I listen to Vial of Sound’s God’s Oscillator EP at least twice a week, and have done so since I found the vinyl at Rough Trade in Williamsburg about six months ago.
It was the first time I had heard the Tempe, Arizona-based trio, which isn’t too surprising considering I often come late to good stuff. Only, this EP, released last year, is really really good stuff. The songs are catchy, well-written and utterly danceable.
The band uses only vintage, analogue synthesizers from the 1970s and 1980s and puts out a sound that touches on Kraftwerk, Italo Disco, Daft Punk (replete with cosmic vocoder vox), The System and DFA Records. (The latter shouldn’t be surprising, the EP was produced by former LCD Soundsystem crew members David Scott Stone and Matt Thornley as Future Days.)
Using “analogue only” anything can be a big gimmick in music these days. Just ask Dave Grohl. However, Vial of Sound are not gimmicky at all. In the electronic realm, artists are always using some mix of analogue and digital. DFA’s groups, such as the erstwhile LCD and the current Museum of Love, Shit Robot and The Juan Maclean, all might use computers as a foundation but they rely on an armament of analogue (often classic) synths. It’s a function of the genre-bending role they play and their positions as students of the craft. These are music geeks who also happen to be good at actually writing and playing music.
Vial of Sound, in staying true to the DFA connection, follow suit. Planting their feet firmly on the classic turf gives God’s Oscillator a big, arena sound. The EP works well in your one-bedroom in Harlem, a warehouse in Chicago and wouldn’t sound tinny and small in Madison Square Garden.
Vial of Sound’s four steady groovers on the EP thump along nimbly as the bass crawls and blasts its way around the rhythm. Vocoded vox and melodic arpeggios fly around the colorful arrangements cleanly, delicately, and gorgeously. Slick guitar licks pitter patter around like Daft Punk in Chic drag. The cuts are all laden with pure energy, complete devotion, and an unbridled connection to some universal rhythmic truth.
Overall, Oscillator is a concise, intricately assembled work of genius. Listen to it at a party space; while driving around on a hot night with your convertible’s top down and your arm around someone; while sitting on the subway; while doing homework or taxes. Just listen to it.
A Note About Found Sounds: On occasion I write about records I’ll find in a store about which I have little or no knowledge. One of my favorite things about going to a record store is adding a mysterious piece of vinyl to my overflowing “cart.”