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Enon - Believo!

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Artist: Enon

Album: Believo!

Label: Touch and Go

Review date: Oct. 12, 2007

After the death of Brainiac lead singer Timmy Taylor, the band's guitarist John Schmersal holed himself up in an old hotel and recorded a solo effort called John Stuart Mill. It was much different than the type of music he'd been playing with the band, and served as a catharsis, paving the way for him to later record two singles under the name Enon. As Enon, Schmersal showed that his herky-jerk guitar work and Pavement-vs.-SY sensibilities from his days in Brainiac were never far from the surface.

Already a creative and adept sound manipulator, Schmersal moved to New York and teamed up with the similarly minded Rick Lee and Steve Calhoon (both former members of the band Skeleton Key). With Calhoon on bass, Rick Lee brought a custom-wired suitcase full of sounds and a junk-kit of drums to compliment Schmersal's alternate guitar tunings and vintage synths. Much to the delight of many a Brainiac fan, the trio recorded Believo! which was released by the indie label See Thru Broadcasting in 2000. Critics found the album to be difficult and unpredictable, but at its heart, it was as much a pop record as any Beck pastiche of the day. Upbeat tracks like "Conjugate the Verbs" and "Get the Letter Out" take abstract, powerful drumbeats, and match them with fuzzy distorted guitar hooks, while "Cruel" is full out David Lynch Film Noir, with Schmersal pulling down a sultry Motown croon amidst a slightly jazzy, low-fi kit.

After a brief tour in support of the album, Lee and Calhoon departed the band, to be replaced by Toko Yasuda and Matt Schultz. The band's second album, High Society, moved slightly away from the experimentation of Believo!, with Yasuda providing cutesy J-pop vocals on a number of the songs. Gone were the days of metallic clangs and random distorted samples attacking you from all sides; 2003's Hocus Pocus showed an even more polished blend of Schmersal's love of electronic pop and rock, which culminates in the release of their latest album Grass Geysers…Carbon Clouds.

Grass Geysers is larger and more radio-friendly than earlier releases, but the songs are attempts at paint-by-number indie fare. The newly reissued Believo!, stands in stark contrast, with its disparate mechanical noises, and weirdo background samples sounding more like accidental surprises (happy mistakes) than calculated cacophony. Where Grass Geysers is slick and safe, Believo! even seven years after its initial release, still pushes the boundary of what a pop record can, and should be.

At the time of its release, Believo! barely caused a ripple, but when compared to some of the darling acts of its day, namely the Beta Band, Clinic, or any of the Elephant 6 collective bands, it ages surprisingly well. Schmersal's solid song-craft, and fractured pop hooks combined with the intricate beats, noises and whatnot from the efforts of Calhoon and Lee make Believo! the shining gem of the Enon canon, and arguably one of the best indie records of the decade.

By Dustin Drase

Other Reviews of Enon

High Society

Lost Marbles And Exploded Evidence

Grass Geysers…Carbon Clouds

Read More

View all articles by Dustin Drase

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