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Post-Post-Rock MP3

In its own way, Pilot Balloon‘s “Vampire Tonic” (MP3) elegantly compresses the already brief history of pop psychedelics, from the Beatles through the Chemical Brothers and Tortoise, into one seamless montage. But don’t call it a mashup. The track, off the duo’s Ghastly Good Cheer album, released last year on the German label 2nd Rec, opens with something reminiscent of so-called Britpop. There’s an electrified piano and a solo male voice, barely intelligible and heavily echoed. Don’t bother grasping for what it’s saying because soon enough that same echo has dispersed the voice into background haze, and the drums have worked their way into primacy. If that alone isn’t the history of heady rock, what is? Anyhow, the next time you hear the voice, late in the track, around the four-minute mark, it’s been sampled and repurposed as pure tone, an instrument to be played. The message is clear: the real “voice” on a track like this is the voice of the arranger, or in the case of Pilot Balloon, the arrangers. The Massachusetts-based duo of Judson MacRae and KaeoFLUX are able to segue from the opening song through elegant post-rock to tunneling drum’n’bass and on, never losing sight of where they’ve been and where they’re headed. The post-rock sections are particularly fine, threaded through with a woodwind dirge and a halo of mallet work that could just as easily be from a piece by a post-minimalist, like a Michael Torke, or a composed-jazz macher, say Marty Ehrlich, and yet feel right at home here, among the fragments of pop songs, the trip-hop grooves, the machine drums. Yeah, it’s that good. More info at 2ndrec.com and pilotballoon.net.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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