The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts December 15, 2006

Dmonstrations So Good, They Will Give You “Night Terrors!”

Night Trrors. Shock!

West Coast no-wave revivalists Dmonstrations (“3/4 of their former outfit, dance-punk sensationalists Dosage and Usage,” I’m told) blaze through ten fractured bursts of herky-jerky fury in less than 20 minutes. The sound is akin to Arab On Radar and Ex Models being swallowed whole by Bootsy Collins. Though drummer Aaron Wade may have the inability to hold a solid groove for more than two bars and guitarist/vocalist Tetsunori Tawaraya may wield one hell of a fragmented axe, bassist Nick Barnett manages to anchor the wayward ship with a propulsive, omnipresent low-end grumble.

A major qualm I have with this record—well, at 20 minutes it’s pretty much the only one I could put my finger on before the thing finished—is what I call the “guessing game factor.” Dmonstrations play a strain of music that is, to say the least, pretty well-worn territory.

On their debut LP (and first for Gold Standard Labs, a label co-owned by Omar from the Mars Volta), the trio basically sounds like a more näive, less urbane version of the aforementioned bands, and without putting much of themselves into the music. Listeners are often left guessing which band Dmonstrations is imitating at each turn.

If there is any band  Dmonstrations is outright guilty of pilfering from it’s the late Brainiac. Dissonant chords supported by uncomfortable but still highly infectious rhythms—yes, it’s all very challenging and intense. But the problem is Dmonstrations lacks the freewheeling spontaneity and that keen sense that it could all self-destruct at any moment that characterized so many of Brainiac’s records.

Tawaraya’s voice also bears a striking resemblance to Timmy Taylor on a number of tracks (most noticeably on the opening “Shark”), convulsing and contorting his larynx in what could be construed as either heartfelt tribute or ignorant thievery. There’s an unhinged quality in a few songs that suggest Ex Models (“Voyeur”) and maybe even a less accomplished Melt-Banana (“Hair Pretzel”).

There’s no getting around the fact that Dmonstrations sounds like a product of its influences. And though, the trio gives off a startling, kinetic energy that can’t be denied, it would be nice to see the group put a little more of themselves into the mix.

–Jonathan Pfeffer


Powered by