Monster Rally build songs out of sampled bits of old records, and they do it very, very well. Pretty much the limit of my experience with this kind of music is the barmy and brilliant Frontier Psychiatrist by Avalanches from back in about 200o or something like that, so I am hardly an expert, but I think this is judged perfectly.
Their previous album Crystal Ball was fantastic, a beautiful object as well, which I would enjoy playing just for the cover artwork and the crystal clear vinyl, even if I didn’t like the music at all.
I do though. Like the music, that is. It’s a tricky field to work in though, because you have to tread a fine line between excessively arch pastiche and pleasant but lifeless chillout. There are times when Monster Rally flirt with both, I suppose, but I think they manage to avoid both pitfalls quite easily.
The PR blurb described their new album Beyond the Sea as “a 42-minute song cycle”, and I think that’s instructive, because listening to the single they’ve released, or watching the video for it at the top of the page, doesn’t really give you much of an idea of how their albums feel to listen to. I haven’t heard the new one yet, but I loved Crystal Ball and when I played some of their stuff on the podcast I ended up three songs in a row, in order to help put the music across a little better.
Listening to the albums, there is rarely a clear break between the songs, and within the songs themselves there are often sharper changes than between individual tracks, so the whole album kind of blends into one in that respect. Not to imply that it’s a homogenous sludge of course, because that is a long way from being the case.
In fact, Monster Rally make music with all sorts of weird, impish changes in direction, creating an idiosyncratic sound which goes from lush nostalgia to darting, elusive cuts in and out of strange and wonderful musical worlds – manipulating their samples gently or mischievously to keep the listener engaged.
And engaged you do remain. Rather than listening to the single, if you want to get a real feel for how this band sound, I suggest you pop over to their Bandcamp page and listen to Crystal Ball in its entirety. You can buy the vinyl there as well.
Free single from Beyond the Sea:
From Crystal Ball: