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Menomena - Mines




A band’s creative process is usually invisible to their audience. We absorb and consume the product of the process but—just like the bologna in a sandwich—we don’t necessarily know how it is made and rarely ask any questions. It must just be four dudes sitting in a room playing a guitar, drums, and bass while one of them sings, right? In fact, every artist’s process is different. In the liner notes of LCD Soundsystem’s latest record, there is a list of every instrument used to make every sound on the album and who played it. But if Menomena did the same thing on their latest, we still wouldn’t have even an inkling of how it was made. The minimalistic, yet huge staccato sound produced on their third album is created in a rather novel way. The band uses an electronic device programmed by guitarist/vocalist/saxophonist Brent Knopf known as a digital looping recorder. The program loops and connects each individual instrument’s sound together. A typical recording session for the Portland, Oregon trio would begin with the band of multi-instrumentalists sitting in a circle passing around a microphone. As the mic goes round each member picks up an instrument and records a brief, improvised riff, which is then looped for the next person to record over. This goes on until the song is deemed complete. Although this is not how they record all of their music, this is the process they have used to create most of Mines. The best examples of this process are songs like “Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy,” with looped piano, drum, and bass tracks, flared by short saxophone bursts, and the opening track “Queen Black Acid,” which is stripped down to simply bass drum, rim shots, bleeping bass tones, and humble guitar chords. The result is a rhythmic, sometimes haunting, and always interesting set of songs with an almost hidden minimalistic aspect to them. Many songs on Mines consist of only a couple of cymbal splashes, a driving bass line, and a set of vocals splaying cryptic lyrics while an obscure sound quacks out a melody. For Menomena, this is more than enough to get an idea across gracefully and directly.

cory perla

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