A Scanner Darkly
A Scanner Darkly
Gilead Media
2006
B



taking their name—as well as song titles, lyrics, and, most of all, inspiration—from science fiction author Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly is a project dedicated to translating Dick’s writing into the medium of music. This is more an all-inclusive embodiment than a mere homage, however, as every facet of A Scanner Darkly is committed to advancing Dick’s vision, including cover art, song titles, and lyrics. In doing this, A Scanner Darkly’s self-titled debut EP also injects heavy music with a newfound sense of literacy and intelligence, lifting it from the ordinary and trite while placing it in a truly artistic framework.

As forward-thinking as the lyrics are, perhaps the album’s most intriguing aspect stems from the fact that the atmosphere and mood of each song approximates its lyrical content to create a world of sound that is as hallucinatory, imaginative, paranoid, and as dystopian as the words that accompany it. Even the novel after which the band is named seems to carry a particular significance in relation to their sound. A Scanner Darkly—the book—demonstrates a duality of identities and the clashing of two opposing personalities. A Scanner Darkly’s debut EP does much the same thing with a collision of musical styles that includes grindcore, sludge, electronic, metal, and drone.

As the basis for A Scanner Darkly’s sound, a deep, resonant guitar tone coats each song, recalling more of Black Sabbath, the Melvins, and Neurosis than anything else recently populating heavy music’s interior. Navigating even further away from heavy music’s commonalities are the songs themselves, as the structure of each follows no formula and leaves it free to wander into midsections of feedback manipulation, effect-driven vocals and stretches of silence. “Valis” most accurately demonstrates this; the song overflows with musical ideas and theoretical concepts, all while exemplifying a frenzied rush of energy.

Still, A Scanner Darkly may reach their apex when slowed to a crawl. The nine minute “Four Years, False Memories” closes the EP with a dense drone piece that coalesces in a miasma of sound and noise. It undoubtedly contributes to the canon Earth created in the early ‘90s, although overlaid with sampled Japanese singing and corrosive acoustic guitar notes. It is a fitting end to an EP that transgresses many genres. In a mere twenty-four minutes this quartet overcomes the unintelligent and myopic stereotypes that extend to much of the heavy music world while carving their own niche in a vast array of musical styles.


Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2006-02-16
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