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Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom - The Days of Mars

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Artist: Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom

Album: The Days of Mars

Label: DFA

Review date: Oct. 2, 2005

In 1977, Lester Bangs derided Tangerine Dream as the “poor man’s Fripp and Eno.” Nearly 30 years on, New York duo Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom are being subjected to an ironically updated version of the slur. To some it seems D&G are cheap knock-offs of Bangs’ quarry. True, there are certainly parallels between the bands both minor (a bit of ancient myth in titles) and major (long synth tours of zero gravity dimensions). But deeper bonds are hard to find. As confirmed by a recent issue of the definitively avuncular Mojo Classic magazine, the Tang grew from Krautrock’s primal slosh into a brainy prog band, for better and, eventually, for worse. At the wondrous mercy of their primitive engines and audio generators, they took off for the silver apples of the moon and landed on the furthest cold stretch of vacant galaxy, often within the same track. D&G’s dials are set for other coordinates.

Across four compositions none shorter than ten minutes, The Days of Mars rounds a phantom bend in perpetuity. But there’s hardly a journey here, just four laser-spun cycles. Though oddly prefaced some years ago by the suitably discoid remix from their DFA label-bosses, Gonzalez & Russom unveil “Rise” in its original, expansive form at the start of Days. A strobe of locked-arpeggios, robotron tones and phasing particles, it sets a rather intense vibe for the psychoactive proceedings. “13 Moons” offers a similar landscape, though viewed in slow motion; a slightly barbed, irregular pulse swathed in crystal tendrils serves as the metronome. “Relevée” sets the disc reeling again with tremolo-tinted thrums and modal whirls that refract into an infinite, numbing oblivion. Luckily, the finale “Black Spring” is a much-needed rescue. The bottom dropped out, it hymns on trebly highs and even sneaks in some aerosol beats. Too tense and techy perhaps for Pop Ambient placement, The Days of Mars is a Vangelic mass of artificial life.

Coming at the end of DFA’s most LP-heavy year yet, The Days of Mars culminates an odd run for the esteemed label. The disc is third in a sequence of long-awaited debuts from DFA’s wallet-sized roster. Both LCD Soundsystem and The Juan Maclean made largely lateral moves where once, across 12” vinyl, they ecstatically swelled. Meanwhile, Black Dice dribbled out a follow-up to the nearly defaming Creature Comforts so lumpy that it instantly upgraded its predecessor to near-masterpiece status. That D&G’s album comes with little prefacing – a lone single as well as one from Black Leotard Front, their dance floor alter ego – only helps. With so few prior maneuvers to consider, it’s hard to determine whether Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom are pussyfooting or not.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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