High School Confidential
lease indulge me for a minute: do you remember Seefeel? Relax, it’s a rhetorical question; it’s just that I do, y’see, and thus have a terrible sense of déjà vu with Tiki Obmar’s first album on Florida-based electronica label M3rck. M3rck are known for the quality of their acts, and so it was with quiet anticipation that I first slotted this disc into my CD player—yet the memory of that other band continued to haunt me. Back in the 90s Seefeel signed to Warp after a successful debut album on Too Pure, and managed to capture a lot of column inches in the weeklies by daring to be an electronic band…who used guitars! Laugh as you may, armed with the 20/20 vision that history and hindsight affords you, but back in the days of the clique-ridden UK indie scene such sentiments were likely to have you ostracized faster than a Presidential visit to California. Yet Seefeel persisted, made a couple of well-received LPs, then split, leaving fresh-faced others to emigrate into the new lands they’d pioneered.
And it’s the 21st century now and we’ve all moved on—evolution gets taught in Kansas now, for flip’s sake! And yet here I am with this ‘combination of live music and samplers etc’ CD in front of me, and it appears that someone somewhere still wants me to get excited about the mere existence of a traditional rock four piece that can also combine their live instrumentation with electronics. Exqueese me? Did I miss that meeting? Were the last ten years just a dream?
It would all be OK, of course, if the music actually had direction. Sadly, it doesn’t, as High School Confidential opens with one of the most cack-handed attempts to cross the line between backroom boffins and live instrumentation yet committed to disc, “Lilypads A + B”. While it’s never easy to successfully integrate the new with the old—never mind trying to overcome societal norms about what exactly constitutes ‘real’ instruments nowadays anyway—these two tracks made me grit my teeth and shake my head as though I was a elementary school music teacher who’d found his charges playing “3 Blind Mice” on the recorder over Autechre. It’s the living embodiment of Ying and Yang: the Ying of guitar and bass, the Yang of the sampler and synth, forever separated, never united, sitting in opposition until the end of time. Or until the end of the track—it only seems like until the end of time.
But now that I’ve got that rant over with—there are some relics to be salvaged on this disc, providing you possess a nimble enough finger to circumvent your CD player’s programming. Last track “Arkeney, Iowa” is a gorgeous 16 minutes spent in the company of machines, blissfully free of intervention from guitar-wielding innovators, and is all the better for it. Indeed, it is exactly when the band puts their instruments down and relies, crutch-free, upon their abilities to program that the greatest dividends are earned. It makes you wonder why they didn’t just do that for the whole record, eh?
Reviewed by: Dave McGonigle
Reviewed on: 2004-12-02