On facebook I saw some friends talking about a film they'd seen the day before. One said he was still thinking about it. That took me a little off guard. Of course you're still thinking about it. Do you ever stop? The best art doesn't just happen near you like a traffic accident, something you tell your coworkers about in passing if you remember to. The best art lives with you and comforts you and keeps you awake. The best art is what you turn to when the rest of the world doesn't make sense. You need to think about it at least the day afterwards or you won't understand it as fully as it deserves. To not give it the full breadth of your consideration is to say that it isn't worthy of it, too shallow to be able to make a dent. All this is my way of saying I kept trying to write about the Psychic Babble record but everytime I sat down to do it, I'd turn it on and get lost. I'd start thinking about influences and points of reference, but just enjoy the record and get distracted.
The first thing to note is that for a solo record, nothing feels convenient. Typically experiments like Psychic Babble, the first record from Circa Survive guitarist Colin Frangicetto (the two projects could hardly be more different), are done on a single guitar with a drum machine. They may sound as professional as this, but hardly as well-realized Every beat, every percussive blow feels deliberate and practiced. This is a record heavy on reverb, but the negative space is hardly its greatest feature. Listen to the opening of "Nothing Familiar," what makes this sound different than most reverb-and-delay records, and admittedly it's small, is that cabasa-like cranking sound. It's an unconventional choice for the sort of song it starts. Then there's the plucking of what sounds like it might be mandolin as it draws to a close. It last a fraction of a second, but it's there and it's beautiful. Either he utilized his free hand to simply follow every urge that seized him or he knew precisely what he wanted for even the smallest moments. Either answer is heart-warming. My Brother's Eyes/My Sister's Ears drips with the fervor of an archeologist setting foot in a cave he's read about his whole life and now has all the time and equipment he could ever want to scrutinize every ancient painting and natural formation. The songs are pretty enough on their own but it's the embellishment that Frangicetto gives himself that's the real draw. He's a one-man Cocteau Twins; tambourine, keys, treated acoustic guitar and of course, his excalibur, the electric guitar. Here and there, "Radio Songs" springs to mind, his sublime and assured electric sounds more the lead instrument than even his voice. Which isn't to say his voice doesn't suit the songs. You can't quite place what it reminds you of, which is perfect, it is as uniquely soft as the production.
His songs are redolent of the best minimal mid-80s post-punk, but whereas most disciples of that era are more concerned with the feel of the rhythm section (Joy Division's tone, Gang of Four's groove) Frangicetto's background as a painter serve him better than his record collection. Like the best of the era, each song seems to take place in a warehouse. Instead of embracing the dead space, the peeling walls and hollow feeling (like Iceage or Cults, for instance. Nothing against them, they just dig minimalism), he paints the walls with synth, melodica and percussion until you hardly recognize the place anymore, as on "Crocodile Tears." And even more remarkably he stops just shy of cluttering up the place. "Tears" many elements snap around each other like fireworks thrown by many different hands, but there's just enough space to pick out each sound. It's never too busy. Nor is he afraid to change horses. "Boulevard" initially bounces like mid-period Gang of Four, though much softer and then recedes quietly to make room for a verse that sounds lifted from Heaven or Las Vegas. And then goes even quieter before bursting into the ether like something from UNKLE's latest record. And all this referencing really gets you nowhere because the sound is far less abrasive than anything mentioned here and never seems to date itself. I could go on and on but the best compliment I can think to pay it is that when I go driving at night, this is the album I play. I'm hesitant to publish this because I still feel like I have some listening to do before I truly know it. I'm still thinking about it, still trying to figure it out.