The 21st century is beautiful and its name is Truman Peyote: two guys, Caleb Johannes and Eric Farber, from Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts who so successfully meld the textural possibilities of the digital and analog, of samples, found sounds, and live instrumentation, that their music is less like a hybrid and more like a brand new species. Acts like Aphex Twin may have trailblazed the path, and still others like Animal Collective may be getting more press, but Truman Peyote proves this sound is more than just an isolated phenomenon. The dam has burst and a new zeitgeist is upon us. After listening to their digital 7 inch, caroming ingeniously between cosmic psych-noise and infectious pop, you’ll wonder why the hell it took so long.
Truman Peyote gained some nice traction at the end of 2009 via a spotlight on the track “New Wife, New Life” by the Website-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named (rhymes with Bitchspork). The electro-hippie vibe of the song played up to the near hysterical adoration for Animal Collective at the time. It was a nice “we can do it too” moment, but don’t listen to Truman Peyote expecting an Animal Collective tribute band. Johannes reflects on the AC comparison: “In my opinion, “New Wife, New Life” is structured in a way more simplistic way than any Animal Collective song. These days everyone is so focused on comparing bands to other bands, and while some of it may have merit, it’s not always the best for us. YES, I listened the shit out of Animal Collective in high school, YES I bought their records and loved/listened them to death, but NO, we did not start TP or create these songs to resemble Animal Collective in any way. Our style is just obviously the direct result of EVERYTHING we have ever listened to and enjoyed…“ Their latest full-length release Light-Lightning is a much more savage, inchoate experience than Merriweather Post Pavilion. Novel sounds and melodies morph at the speed of life, like fetal cells, exploding with alien possibility in an electronic placenta. Songs bubble up, effervesce, and retreat back into the froth without ever giving themselves completely to a reductive comprehension. Often the transformation is violent: tracks “Fishscraps” and “Firetime = Snowday” cultivate unique ambient signatures, beats and all, and then suddenly lapse into minimalist or found sound digressions. These songs are not highways; they’re more like the historic quarter of an old European city, full of alleys, nooks, niches…and dead ends.
The most exciting songs on Light-Lightning are the ones where Truman Peyote elicits a certain expectation, and then dramatically overturns it without warning. If the pair, Caleb Johannes and Eric Farber, produced an entire album like the song “Beantown” , they could do quite well as the afore-mentioned AC cover band; if they did the same with the last half of “Sarah Delta” as source material, they would make a fantastic Aphex Twin ripoff. But they do neither. Or rather, they do both and more, piling invention upon invention like an impossible musical Jenga, having created in Light-Lightning a towering, polyglot structure that should fall to pieces but somehow never does. A remarkable achievement.
Since Light-Lightning, Truman Peyote has released Peaced Together, a split 12” with Many Mansions. The A-side for the Ampeater 7 inch, “Magentadoor II” was taken from this release. The four minute track starts hot and heavy with a monstrous, moody synthesizer intro. An overture in minature. Electronic music was an early influence for the band: “We definitely started out with a much heavier influence from dance music (using synths, drum machines, and samplers), but recently we’ve been adding a huge dose of pop in there.” The pop makes an entrance about a minute into the song. The synth overture winds down, a beat kicks in, and a singer drops a few stanzas of rock ‘n’ roll haiku before the instrumental side of the song reasserts itself. The sound is restlessly inventive, hitchhiking from genre to genre: “We used to only play electronically, but now I play guitar, and we tour with Orion Russell (of Lord Jeff) who rocks the drums for us. For our recordings the drums are either done by Wes Kaplan (of the Craters), Orion, or Motoki Otsuka (of Vitamin Seed).” If you see Truman Peyote on tour these days, expect to see the whole crew coaxing out this sonic mixer with “live” instruments side-by-side with the samplers. The recording process has grown beyond the original two members as well. Light-Lightning was, “…recorded, mixed, and mastered with the help of our friend Jake Yuhas (formerly Dropa, now Bug Eyes)….the recording process of Truman Peyote is always a big collaboration with a lot of our friends who are also making killer music out of Boston.”
The B-side, “Steelestack” , comes off a split 7-inch with Turtle Ambulance. If you’ve only heard “New Wife, New Life” the ferocity of “Steelestack” might surprise you. Johannes remarks, “….but surprising people at shows is what we love. It makes the whole experience more enjoyable, keeps us fresh…“ The track begins innocently with a few electronic burps, blips and squiggles. Then a recurring sample of what sounds like a videogame character shouting “Power up!” announces itself. Again and again and again and again. Truman Peyote dresses the sample up with a full wardrobe of effects. Squeaky, muddy, crackly: the sample is reinterpreted through a thousand different lenses and hurled at the listener. It’s a “Richard D. James spinning the sandpaper” moment. This isn’t music meant to doze off too. It’s howling, insistent, neurotic, and will not be ignored. The brief interlude of classical piano towards the beginning and the gentle synth outro only serve to remind the listener just how brutally their ears have been manhandled. The song is beautiful, but it’s a terrifying beauty, like the open maw of a wild carnivorous animal.
Plans for the future include a tour with their 12” partners Many Mansions in July as well as a tape release via Mirror Universe sometime this summer. So be on the lookout for the tour and the tape, and expect the unexpected: “The new tracks are waaay different from Peaced Together, so we’ll see what people think.”
https://ampeater.s3.amazonaws.com/aem093/01 Magentadoor II.mp3