February 24, 2005

Collection of Colonies of Bees "Customer"

Collections of Colonies of Bees is an electro-acoustic group consisting of three former members of Tortoise acolytes Pele (Jon Minor, Jon Mueller and Chris Rosenau) and composer Jim Schoenecker, who previously collaborated with Minor in the electronic duo Dartanjal. Anyone familiar with CCB’s pedigree won’t be surprised that their latest album Customer uses the glitchier moments of Pele’s last album Enemies as a springboard for further experimentation. Most of the songs on Customer have guitars, bass and drums, but they’re played and altered in such a way that the results don’t sound remotely like traditional rock music. Side projects like Nervous Cop and Flossin plow similar fields, but whereas those two projects beat the listener upside the head with abrasion, CCB inserts enough space and silence in their music to make Customer an ideal soundtrack for daydreaming.

Many songs on Customer start off in a disorganized manner, only to serendipitously assume a discernible structure over time. Track three begins with a series of squeaks from unidentifiable sources, under which a repeating two-note bass line slowly gains volume. Two guitars, each on its own side of the stereo spectrum, start playing pretty riffs that, at first, don’t adhere to any discernible meter. Shortly after the two-minute mark, the guitars start playing in tandem, and the song becomes something that listeners can actually nod their heads to. The tenth and final song begins with two guitars playing slightly out of tune with each other, atop which percussionist Mueller does his best Kevin Shea impersonation. One of the guitars starts playing backwards, and is accompanied by a brief bit of laptop flatulence. At around the three-minute mark, a crashing cymbal announces the arrival of an actual riff, which a minute later gets drowned in a sea of white noise and piercing test tones.

Other songs are content to remain in nothingness for their entire running time. The first song consists of one guitar chord strummed amid a barely audible arrangement of trebly ticks and aquatic murmuring. On track seven, the guitarist sounds like he’s running yarn through his strings in lieu strumming it; the slithering noises this technique produces are eventually usurped by the pitter-patter of raindrops. Track nine sets serene organs against stuttering modem-like noises, a juxtaposition that brings to mind Markus Popp’s later work with Oval. On track two, the guitarists sound like they don’t quite know how to articulate the melodies dancing inside their heads. While they fumble around, Mueller’s drum kit and drum machine go their separate ways, and a synthesizer scatters off-key specks of sound everywhere. Every instrument operates in simultaneous yet independent motion, but the result is as relaxing as it is downright messy.

Every song on Customer is peppered with enough buzzes, whirs, ticks and glitches to make your ears feel like they’re being tickled, especially if you listen on headphones. If this sensation feels good to you, make this album’s title a self-fulfilling prophecy and collect all three versions of it. There’s a vinyl version on Polyvinyl and another CD version released on the Japanese label Some of Us; both of them have different versions of the same 10 songs. If I had enough money to throw around, I’d certainly do it.

--Sean Padilla

Artist Website: http://www.collectionsofcoloniesofbees.com
Label Website: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com

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