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Friday, August 19, 2011

Album Review: Gustnado - "Hallucination Boulevard"

Timing is everything, they sometimes say. Exactly one day before this album was given a fair shake in my den, I'd heard about the recent stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Some country band called Sugarland was spared, but five others lost their lives. Reports indicated a "gustnado" may have been responsible. What you'll hear on Hallucination Boulevard is only slightly more controlled than these freak storms, but it's just as brow-dropping and head-shaking. Gustnado employ every instrument that your MU-101 instructor never wanted you to touch, making you think it'd take no less than ten musicians to shape these tracks. Amazingly, it's all done by just one dude named Frank.

Straight out of Italy's plains comes Dustdevil, the album's arid, bouncy opener. Guitars float, drums tip-toe behind the couch, and the bass remains hidden in the far closet until you get pinched with a fuzzy screech that picks up rhythm and cruises gravel roads under hot sun. A steady drone hangs on for several minutes before taking a few seconds to catch its breath. The sounds come full-circle with a sliced-up solo, pounding drums, and a return to lilt.

If Dustdevil sounded like an introduction to something, perhaps The Golden Rush is the marriage of bow-chicka porn bass, relentless drumwork, and buzzsaw guitars listeners had anticipated. With pacing parallel to Badmotorfinger and drums sounding like barrels falling from rail-cars, you'd wonder how Gustnado manage to successfully enter a space-robot warp straight out of The Running Man. By now I should have indicated these songs contain no vocals, but you may not notice until you've heard the album nine times. Shredding guitar spirals and a solid stoner drone are enough to keep you focused on other, more important elements.

For all its fizzy, buzzy bliss, the album offers plenty of psychedelia to trip on. The atmosphere of Sunshine Delirium is patient and spooky until organic howls pair with peyote warble to form one of the album's most complete moods.

Smell of the Summer begins with gorillas tossing shit-biscuits over hills, while crunchy guitars ultimately give way to Megadeth-thrash licks. But here's where things get weird; nervous keys roll in as drums keep thumping, but the organ grows cheery, almost carnival-esque. TooL's 56-second Intermission must've snuck into Gustnado's studio and laced the tape with opium. Bass drives the tune, guitar hairs stand on end, and the keys won't seem to go away. And you won't seem to forget these eight bizarre minutes.

You're gonna hear Gustnado's audition for film-scoring on Setback in Treasure Island, paranoid and twitchy as it is. You'll think a down-on-his-luck detective has reached a dead-end alley with nowhere to go. Atlantic Avenue is essentially bongos, cheese slicers, and grunting monkeys. Every instrument on the track is distinguishable and opulent. A balance is struck between a twitching jungle and a meadow of chirping crickets. This stuff is just so cool, trust me.

Ambulances capture your earholes on the doomy, foggy Gust Front Tornado, as slow, sludgy tempos crack and chalky grooves form a high-speed chase of peak-versus-valley guitars. A significant stop/start dynamic (which I always welcome) is interrupted by (what else) a FUCKING COWBELL! Belt-sander roller skates lose their juice and an hypnotic nickelodeon picture-show sample carries home the enchanted listener.

Droids return on the fast, choppy jelly-roll of Terrible Sunburn. Guitars poke and stab at the nothingness of a hazy, mountainous hum. Before long, you're left with Castlevania-style dungeon doom meeting insane honeybee-frazzle. Primal pounding returns, meat-shaving purr fades out, and you're left KNOWING Gustnado isn't quite done. The album's final minute is lost in an Atari while strings beautifully echo in a wishing well.

Hallucination Boulevard might be the most gorgeously eccentric thing you'll ever hear. Don't ignore the sounds in the background, and don't believe the absence of vocals is a fault. Gustnado accomplish plenty without stuffing your head with fodder. This is weird stuff, no question. This is also undeniable musicianship, incredible stoner fuzz, and a welcome affront to the contrived nature of much of today's sound. Frank Tudisco knows exactly where his instruments are taking us. The best part about Hallucination Boulevard is that the listener doesn't.

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