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Arty jokers aren't above making good songs.

: Thigmotactic

Desc:CD REVIEW: ARTIST: Negativland
Label:Seeland Records

Created mostly by member Mark Hosler, the latest album by longtime culture-jamming art pranksters Negativland is more outlandish than mischievous. It bumps and whirs in a stream-of-consciousness style whose only intended design seems to be the production of absurd results. Like some of the music, the lyrics are written using a cut-and-paste method that combines dream journals, advertisements, found poems and even National Geographic articles. As a result, the body of subjects includes unconventional muses such as sharp pencils, upset stomachs, milk, Nixon and the vagina.

The album emanates a curious ether, its sonic plane perforated by the flitting of samples and noises. Although musique-concrète and found-sound techniques are liberally employed (“It’s Not a Critique”), the vast majority of the songs have a structure. It’s still the soundtrack to a bizarro world; it just happens to be pretty listenable for an art album.

You’d think melody would be secondary in their art compositions, but fetching moments are frequent. “Richard Nixon Died Today” carries a majestic tune, “Basketball Plant” revels in ragged lo-fi glory, “Jack Pastrami (Flower Bun)” arches with Man Man theatricality, “Influential You” drifts in pastoral country minimalism and “Pork in the Store” ends in madcap synth-pop.

Overall, the concoction is a bubbling stew of Athens psychedelic folk-pop, Daniel Johnston’s sunny nonsensicality and the Magnetic Fields’ orchestral silliness. This overturned toy chest of idiosyncrasy probably makes sense only to its author. Besides the members of Negativland, no one really lives in this chimerical world. But on a dizzying ride like Thigmotactic, being a tourist in this hyperreality is an experience that’s heady, odd and wondrous.
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