first track, leaving exhausted listeners wondering if the past insane hour of gorgeous convulsions actually happened.