Review: Free Refills on Mars!

My old compatriot Kevin, aka Melvinkob, the Warlord of Marz, has just put together another CD!

The last time he did so I wrote up a little micro-review of the songs, which was fun for me cause to do it I had to make time to sit down and listen and pay attention to them, and paying attention to things people have created is one of the great joys of life.

I was going under the theory that what an artist needs most is to be heard. Not to be told their stuff is good or bad or whatever, but just to know that the stuff you are casting upon the waters is making waves in somebody’s mind somewhere. I asked Kev about it last time we talked and he pretty much agreed and let me know he’d be glad to hear that kind of review of the new CD, so last night I stayed up late listening to it after the rest of the family was asleep (giving my swanky new wireless headphones a spin…). My thoughts follow. If you want to give ’em a listen, I ripped mp3s you can check out here.  (And if you’re pressed for time and want to go straight to the cream of the crop, the two grabbiest songs IMHO are #5 and #10.)

1. Free Refills on Mars — Intro
There’s a backstory to the album, full of intertwined references that really only I and one or two other friends could possibly get. The Warlord of Marz, Melvinkob, is sent to Earth to with a special “to go cup” to take advantage of Free Refills on Mars, to replenish the Martian water supply. In the intros to the songs we learn more of the story, in a dialogue between synthesized voices. I’ll probably not review most of the intros separately.

2. Free Refills on Mars
Very “hearts of space” at the start, slow synths, undulating chords in and out, picking up a club beat that moves in and out with a kind of heartbeat under-beat. Ends with a philosophical synthquestion.

4. Toot in Common
This one’s hard to like because it uses something I did that embarrasses me. I was playing with a live looping program, SooperLooper, some time back, and I made several pennywhistle samples with it. I sent ’em to Kev and he apparently could stand to listen to them, and made this little thingy out of ’em. I hear it and just cringe listening to my silly pennywhistle, but the rest of the song’s actually pretty good.

5. Arturian Orbiter
Ahh, back to the good stuff. This is a really uptempo, cheerful, I want to say *insistent* piece of electronica. It revels in synth effect cliches, as if it could have come straight out of the late 80s, except that it packs rather more complexity into less time than older electronica tends to.

OK, I take “less time” back. Arturian orbiter is the longest song on the album, and it eventually settles down to a casual, comfortable, unhurried groove. Still.

6. Perpetual Motion Machine
Ah, this takes the “casual unhurried groove” thing from Arturian Orbiter further. It’s very much a smooth “grooves moving in and out of each other” kind of thing. Dreamier than AO, but not slow dreamy like FROM. Bright and extremely dancey, but light, dreamy.

7. Love Fractals 2006 — Intro
A feminine voice: “That’s the largest To Go Cup I have ever seen.” I’m trying to convince myself this is not a double entendre. And failing. Heaven help me.

8. Love Fractals 2006
To write about this one I have to go back and listen to the *original* Love Fractals, from 2004, of course. It’s a remake — the newer one is more “polished” in the sense that it has less sharp edges. Same simple riff repeated over and over with variations, but the variations blend into each other and the piece more now than they did in 2004. The riff itself is kind of wistful. As is the piece.

10. Pugnator
“Pugnator” means “Warrior” (“warlord?”) in Latin, and this is a more pugnacious track than we’ve seen yet. The intro suggests a chase scene, and I’d imagine if this had a music video it would have severe-looking fellows in dark suits and dark glasses packing businesslike weapons and high technology into businesslike briefcases to pursue the fleeing Warlord through neon-lit streets, in vain, as his remarkable powers of stealth and illusion render him progressively more secure from them.

11. Nocturnus
Slow and classical-esque introduction; eventually it picks up a funky beat. It ends up being primarily a drum piece, not a melodic piece at all. In that it makes me think of drummer Keith LeBlanc’s work.

Towards the end the classical-esque chords return, but over the beat. Unity is achieved.

12. Mental Detractor
Frenetic bongos and buzzy Atari-like synths preside over a backdrop of what sound like backwards organ chords. As trippy as the name sounds. Can’t decide whether this is too odd to be dancy or not.

13. Vacuous Space
Spooky jungle-ish atmospherics open this one, which includes a bit of the synthesized dialogue. It pretty much stays nonstop atmospheric trippy meanderings.

15. XL To Go Cup
“Launch the fleet of XL To Go Cups!”
There’s less to it than most of the others; it’s a simple melodic riff with scattered drum thrashes in the background — big drum thrashes like a giant’s drum played in a cavern.

17. Polyphonic Wrap
Look out MC Hawking! It’s synthesized rap, this one being full of references to the Warlord’s previous CDs (e.g. “I Hate Song,” “Chainsaw,” etc). A highly obscure contribution to the nerdcore canon.

18. Pugnator — Remix
See “pugnator” but this time the Warlord has left his pursuers far behind and it’s an epic space flight. The music video for this, I want to say, will be all anime outer space scenes, the kind which are all about the sheer coolness of the sleek ships and the unbelieveable vast grandeur of space. OK, that’s not all that implicit in the song. I’m kinda reading that into it. But that’s how I think of it in comparison with the previous mix of Pugnator; this one doesn’t say “danger,” it says “power, beauty, wonder.”

19. Alien Voices
All(?) the voice bits from the previous songs and intros atop some slow, thoughtful piano noodling.

20. The Warlord of Marz has Escaped! 2006
This is another remake of a song from Mars Rocks! 2004, so again I went back to the previous version for a comparison. The original is a very murky, synth-voice-filled, synthesizer fun mishmash. This one raises the music above the voices, so to speak. The music is much more coherent and defined, not “murky” (not that murky is necessarily bad…) and the samples blend into it smoothly. Not melodic but much more musical than the 2004 version.