LIMB, The Shape of Punk for Some
The only time I’d ever seen or heard LIMB before now, the “band” consisted solely of primary instigator James Templeton, a laptop, a vintage-looking keyboard, a mixer, and a bunch of effects pedals. And while it was interesting, definitely, I can’t claim that it blew me away; at the time, at least, Templeton seemed most interested in repeating the same general motif over and over again, just tweaking it a little on each go-round. Which is fine, but after a while, that sort of thing starts to wear on me.
With The Shape of Punk for Some, it’s no longer a one-man-band affair, and from where I’m sitting, that’s a damn good thing. LIMB has now coalesced into a full band, which includes core members Templeton on keys/laptops/etc., Casey Berridge on guitar, and Joshua Cordova on drums, plus collaborators Alex Cardenas, Hojamanda Lopez, and Michael Lacour (better known as B L A C K I E) contributing the vocals.
And what a difference having an actual band makes. Cordova, in particular, anchors the whole thing firmly to the ground, allowing Templeton and Berridge to throw everything they’ve got straight up in the air just so they can see where it lands. The resulting sound is awesomely warm, organic, and playful (the latter evidenced by the EP title’s smirking jab at Swedish anarcho-core band Refused), skittering across the surface of a half-dozen musical genres, never really belonging to any one in particular but taking what it needs from each and getting the hell out.
First track “Prayer to Shellac,” for one, starts off with some Primal Scream-esque synth backgrounds, but the guitar and drums quickly roll on in on a post-punk-ish, sharp-sounding groove that feels at once math-y and laid-back and wouldn’t sound out of place on some random Thrill Jockey release. Templeton’s stuttering electronics provide some cool little touches where you least expect ‘em — while it sounds just fine in the car, this is a headphones album, make no mistake about it — and the trippy gospel sample laid over the top pushes things along, too.
Just when you think you know where LIMB’s going, though, the whole thing downshifts and smoothly transmutes itself into round-edged prog-jazz, like they’ve magically morphed into some kind of New Wave bebop outfit; they’re relaxed and restrained and funky and cool, all at the same time. Then the electronics come back in with a vengeance, all glitchy sound and circuit-bent melody, and all of a sudden I feel like somebody put on a Four Tet album when I wasn’t looking.
“Jimbasajeet” follows a similar arc, beginning with nicely low-key rhymes from (I think) Cardenas, who comes off less like a rapper and more like an urbanized Beat Poet; the song then drifts briefly on a cloud of gorgeous keys and bells before Cordova’s drums come crashing down and turn the song into something that could’ve come off of a Secret Machines album (and I mean that as a positive thing).
It soars and swoops, seemingly rising heavenward the whole time, buoyed by the rock-solid beat and ethereal, almost angelic music, ’til you figure there’s nowhere left to go but to dissolve into the air. There’s a serious Sigur Rós thing going on here, particularly with the vocals, which make me think of that band’s Jónsi Birgisson more than anything else, albeit a warped, manipulated, mashed-down version of the Icelandic icon’s voice.
The mood abruptly switches halfway through, though, with the clouds of pretty noise fading to the background, replaced by quirky samples, scattered, cLOUDDEAD-like bass hits, dirty-sounding drums, and paranoiac, bitterly confrontational rhymes courtesy of B L A C K I E, who sounds eerily prescient when he snarls that “we are the future.”
“The Needle/The Feather/The Rope” also aims towards the skies, leading in with an oddball sample of a schizophrenic (I’m assuming, anyway) guy talking about the father of God and how he talks to demons and these crystalline, beautifully atmospheric keys. The keys are gradually replaced by a faster-and-faster bed of clicking, ticking sounds, building ’til the keys, drums, and guitars all explode back in in a blinding burst of spacerock glory.
Meanwhile, final track “Baraka Fight Song” is carnival-esque at first, revving up to a crazy pseudo-dancefloor crescendo that turns out to be a false start in itself. The song then turns military-sounding (appropriately, given the name), with chanted/sung sampled vocals, staccato drums, and ominous washes of sound behind it all.
A funny thing happens as “Fight Song” unfolds, though: one second the feel of the track is oppressive and menacing, and then in the next it turns uplifting, triumphant and joyous rather than fearsome, with an M83-like organ bringing everyone to their feet. LIMB somehow manages to pull off that same trick throughout Shape — they feint like they’re headed somewhere dark and murky, but before you’ve really processed what’s happened, everything’s awe-inspiringly epic and gorgeous, and you’re sitting there smiling in spite of yourself.
In the end, I’m left with only three words to describe the band and the amazing, mind-melting music these people have somehow stitched together: holy fucking shit.