When the beginning of “Short Solitude” bursts through the speakers three-fourths of the way through Object Permanence like a technicolor explosion, it’s surprising. It’s not a surprise, however, that Excavacations have changed things up yet again. Object Permanence, clocking in at a hefty 70 minutes, compiles material from Excavacations’ cassette releases of the last three years, with the addition of four brand new tracks. The end result is an album that doesn’t quite go in 19 different directions, but can certainly feel that way.
A greatest hits compilation can offer an interesting view of a band’s lifespan, collapsing years like an accordion, a time-lapse look at what’s changed over time and what hasn’t. Object Permanence is a compilation of a different breed, an introduction rather than retrospective, but it offers a similar grand-scale perspective. There’s no clean evolutionary curve to Excavacations’ sound. Theirs is a more scattershot bouncing between rock songs and instrumental drones, between heartfelt lyrics and moody atmospherics. Excavacations don’t often do the same trick twice, and even among the more straightforward songs, there’s variety in tone and technique. This can create awkward abutments, like the move from the swirling fog and chiming chords of “Yonsish” into the jaunty circus pop of “Silver Salver.” It’s understandable when an artist chooses to steer various musical inclinations into different projects to preserve some stylistic homogeneity in each. Nicholas Longworth and Chad Parsons, however, go all-in with Excavacations, giving the band as many sides as a dodecahedron.
Since Object Permanence will be most people’s introduction to Excavacations, it makes sense for the duo to create as varied and plentiful an album as possible. I get the sense that while Excavations’ pride themselves on the diversity of their sound, they also take care to craft their music in a way that mitigates that diversity to some extent. Segues preserved from previous albums indicate attention paid to the transition of one track to the next, and “Porter,” an 11-minute song that’s one of the album’s finest, exhibits the interplay between the duo’s multiple personalities and their ability to make it all mesh in a single, sprawling package. Object Permanence is an uneven album, almost by definition, and not something that’s easy to listen to from beginning to end: Longworth and Parsons bring to mind, at times, that old trope about being jacks of all trades and masters of none. There’s something admirable about the pursuit, however, and some good stuff worth digging up in Excavacations’ on-again/off-again CD debut.