Broken Spindles, Inside/Absent

Broken Spindles, Inside/Absent

It’s funny; I know that I should know Joel Peterson more for his work in The Faint than for anything — after all, those Omaha electroslammers pretty much threw the doors wide open between indie-rock and quirky dance music — but after listening to Inside/Absent, his new effort as Broken Spindles, I realize that this is the part of his musical identity that I keep coming back to. It just feels more like it’s him talking and not some ├╝ber-cool hipster. In some ways, it makes sense: The Faint are a band, while Spindles is basically just Peterson himself, so it’s natural that it be more of a personal deal. Along with that, it’s always seemed like The Faint’s been playing for other people, kind of hoping for recognition and maybe that eventual bridging of the gap between the rock and dance worlds; Broken Spindles, on the other hand, feels like it was done strictly for Peterson’s own benefit. It’s still a little strange, though, that what started off as a side project has evolved perceptually (at least for me) into the guy’s defining sound.

Of course, it could have to do with Peterson’s own internal evolution and not just the evolution of my perceptions. I listened to Wet From Birth, The Faint’s latest, and I hate to say it, but it didn’t do much for me. It was good, but it wasn’t anything new — there wasn’t really much difference between Birth and the band’s earlier albums Danse Macabre and Blank-wave Arcade. When I stumbled across Broken Spindles self-titled debut, though, it felt like I’d hit upon the missing piece of the puzzle, the part Peterson was somehow holding back. It was the emotional edge absent from The Faint’s hard metal-and-plastic music, more experimental, creepy instead of snarky.

Inside/Absent proves the point. The new album takes an even further step away from The Faint’s get-the-indie-rockers-on-the-dancefloor sound and towards a more unique, more introspective kind of music. Odd, creepy little piano instrumentals are sprinkled throughout the album (“Inward,” “Desaturated”), making the proceedings feel less like a Saddle Creek deal and more like the soundtrack to a horror movie. The electronics are still in evidence, particularly on “The Distance Is Nearsighted” (which sounds like a Faint outtake and is, incidentally, probably the weakest track here), but it’s more evenly integrated. Take, for example, songs like “Burn My Body,” which melds the programming with a nervous little rock song, “This Is An Introduction,” which is a nicely low-key, bitter pop track, and “Birthday,” which takes the pianos mentioned previously and marries them with a disaffected vocal and background synths. As a whole, the disc has a fragile, claustrophobic feel to it, like the music’s playing in a small, windowless room with the air supply cut off and panic quietly beginning to set in.

One interesting bit of evidence of Peterson’s musical growth can be drawn from the comparisons that come to mind when listening to Inside/Absent. First off, there’s “Please Don’t Remember This,” a thumping, skronking bit of electronic sex music that comes off like Trent Reznor’s subtler moments (and yes, that’s intended as a compliment) — it’s far more in the Orgy/NiN/Pigface camp than up there with Radio 4 or Interpol. Then there’s “Valentine,” which, with its quiet, chiming piano and percolating synth noises, could be a track straight off Underworld’s A Hundred Days Off. Ironically, by trying to get away from the overt “electronica”-isms of his full-time band, Peterson may have come closer than ever before to straddling the line between the worlds of the guitar and the sequencer.

(Saddle Creek Records -- P.O. Box 8554, Omaha, NE. 68108-0554; http://www.saddle-creek.com/; Broken Spindles -- http://www.brokenspindles.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 1st, 2005. Filed under Reviews.

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