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Foot Village - Make Memories

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Artist: Foot Village

Album: Make Memories

Label: Northern Spy

Review date: Mar. 18, 2013

LA drum ‘n’ shout ensemble Foot Village are one of the most distinct acts on the city’s experimental scene. Foot Village’s four principle members — known by the stage names Citizen Lee, Citizen Kinsman, Citizen Rowan, and Citizen Taylor-Fantastic — all play the drums. A typical performance finds them gathered around a hodgepodge of (abused, possibly scavenged) rock kits arranged in a circle, pounding out fast, precise and intricate rhythms as they trade off duties hurling invective into a hand-held megaphone. They contort their voices into bratty cartoons, chanting cryptic slogans and childish taunts.

The music is boundlessly energetic, simultaneously regimented and chaotic, as one might imagine the sounds produced by a high-school drum line in the grips of some ecstatic Dionysian psychosis. Or, in a real-world analogy, Boredoms circa Pop Tatari if Eye had excised the guitar parts and replaced them with more drums. While Foot Village can’t match Boredoms’ level of technical virtuosity, they make up for it with scrappy relentlessness.

The members of Foot Village like to push their physical limitations, and often, their listeners’ patience. In spite of their constant provocations, or perhaps because of them, the net effect of their music is surprisingly listenable and weirdly endearing. Couched in their punk cynicism and dystopian imagery — according to the band’s origin myth, Foot Village is “the first nation built after the foreseeable apocalypse” — there’s a genuine warm-hearted yearning for, to pick one of Foot Village’s favorite chants, “friendship!!” They’re acting out the cognitive dissonance of trying to inhabit two worlds simultaneously: a New Age, neo-tribal utopia and the cluttered, consumerist sprawl of the city they actually live in. Also, there are dick jokes.

Live settings are where the band really holds its own. With the right venue and a game audience, like their home-team crowd at L.A.’s The Smell, the performance turns into a crazy, communal dance party, a real joy to experience. Their records, however, can be rough going.

Make Memories, their fourth album, is probably the most … effective document of the Foot Village experience to date. That said, it’s still a difficult listen, suffering from the same basic problem as their previous albums: the inevitable onset of listener fatigue. Live drumming inevitably loses some of its visceral appeal in the recording process, and as a result its constant assault on the senses becomes taxing rather than exhilarating. After listening to several consecutive minutes of nonstop drumming at breakneck speed (which is the band’s preferred setting), you may find yourself wishing for relief.

On this front, Make Memories shows some marked improvements in duration, pacing and occasional concessions to melodic instrumentation. At just under 34 minutes, the album is mercifully short. It opens with the long, trance-y “1600 Dolla Bill” and closes with ominous droner “The End of the World,” affording a reasonable warm-up/cool-down for the madness sandwiched in between. Synth, brass and vibraphones enter the mix at various points in the record, adding some much-needed color to its sonic palette. Make Memories hits its real high points with the brutally catchy “This Song is a Drug Deal” and the just plain brutal “Warlock.” More importantly, though, it gives the songs (and us) a little room to breathe.

In the often po-faced world of extreme music, Foot Village are a ray of sunshine. It remains to be seen, however, whether their love of the primitive and childlike is a tool for real subversion or merely a crutch. On “AIDS Sucks, Make Money,” they sing, “We’ll never stop dreaming / we’ll never stop screaming / FUCK ALL ADULTS!” Is that a challenge or a threat?

By Rachel Smith

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